La Mama back to full capacity
The theatre is finally running at full capacity at La Mama and Carlton’s iconic theatre group is putting on three plays a week for the Midsumma Festival as it comes out of the lockdown.
CEO Caitlin Dullard is so busy she was pumping breast milk in the foyer in between solving lighting problems for the next production.
“I don’t have a desk,” she said, but that didn’t seem to bother her.
Normally the theatre stages one production a week but Midsumma was cancelled in January. It was back just as the city began experiencing wintery conditions.
The Will to Be, which remakes the Romeo and Juliet story from a queer perspective, was on at 6.30pm, and Sam I Am, featuring a deaf gay millennial, was at 8.30pm with a set change in between. Then, there was another production on the weekend.
“We’re going hard,” Caitlin said. “That’s our nature. As soon as I could open, we opened.”
Three festivals will run back-to-back in the catch-up and the busy CEO was still taking proposals for Banksia, the four-day rebirth festival to celebrate the return to Faraday St in October.
Unlike other theatres which have changed direction during the introspective times forced on them during the pandemic, La Mama has reaffirmed its support for the artistic vision of others.
“We’re responsive and flexible,” Caitlin told Inner City News. “People have been glad to get back to the office. We don’t feel bound to the office desk. We like to see who wanders in and has a conversation. I really missed it.”
The lockdown was equally full-on. “I had a baby, we lost our funding in April, we shut in March. We did some online stuff. Lots of the time we were making plans then unmaking them.”
“We would have been better to have spent time resting. It was go, go, go all year.”
La Mama has always given space for artists to express their approach to their work.
An artist’s statement is up on the wall for The Will to Be claiming that the playwright wanted to be like Shakespeare but then changed his mind.
This casual approach to theatre is disarming. “I sort of think we’ve been loose here for a long time,” Caitlin said.
The original La Mama theatre in Faraday St was damaged by fire two years ago and is being refurbished.
It is due to reopen in October with a traditional, intimate performance space – seating for 30 to 35 and “just an empty room”.
La Mama was established back in the day when Carlton was “more slum-like, the uni was thriving and it felt like home. Now most of the people who come here can’t afford to live in Carlton,” she said.
Caitlin has moved to a country town and commutes two days a week to Carlton in a car she shares with her partner •