As October draws ever closer, we took our magnifying glass and highlighter to the Melbourne Festival program to mark out the 10 must-see events worth the interstate trip.
As October draws ever closer, we took our magnifying glass and highlighter to the Melbourne Festival (October 10-26) program to mark out the 10 must-see events worth the interstate trip. With a diverse program ranging from orchestral-techno collaborations to mesmerising dance pieces, any of these 10 picks will make your trip to Melbourne a winner. Pop Crimes From brooding lead guitarist in Boys Next Door and The Birthday Party to beloved underground classic solo albums like Teenage Snuff Film, Roland S. Howard’s status as an under-appreciated icon of Australia’s music scene is rarely disputed. The continued ambivalence of mainstream audiences towards Howard’s work while contemporaries and collaborators such as Nick Cave have won international fame has been framed as one of the great tragedies of modern Australian music. Following Howard’s untimely death in 2009, the spectre of his work and influence continues to be felt all around the world, if you know where to look. This tribute show brings together some of Howard’s former bandmates and collaborators such as Adalita, Mick Harvey, Ed Kuepper, Genevieve McGuckin and Conrad Standish to celebrate his Howard’s inimitable songwriting and abrasively innovative playing on what would have been his 55th birthday. October 23, Foxtel Festival Hub AM I Fresh from performances at the Adelaide Festival, Shaun Parker & Company’s Am I is an electrifying display of storytelling tackling the universe, human biology and relationships. So, some pretty small and inconsequential themes to tackle in a dance piece. Led by the serenely charismatic Shantala Shivalingappa, Parker’s 14-strong ensemble is a mesmerising display of human movement, stagecraft and narrative. With a riveting, pulsating soundtrack and a staggering use of light and staging, this play explores the human body and experience. It’ll make you think, but not too much – you’ll be too entranced by the performance to do much else. October 23-26, The Coopers Malthouse Merlyn Theatre Jeff Mills Legendary Detroit second wave icon Jeff Mills will perform with an orchestra for the first time in Australia ‘The Wizard’ of techno will team up with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra to push at the limits of modern dance music and explore the intersection between new and old. Mills, conductor Christophe Mangou the 60-piece ensemble tackle a sprawling 90-minute piece arranged by Mills and film composer Thomas Roussel that enmeshes as the drum machine and deck work of Mills’ oeuvre with a whirlwind of jazz, electronic and classical sound. It might not be what you expect from a techno or classical performance, but will floor fans of both. Mills will also be in Adelaide, playing a more traditional DJ set at Sugar Nightclub on Saturday, October 18. October 10, Hamer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne Finding Vivian Maier New York historian John Maloof made the discovery of a lifetime in 2007 with the purchase of an unmarked box of undeveloped negatives from a neighbourhood thrift auction house. Little did he know that the box contained the life’s work of a nanny and amateur photographer, as she recorded her travels and encounters in a stunning trove of portraits and street photography on a scale unseen in an amateur collection. Inspired by the incredible photos and intrigued by the unfolding mystery of the woman behind the camera, Maloof set out on a journey to piece together Maier’s life and haunting talent through interviews with those who knew her, from acquaintances to the now-adult children she looked after and brought on her travels. Having been featured in the Vanity Fair, This American Life and The Wall Street Journal and intrigued audiences around the world, Maloof’s documentary Finding Vivian Maier will make its Australian premiere at the Melbourne Festival. October 16 (7pm), October 18 (5.30pm) and October 23 (5.30pm) ACMI Cinema 22 Years of Big Hart Big hART celebrates more than two decades of supporting social change through film and documentaries that give a voice to Australians neglected or forgotten by mainstream culture. This two-part retrospective program looks back over a handpicked selection of groundbreaking and important cinema, from AFI Award-winning 2000 docu-drama Hurt to 2002 Tasmanian road fatality documentary Drive, along with a collection of short films selected from the Big hART archives. A strong emphasis on community is central to much of Big hART’s work, and unsurprisingly it’s a theme echoed throughout the program from Drive’s work with young Tasmanians to explore the cataclysmic effects of road fatalities 900 