Celebrating LGBTQIA+ diverse journeys and communities, Midsumma will spotlight an array of spectacular performances, exhibitions, talks and social events, showcasing preeminent queer arts and cultural festivities with leading international, national and local artists. With more than 160 events on offer, Australian Arts Review takes a look at 15 events worth checking out:
Gasworks Arts Park: 4 – 8 February
If you are born in a country where being yourself can get you killed, exile is your only choice. Adam is the remarkable true story of a young trans man having to make that choice and begin his journey. It charts Adam’s progress from Egypt to Scotland, across borders and genders, in his search for a place to call home. Adam is represented as two distinct but complementary characters, ‘two sides of a single coin’. Together they narrate the story of Adam’s realisation of his true identity while growing up in Egypt, his decision to leave his native country, his journey from there to a cramped room in Glasgow, and his ongoing struggle to assume his new identity as a man.
Fairfax Studio – Arts Centre Melbourne: 29 January – 1 February
Follow one woman and her two boobs through a literal hurricane of life changing events. Laugh and gasp your way through one big decision, a million opinions, a natural disaster and an ‘Australian first’, as this woman’s determination unwittingly shakes the very foundations of how we perceive gender, body autonomy and boobs in general. Selina Jenkins is a multi-award winning cabaret artist, acclaimed musician and celebrated musical comedian.
Confessions of a Mormon Boy
Chapel Off Chapel: 7 – 9 February
This transformational true story of extremes–from perfect Mormon Boy in Utah to perfect Rent Boy in Manhattan–is told with humor, song, and unflinching honesty as outcast Oxy-Mormon and Outer Critics Circle Award Nominee, Steven Fales, ultimately finds a middle ground and learns what it means to finally come home. Based on original off-Broadway direction by Tony Award-winner Jack Hofsiss (The Elephant Man), this critically acclaimed 90-minute solo play has educated and entertained audiences across the US and around the world.
Leopard Print Loincloth
Theatre Works: 4 – 8 February
There’s something about a room when there’s only men inside it. This play is kinda about firemen and Tom of Finland and Nick Riewoldt and first girlfriends and bad boyfriends and gentleness and sex and fear and yeah. Leopard Print Loincloth is an episodic jog through the prickly field of contemporary Australian masculinity. An all-male, ruggedly talented cast of six inhabit this beer-scented new play from Melbourne playwright Jake Stewart (Fraternal, Boys Have Skin and The Helendale Nude Footy Calendar). Come along, sit back, bring a cute pal, and spend a little time with the boys!
Love by the Hour
The Butterfly Club: 20 – 25 January
Lines of desire and friendship are blurred in this new play by Caleb Darwent. Ashish has just found out that his long-term friend Eve is a sex worker. When he impulsively books them for sex, the pair are thrown into close quarters and forced to confront their shared past, while questioning the boundaries of friendship, the limits of intimacy, and the cost of transgression. Their conversation strips them to their most vulnerable, examining their fears and fantasies with dramatic insight and sharp humour. This modern and queer telling of the courtesan love story will make you hold your breath, laugh out loud, and question your sexual ethics. From the writer of 2019 Midsumma Festival hit The Rest Is Drag and 2016’s The Adulteresses comes this new tale of sex and friendship, inspired by Colette, Noel Coward and Oscar Wilde.
Matto Lucas: Frontier
Joel Gallery, Altona: 31 January – 13 February
In August 2019, (Europe’s Summer) Matto Lucas travelled through 13 different countries, in the back of an Audi convertible. Part retro road trip, part travel log, Frontier is an experimental video artwork about a queer body existing in various new geographies, documenting an organic experience; a journey, and discovering the multitude of landscapes while telling multiple intersecting narratives and exploring the transient spaces one occupies in transit.
Midsumma Australia Post Art Award
No Vacancy Gallery: 28 January – 9 February
In its fifth year, this selection of queer artists from across the country showcase their personal and political perspectives of the world. Featuring early career and established artists working across mediums, finalists are eligible for the Major Award of $6000 and People’s Choice Award of $1000 provided by Australia Post as well as the Bundoora Homestead Art Centre residency/exhibition award. The finalists’ artwork are available to the public for viewing and voting during Midsumma for the People’s Choice award.
Gasworks Arts Park: 21 January – 1 February
Bette Davis was one of the most iconic and gifted film actors of the 20th Century. This highly acclaimed one?woman show retraces the remarkable steps of a truly fearless movie legend, from fledgling stage actress to an unrivalled glittering movie career that also saw her battling the Studios in an unprecedented attempt to gain independence as an artist. Davis fought hard all her life, had four husbands, two Oscars and a reputation as the biggest bitch in Hollywood. Queen Bette tells the whole story. Directed by Peter Mountford award winning actress Jeanette Cronin (The Boys, Janet King, Letters to Lindy, Holding the Man) returns to the role she was born to play.
