Top Picks for the 2023 Midsumma Festival

Bullet-Heart-Club-and-Theatre-Works-Burgerz-Kikki-TempleShining the spotlight on preeminent queer arts and cultural festivities with leading national and local artists, the 2023 Midsumma Festival is in full swing, celebrating LGBTQIA+ diverse journeys, culture makers and communities.

With an incredible line-up of spectacular performances, exhibitions, visual arts, live music, theatre, spoken word, cabaret, film, parties, sport, social events, and public forums, Australian Arts Review takes a look at twelve events worth checking out!

Archive Armour
Theatrette – Victorian Pride Centre: Saturday 4 February
Join hosts from the Australian Queer Archives and Transgender Victoria and special guest ‘accidental archivist’ and trans icon, Julie Peters, on a creative and interactive journey through queer and trans histories and community archives. With increasing transphobia in Australia and abroad, and ongoing attempts to divide queer people, it is an important time for queer and trans communities to build this armour both as individuals and as a community united in solidarity. Together, we will search through our communities’ histories to find queer and trans care, hope, and joy.  This session will be a mix of presentation and low-key interactive small group exercises, so come ready to share and participate as much as you feel comfortable doing so.

A Southern Fairytale
The Butterfly Club: 30 January – 4 February
Based on true events, the Australian premiere of A Southern Fairytale artfully illuminates the challenges facing a young, gay Christian growing up in the Deep South. Written and performed with deep passion and the insight only gained through personal experience, Ty Autry skilfully explores the trauma of rejection by those we love. As family and friends impose extreme measures to reshape him to fit their ideal, the young man is left isolated and alone. Will he ever thrive – or even just simply survive – if he chooses to live as he was born? Is happiness possible when the only faith you have ever known, not to mention everyone you love, demands that you are wrong and living a life of sin?

Attention Seekers: Dolly Diamond and Tash York
Theatrette – Victorian Pride Centre: 27 – 29 January
Two great friends with two of the greatest egos. Each desperate for the limelight and each willing to do almost anything for attention. In this no holds barred quest for success Dolly Diamond and Tash York take you through the trials and tribulations of what it’s like to hold the centre of attention. Expect a mixture of feel good tunes, hilarious partly true stories and an offering of sage advice to others suffering their affliction.

Theatre Works: 8 – 11 February
In broad daylight in April 2016 at Flinders Street Station, a burger was thrown at Kikki whilst someone shouted a transphobic slur. Over one hundred people saw, and no one did anything. To understand this act of violence, Kikki needs to make a burger – with the help of a stranger. Funny, confronting, flirtatious and sometimes a bit messy, Written by Travis Alabanza and Directed by Kitan Petkovski, Burgerz combines confessional storytelling, live cooking, and audience interaction to recreate a trans person of colour’s lived experience. Poignantly unpredictable, Burgerz lifts the lid off gender and race politics by asking us to reflect on our own complicity.

Meat Market Stables: 1 – 11 February
You signed on the dotted line, you paid the up-front joining fee and your complimentary microfibre sweat towel has definitely been used by someone else. Congratulations, you’re now on the path to being your best self! The ripe sweat of men in spaghetti-strap singlets have blurred your senses. That’s not a heart attack, it’s your heart rate perfectly synced to the deafening house music. There’s a personal trainer who’s turned into the best friend you didn’t agree to. With their roars of generic encouragement and your determination to be on top, the perfect specimen starts to take form. The question is, can you maintain it? More than just a story about gaining the strength to crush a watermelon between your thighs, Ryan Henry has created a new Australian work that will reacquaint audiences with self-love.

Oratory – Abbotsford Convent: 3 – 5 February
Fountain is a new orchestral arrangement of Max Lawrence’s music as performed with Forest Collective which explores an urgency for fluidity in our interactions with ourselves and environment. Through observing their inner and outer world, Lawrence creates lush baroque pop music with an experimental edge, expressing vulnerability as a form of resistance. By blending Lawrence’s intimate songs with the contemporary ensemble Forest Collective, Fountain creates an aqueous expression of sonic humanity, encouraging catharsis on a personal level.

