Beat’s Guide To Midsumma 2016

On Sunday January 17 thousands of families and partygoers flocked to Alexandra Gardens to revel in all the colours of Carnival; the official launch party of Victoria’s annual celebration of queer arts, culture and diverse gender and sexuality communities. The weekend’s Carnival celebration kicked off a colossal three weeks of Midsumma action that sees art venues, galleries, cinemas, libraries, performance spaces and even sporting centres across the city flooded by a program bursting with the very best queer culture the city has on offer. From now until Sunday February 7, over 130 Midsumma events will take over a collection of venues across Melbourne, and after poring over the huge program, the Beat team have pulled together just a few of our must-sees of Midsumma 2016.

Melba Spiegeltent, Collingwood
Nominated for Best Cabaret show at 2015 Fringeworld Perth, Midsumma Let’s Get Metaphysical stars Australian queer royalty Glitta Supernova (of Gurlesque and Pretty Peepers Cabaret fame). As anyone familiar with Supernova’s work may suspect, it’s a strictly adults only event. Let’s Get Metaphysical adopts an overtly sexual tone, employing camp humour in a send-up of a crass porn film. While it’s already taken the country by storm, this is the Melbourne debut of the show that follows a small-town hippy who finds herself embroiled in the naughty, hedonistic post-punk underbelly of Sydney in the late-‘80s. It’s been described as a combination of The Mighty Boosh and Benny Hill staged on the set of Deep Throat with narration from The Young Ones. Hectic, right? Supernova’s character is a self-described sex clown who’s been trying to break out of the pecking order for 20 years. What goes on, well you’ll have to see for yourself, but the show comes with a firm “do not try this at home” warning. Let’s Get Metaphysical is on at the Melba Spiegeltent on Thursday January 29 and Friday January 30. 
Year upon year, Gasworks Arts Park has maintained a rock-solid reputation for delivering the best of Midsumma programming the city has to offer, and their 2016 season is no exception. Boasting captivating performing arts events, an outstanding collection of visual arts exhibitions, drama, comedy and outdoor cinema screenings, Gasworks Arts Park’s Midsumma season gleams a colossal rainbow across the south-side and beyond, proving once again this multi-faceted community arts precinct are front-runners in exceptional Midsumma programming. Highlights of the program include Playtime Staged Readings, which facilitates the debut readings of a bunch of queer focused theatre works; Uncovered, a play that sees the greatest dreams, fears and desires of one man become reality all within a curious bar; The Measure of a Man, the second instalment in critically acclaimed queer artist Gavin Roach’s Anxiety Trilogy; and the official Midsumma launch on Thursday January 21, which brings together music, performances, exhibitions and prizes – and it’s completely free.
Gasworks Arts Park
During Midsumma 2016, renowned visual artist Andrew J Pearson will transform Gasworks Arts Park’s Foyer Gallery into a glittering temple of love, light, colour and rainbows with his stunning body of works Peace Process. Pearson’s Midsumma offering is more than just a visual arts exhibition. By literally piecing together multiple fragments of compact disc and small laminated monochromatic tiles which, when viewed from a slight distance, form photographic images, Pearson has produced a magnificent collection of 20 portraits. Pearson has chosen subjects who have contributed to a furtherance of acceptance and empowerment of those who are misunderstood, threatened and marginalised based on gender, sexuality and race. This is a one-of-a-kind visual art experience that offers the viewer an opportunity to contemplate loving kindness and the human rights of all, while stepping into an immersive, rainbow filled gallery space that bursts with splendid colour spectrums in constant motion. Peace Process can be viewed from now until Sunday February 14 in the Foyer Gallery at Gasworks Arts Park.
GONE Gasworks Arts Park
Gone is a piece of comedic theatre centred on the not-so-funny themes of desire, loss and letting things go. The work revolves around erotic gay fiction writer Alex Riley who, on the morning of his 40th birthday, is shocked to discover his penis has simply disappeared. Understandably frightened, bewildered and somewhat horrified, Alex wonders whether he’s contracted an STI, or perhaps he’s losing his mind. Not stalled by the ineffable mystery, he heads out looking for help. Problem is, it’s not only an intensely serious, but also a very humiliating situation to be stuck in, so he’s not sure whom to confide in. Beyond the narrative’s grotesque core, Gone inquire into the impact of body image, ageing and social media on gay men. It’s an interrogation of contemporary gay culture and the identity and relationships therein. Losing your penis is obviously a major barrier to engaging in physical relationships, and Gone ponders how this affects a gay man’s sexual viability in a world dominated by dating apps and muscle worship. Starring Daniel Fischer, Walter Hanna and Michael Treloar, Gone will premiere at Gasworks Arts Park for five performances only, from Wednesday February 3 until Saturday February 6.