Queer Playwriting Award Showcase
Gasworks Arts Park: 28 January
Join Gasworks and Midsumma for a night of queer-focused theatre featuring fresh 15 minute excerpts from finalists: Butterfly Kicks by Jamila Main, Gravity by Bradford Elmore, Home Fires Burning by Maeve Marsden and New Wave by Margot Morales Tanjutco. Experience new work, engage with new playwriting talent and have your say in the 2020 Award selection. The Queer Playwriting Award (formerly Playtime) is an initiative presented by Gasworks Arts Park in partnership with Midsumma Festival. This development program aims to identify, support and develop new playwriting talent and get queer issues out there for mainstream audiences to consider and enjoy.
The Boy I Paid For
The Butterfly Club: 20 – 31 January
Socially awkward Keith hires beautiful escort Beau for an evening of companionship one Christmas Eve. While Keith has no idea what to expect, Beau is treating this like just another job, but he has never had a client quite like Keith before. As the night goes on, both men realise they have to confront their own truths… and need one another to do it in this original play that examines the ramifications of our obsession with youth and beauty. Starring Jonny Kinnear and Jake Matricardi.
Gasworks Arts Park: 22 January – 1 February
In 1988 more than one hundred arrests were made at Salamanca Market when the Tasmanian Gay Law Reform Group defied a ban on a stall that featured petitions to decriminalise sexual activity between consenting adult males in private. Written by Campion Decent and directed by Peter Blackburn, The Campaign tells an historic and emotionally-charged story about real-life events that changed Tasmania for the better. Based on personal testimony, parliamentary transcripts, media reports, and archival sources from the people involved – including Rodney Croome, Nick Toonen and Christine Milne – The Campaign chronicles Tasmania’s journey from exclusion to inclusion, from opposition to acceptance, and from hatred to embrace.
The Feather in the Web
Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre: 29 January – 1 March
Kimberly lives a modest life. When she’s not steering cars into oncoming traffic, she mostly enjoys the quieter things – like public masturbation and emotional terrorism. Adrift in a bland, grey world much like ours – of after-work office-drinks, team-building exercises, and never-ending Netflix recommendations – Kimberly wants nothing more than to watch it all burn. Until disaster strikes. She falls in love. And finally encounters a force as terrible and destructive as herself. From cult comic sensation Nick Coyle (The Queen of Wolves, ABC’s Sarah’s Channel), The Feather In The Web is a lacerating satire of mainstream culture – that revels in all the magnificent, awful parts of ourselves we’ve learned to squish right down.
The Rise and Fall of Saint George
Hamer Hall – Arts Centre Melbourne: 23 & 24 January
George was a pioneer. A trailblazer. An icon. He was our saint. Two of Australia’s leading queer artists, electro-pop icon Paul Mac and playwright Lachlan Philpott, have teamed up with director Kate Champion to tell the story of Saint George through the eyes of our community. To celebrate the life of a much-loved star, a beautiful mural appeared across a wall in Sydney’s Inner West. It became a local shrine, bringing a smile to the faces of thousands of commuters who passed every day on the train. It stood for eleven months with no hint of complaint or controversy. The dark forces unleashed and forced upon our community by the Marriage Equality campaign changed that. One day after we heard YES – a day to celebrate and heal after the divisive campaign, the mural was destroyed in a series of attacks. The Rise and Fall of Saint George is a celebration of queer achievement, a thank you to allies and an urgent call to arms to never let our hard-won rights go.
You & I
Gasworks Arts Park: 22 – 25 January
International award-winning company and festival favourites Casus Circus come to Melbourne for a Midsumma exclusive season of their most daring and intimate work You & I. An empowering hour of skill celebrating identity and the loving relationship between two men using high level acrobatics, magical trapeze and dance. This unashamedly authentic journey reveals a fresh narrative where gay stories are not consumed by tragedy but filled with conviction and acceptance.
Zina Sofer: Awakening
Chapel Off Chapel: 21 January – 9 February
Awakening – the moments between temptation and fear. These moments are fragile, painful, terrifying, euphorically joyous and most of all rewarding. They are necessary emotional steps in search of a self-identity where temptation is the fearless driving force and the core ingredient. In this body of work, Photographer Zina Sofer captures the emotional turbulence of The Coming Out chapter of her life. This work offers an insight into her very personal experience in search of her own identity – and is part of an ongoing and a larger body of work – aiming to explore a life long journey in search of identity, belonging and that elusive place call home.
In addition, the Midsumma Carnival – a one day, 11 hour festival takes over Alexandra Gardens – kicks off Midsumma on Sunday 19 January – attracting more than 110,000 attendees annually, while the Midsumma Pride March will parade down Fitzroy Street, St Kilda on Sunday 2 February – celebrating Pride March’s 25th anniversary, showing that marching for pride is more important now than ever before. After pride celebrations will be held in Catani Gardens after the March.
The 2020 Midsumma Festival runs Sunday 19 January to Sunday 9 February. For more information, and full program, visit: www.midsumma.org.au for details.
Image: Juan Gomez – photo by Ali Choundhry