Lemon Tree on Dreg Street
Theatre Works: 28 January – 4 February
20-something-misfits, Twiglet and Boots, live in a ramshackle house on the outskirts of suburbia, where buildings are just waiting to be gobbled up by developers. As Boots prepares to move out to work for their mum’s company, the pair is determined to make the most of summer while they can. But with an old Possum marrying their lemon tree, a vagabond Cowgirl officiating the ceremony, and a Vulture circling the property, things are bound to get interesting… Written by Amy May Nunn and directed by Miranda Middleton, Lemon Tree on Dreg Street will welcome audiences into a community of oddball characters and invite them to participate in a wedding like no other.

Peter Fechter: 59 Minutes
Meat Market Stables: 1 – 1 February
Based on real world events, the Berlin Wall looms large in the Australian premiere of Peter Fechter: 59 Minutes by Jordan Tannahill. 1962, East Berlin. Peter Fechter lies in the Death Strip with a fatal bullet wound to the pelvis after an attempt to escape to the West. For 59 minutes, the teenage body remains where it fell – in full view of Western onlookers and Eastern guards. From gunshot to final breath, Fechter hears the lives of family, friends, and strangers unfolding in the city around him – dozens of voices converging in the moment of his death and illuminating his decision to risk it all for love. Directed by Gavin Roach, Carlo Hengstler brings this heart-breaking story of family ties, oppression, liberty, and cloistered sexuality, to the stage with a wry humour, difficult truths and unexpected joy.

The Motley Bauhaus: 6 – 11 February
Yonni is a seventeen-year-old gay Jewish kid. His devoutly religious family is preparing for the weekly shabbat, but he can think only about his schoolmate, Adam, with whom he is infatuated. As the evening’s events unfold – some of them real, some of them imagined – a deeply personal story about first love and infatuation expands to interrogate the difficult intersection of religion and queerness. Back by popular demand, Stephen Laughton’s Run encompasses a world beyond space and time, exploring what it means to love, to lose, to rebel and how to grieve.

The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven
fortyfivedownstairs: continues to 29 January
Winner of the 2021 Green Room Award for Best Independent Theatre Production for its premiere season at Theatreworks, The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven features Kristen Smyth as Queen Jesus, delivering writer Jo Clifford’s provocative and inspiring text. Under the direction of Kitan Petkovski, Smyth’s powerful performance is supported by a live choir of four singing Rachel Lewindon’s hauntingly beautiful original score. The result is a transcendent take on what it means to be human, imagining Christianity’s message of love extending to embrace all those traditionally excluded because of their sexuality or gender.

The Six Guys an Immigrant Trans Person of Colour will date in Melbourne
La Mama HQ: 6 – 12 February
After being uprooted from their place of comfort and being thrown in front of the world’s biggest crisis, D now has to face an even bigger challenge: finding themselves in the 7-time voted “most liveable city in the world”. Will a series of unfortunate relationships really lead them to the sense of self that they’ve lost? Written by Dax Carney, Six Guys dives a little deeper into the intersectionality of multiple marginalisations in a world run by men. Funny, heartfelt, and inspiring, it will leave the audience having a better understanding of people who are not them. D and their six guys will take you on a hilarious romp that shines a light on a uniquely queer and diverse experience of love, loss, identity, and reinvention.

Trophy Boys
fortyfivedownstairs: 2 – 12 February
A queer black comedy and drag extravaganza about power, privilege and high school debating, The Maybe Pile presents Trophy Boys by Emmanuelle Mattana. It is the biggest night of Melbourne’s academic calendar, the Grand Finale of the Year 12 Inter-school Debating Tournament, and the all-boys team from the elite St Imperium college are ready to totally annihilate their sister school – until… Helmed by a diverse and vibrant team of young queer creatives, Trophy Boys uses drag, satire and camp to interrogate the well-documented toxic masculinity, misogyny and homophobia of our elite private boys schools, and their prevalence in the highest offices of power in the country.

The 2023 Midsumma Festival continues to Sunday 12 February. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Kikki Temple stars in Burgerz – photo by Morgan Roberts