La Mama’s first season in reborn premises

Carol Saffer

Around 300 fans of Carlton’s La Mama gathered on December 10, 2021, to witness Victoria’s Minister for Creative Industries Danny Pearson, and Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp officially re-open the theatre buildings, now rebuilt and rejuvenated after a shockingly destructive fire three years ago.

The War-Rak/Banksia festival – named after the banksia flower which comes back stronger than ever after a fire – of theatre, poetry, dance and music, held for three days after the official opening was a teaser of what’s to come.

La Mama artistic director Liz Jones is expecting more than the launch day crowd when the first performance season launches Midsumma at La Mama 2022 on Tuesday, February 8, with For all who came before, a story of love, loss and devotion co-devised and performed by Milly Cooper and Ben Jamieson.

“We start with the Midsumma festival on February 8 and we have about 25 performances on in the next three months,” Ms Jones said.

She said the space would be used almost every night during this period, with theatre performances interlaced with seasons of music, poetry reading and cabaret such as La Mama Poetica, La Mama Musica or La Mama Cinematica.

“We are incredibly busy,” she said with a laugh.

Compounding Ms Jones’ program scheduling is the fact that almost all the performances during the past two years were cancelled because of the COVID pandemic lockdowns.

“I guaranteed all cancelled productions they would be given a season at La Mama so of course I am [now] programming three years of work [into one year],” she said.

The rehearsal space, box office and upstairs office in the new building and the theatre space and green room within the restored original red brick 1800s building will be pumping with a bumper season this year.

As Minister Danny Pearson said at the official opening, “Victorians can look forward to many more decades of creative risk-taking, ground-breaking theatre and exciting new talent from the La Mama family of artists and supporters.”

With its reputation as the home of Australian independent theatre, shaping careers of renowned writers and actors including David Williamson, Cate Blanchett, Julia Zemiro and Uncle Jack Charles, La Mama hopes for many more years in its newly restored and constructed campus •

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