Presented by Gasworks Arts Park and Lab Kelpie
Interviews with gay refugees who face persecution based on their sexuality, coupled with the photographic work of award-winning photojournalist Bradley Secker, inspired the UK play Elegy. In this compelling Australian premiere, director John Kachoyan (MTC, Bell Shakespeare) and actor Nick Simpson-Deeks (Company, Winners & Losers) reinvents the UK play and brings it to life on the Gasworks Theatre stage. An enthralling and eye-opening blend of storytelling and visual poetry, Elegy invites audiences on a journey through perilous border crossings, bomb-blasted towns and a devastated world, while exploring the extraordinary true-life experiences of sexuality within asylum centres and the brutality that many queer refugees face. Bradley Secker’s original photographic exhibition that inspired Elegy will also be on display in the Gasworks Heritage Foyer, open daily from 9am - 4pm.
P.S. SHE NURSES! Ford & Sly And Gasworks Arts Park Present
The last two times Brendy Ford brought his Midsumma production P.S. I’m Fabulous!to Gasworks Arts Park, the entire season sold out. This time around, Ford will make another side-splitting entrance into Gasworks with the musical comedy, P.S. She Nurses! – a behind-the-curtains peek into the world of nursing, depicted through Ford’s own diary entries from his 2008 student nursing journal. In P.S. She Nurses!  Ford will take the audience on a journey jam-packed with Hollywood ideals, harsh realities, and naturally, stories of his very first encounter with a vagina. The show will also contain a collection of ‘80s and ‘90s anthems, so there’s no doubt you’ll be shaking your thang across the aisles in no time. P.S. She Nurses! will see Ford joined onstage by a stellar cast of performers including Sarah Louise Younger, Seth Drury, Leigh J Booth, Jessica Prinzi and pianist Jane Matheson. Both performances of P.S. She Nurses! will support the 3181 Momentum project and raise funds for The Reach Foundation. These shows are bound to sell out, so act quickly.
For the seventh year running, a collection of local organisations and artists in the western region of Melbourne unite for GoWest celebrations as part of Midsumma. Featuring a vast selection of events that not only support and represent the array of LGBTIQ communities in the west, but also lure people to the western suburbs, this year’s GoWest celebrations span visual art exhibitions, cabaret, performing arts, live music, ghost tours, author talks, storytelling, comedy, sports activities, film screenings, discussions and more.
Incinerator Art Gallery, Moonee Ponds
Through the intimate documentation of families within the LGBTIQ community, Lisa White’s photographic exhibition All You Need Is Love challenges heteronormative perceptions of families, while showcasing the diversity that exists within our communities. By capturing families in everyday domestic settings – two men and their dog, a trans person with their children, a lesbian couple in bed or a woman living happily on her own – White’s imagery act as a powerful celebration of love and family. Through gaining access to and sharing the subject’s private space and presenting it in document form, the exhibition highlights the overarching power of love within families, regardless of whether you are gay, straight or something in between.
The Clocktower, Moonee Ponds
On the final weekend of Midsumma 2016, one of the leading lights of the country’s cabaret ranks will present the premiere of her brand new show, Alive and Intimate. The woman in question is none other than Dolly Diamond. Born in the UK, Diamond has been living Down Under since 2009. She’s led a tremendously successful career performing in live cabaret, at festivals and for various charity’s around Australia, Europe and the UK. Alive and Intimate showcases Diamond at the peak of her powers, busting out disco hits and Dixieland tearjerkers alongside witty remarks and an incessant flow of genuine laughs. For this performance Mark Jones will accompany Diamond. It all happens on Saturday February 6 and Sunday February 7 at Clocktower Centre, Moonee Ponds. 
The Clocktower, Moonee Ponds
The Clocktower Centre in Moonee Ponds is rolling out some preeminent works of cabaret for this year’s Midsumma. The red curtain will be lowered, turning the venue into an ambient den of cabaret for a special Midsumma re-jigging of Me & Mr. Jones. It’s a work helmed by Melissa Langton and Mark Jones, famously regarded asthe Captain & Tennille of the Aussie cabaret scene. For Me & Mr. Jones, the pair pulls out all the stops in a tribute to the music and pop culture of that most excessive of decades, the 1970s. It’s a hilarious romp through the unforgettable – and not always for the right reason – hits of Bette Midler, Cher, Liza Minnelli and many more. Feel like throwing your inhibitions in the bin and indulging your guiltiest pleasures? Head along to Clocktower Centre on Saturday January 30 and Sunday January 31.

This is only just a taste of what is happening during Midsumma 2016. Visit midsumma.org.au for the full program.