Neighbours, the story of residents of Sydney’s maligned Northcott public housing estate as they work together to strengthen neighbourly ties while challenging public perceptions of the area through community theatre. Program 1: October 25, ACMI Cinema 1 Program 2: October 26, ACMI Cinema 2 Australian String Quartet With the recent announcement of the current ASQ lineup’s impending break up still hot off the press, music lovers will be clamouring to make every last moment count with the present iteration of the much-loved Australian quartet before their final run of performances runs its course. Working through Haydn’s String Quartet No 64 Op 76 No ‘Largo’ and Mendelssohn’s String quartet No 2 Op 13, this quartets at sunset event provides the perfect opportunity to experience this fleeting incarnation of the ASQ before they take their final bow. October 24, Collins Street Baptist Church Nils Frahm Whether attacking the inside of a grand piano with drum mallets or straddling several pianos and synthesiers at once, performances by Berlin composer and pianist Nils Frahm are a frenzied mix of pounding chords and pulsating rhythms as Frahm bounces around the stage from one instrument to the other. Each show is a unique experience as Frahm blends tranquil classical influences with insistent artificial sounds of modern dance and electronic. Having won over audiences around the world – including Sydney’s Vivid Festival – with his energetic and inventive live performances and collaborated with artists including Sarah Neufeld of indie rock band The Arcade Fire, Frahm returns to Australia to make his Melbourne debut. October 10-11, Foxtel Festival Hub Jonti & The Astral Kids Presents ‘Since I Left You: A Celebration of the Avalanches’ While it seems all bets are off when it comes to the long-rumoured but yet to materialise second album by Melbourne collective The Avalanches, the influence of their groundbreaking 2001 debut Since I Left You continues to be felt by genre-defying musicians around the world. There’s no greater evidence than the incredible success of this live tribute to Since I Left You by one of Australia’s most engaging artist collectives. What began as a live experiment for last year’s Outside In Festival has transformed into a mesmerising, Sydney Opera House-conquering 17-piece extravaganza as Australia-via-South Africa dreampop artist Jonti and his ragtag team of collaborators including the always mesmerising Rainbow Chan meticulously reconstruct Since I Left You’s densely sampled soundscapes in a live setting. Heck, the inherent goofiness of grown men and women reciting the spoken word samples of off-kilter hit Frontier Psychiatrist alone must surely be worth the price of admission. October 10-11, Foxtel Festival Hub Debussy String Quartet #1 With more than 24 years of experience treating audiences all around the world, the Debussy String Quartet bring their refined and exciting performance style to Australia all the way from Lyon, France as part of the Festival’s ‘Quartets At Sunset’ program, joining ensembles including the Australian String Quartet. This program includes works from Haydn, Mellits and Shostakovich, and is an excellent opportunity to take in this unique ensemble – internationally renowned for both their recordings and live performance – as they make a rare Australian detour in their relentless international touring schedule. For fans seeking an extra insight into the artistry behind the quartet, violinist Christophe Collette will also participate in a free artists in conversation event along with Circa Artistic Director Yaron Lifschitz on Sunday, October 19. October 13, Collins Street Baptist Church Hello, Goodbye & Happy Birthday Malthouse Theatre’s 2013 director-in-residence Roslyn Oades returns to the company for this moving play exploring two very different milestones. This world premiere event marks another bold chapter in a career that has already won acclaim around the country. Drawing from real-life interviews with people experiencing their 18th and 80th birthdays, the play’s unique immediacy and tangible realism is brought to life through Oades’ ‘headphone-verbatim’ approach to documentary theatre. As subjects from each age bracket answer respond to a series of parallel questions, the audience is launched into two very different worlds. But, while institutional environments like nursing homes and high school might seem a lifetime apart, Oades uses these two periods to explore themes of adulthood, independence and transition to immersive and thought-provoking effect. Oades and her fellow creators will also take part in a range of post-show discussions as part of the festival giving an insight into the play as well as her headphone-verbatim style. October 9-26, Malthouse Theatre melbournefestival.com.au