21 August

The George Ballroom’s back in business

The George Ballroom

It’s one of Melbourne’s fabled venues – a bit like the Flinders Street ballroom – a place we know about and romanticise, but where few have been.

Georgina Damm, proprietor of event and catering experts Damm Fine Food, recalls being snuck in underage to the ballroom during its band room hey day (she thinks it was to see Kate Ceberano’s band, I’m Talking). “I can remember the red velvet drapes and being intrigued by the space,” she says. Damm set her heart on running events there subsequently and pestered the owner until he relented and opened the doors after a hefty, and no doubt expensive, bit of refurbishment.

After a varied history (seaside destination for the well-heeled in the 1800s through to early ‘50s, then gloriously seedy post-punk venue under the Crystal Ballroom and Seaview banners from the ’70s onwards – The Cure played there, and it was pretty much a regular haunt for Nick Cave’s outfits – the Birthday Party and the Boys Next Door) the George Ballroom fell into disuse and disrepair after being used as an event space for a few years in the ’90s and early 2000s.

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19 August

ACMI launches world premiere of Orry-Kelly: Dressing Hollywood

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Orry-Kelly (born 1897 and known as Orry George Kelly to his folks) was a knockabout lad from NSW beach town Kiama, who somehow ended up living with Cary Grant and went on to become a three-time Academy Award-winning costume designer and Bette Davis’s wardrobe go-to.

With a career spanning Hollywood’s golden years, Orry-Kelly designed costumes for 295 movies (including as Warner Bros. chief designer between 1932 and 1944) and worked on movies that went down in film legend, including Casablanca, Some Like It Hot, The Maltese Falcon and Gypsy.

When he passed away at 64 (he was sober when he died, but had liver cancer as a result of years of active alcoholism) Jack Warner (one of the Warner Brothers) read his eulogy and Cary Grant, Tony Curtis, Billy Wilder and George Cukor carried his coffin.

Despite all of this, Orry-Kelly somehow receded into obscurity. Happily, the release of Aussie director Gillian Armstrong’s documentary about him, Women He’s Undressed, and the new ACMI-curated exhibition, Orry-Kelly: Dressing Hollywood, look to set things right.Read more

11 August

MSO reveals 2016 program

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The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s 2016 program’s a corker, combining time honoured favourites and quirkier works with a celebration of some of the world’s best-known movie scores.

Ronald Vermeulen, the MSO’s director of artistic planning, has described recent programming as erring on the conservative side (a valuable and necessary step insofar as it’s drawn folk back to the MSO). However, at today’s media launch, he indicated that 2016 is taking a new direction. “It’s time to open a different door and explore new works and new layers, while taking small steps, so as not to alienate the audience,” he said. In short, he invited us to trust the MSO to take us on a “journey”.

The 2016 highlights include:

Hitchcock and Herrmann

Dear Hitch knew how to scare the shit out of people, but the truth of the matter is that Psycho just wouldn’t have been half so frightening without the score behind it.… Read more

11 August

The Melbourne Fringe Festival launches its largest-ever program

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Melbourne’s largest celebration of independent arts is about to get bigger than ever, with 401 events taking place in 174 venues across Melbourne. The program spans everything from comedy to cabaret, circus to theatre, and is packed with experimental and exciting new shows that you won’t catch anywhere else.

Setting things in motion at this morning’s media launch was the Victoria government’s minister for creative industries Martin Foley. “The Fringe Festival is a lifeline of support for emerging creators,” he said. “It brings forward creativity that would otherwise be marginalised.” In light of the federal government’s “savage cuts” to independent arts funding (by contrast, the Fringe is still generously supported by state and local governments), Foley re-iterated that the Fringe is more important than ever – the Melbourne Fringe works to develop and promote emerging artists, and ticket sales all go back to the creators.

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Once you get your hands on the program, a good place to start are the free, site-specific works popping up throughout the city, through the Uncommon Places and ACCA in the City programs.Read more

4 August

Melbourne Festival program launches today: here are our highlights

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World-class arts light up the city in October as part of the Melbourne Festival’s stellar 30th anniversary program

As proof that the Melbourne Festival grows more innovative and broad-ranging each year, the 2015 program boasts 74 arts events over 18 days; 17 of which are Australian premieres, and 15 of which are exclusive to this year’s festival. The program spans theatre, dance, music, film, circus and visual art from international and local artists, and you’ll need a good stretch of time to get through the highlights and plan your experience. Tickets are on sale now.

In keeping with the last two years, the festival will open with Tanderrum: a ceremony that will see elders from the five clans of the Kulin nation (Wurundjeri, Boonwurrung, Wathaurong, Taungerong and Dja Dja Wurrung) unite for a powerful affirmation of Koorie culture, comprising dance, storytelling and song.

A much-anticipated theatre highlight is the chilling, powerful adaptation of George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece 1984, created by UK theatre company Headlong.Read more