First published on 2 Feb 2011. Updated on 7 Feb 2011.
fortyfivedownstairs pictured above
A core group of professional actors and crew make up Red Stitch Actors Theatre. The group not only select and perform eight works staged each year but own and run the company as well. Working together over an extended period affords the performers a degree of rapport seldom matched elsewhere. The focus is on contemporary text-based works from both Australia and abroad, which are performed in their St Kilda venue at the Astor end of Chapel Street.
Jump aboard: tram 78 & 79; stop 40
Arts House splits its program across two venues: the North Melbourne Town Hall and the old Meat Market. Committed to contemporary performance in all its guises, the Arts House goes beyond talking heads to explore the world of dance, puppetry, video and performance art. Their Green Tix for Nix initiative provides a (limited) number of tickets for free to those (green) punters who walk, tram or cycle to shows, so you can be both cultural and environmentally friendly.
Jump aboard: tram 57; stop 12
Home to both Melbourne's best kitsch-cluttered lounge room and one of its finer cocktail bars, the Butterfly Club manages to squeeze a performance venue into the narrow confines of a two-storey 1920s terrace. It's an intimate affair, with audiences packing the pews for up to three shows a night, six nights a week. Club specialties include cabaret, comedy and performative curiousities and the venue plays a starring role during the Melbourne Cabaret Festival in July.
Jump aboard: tram 112; stop 128
The uphill slog to the posh end of Flinders Lane is rewarded with a descent into the depths of fortyfivedownstairs, whose galleries and performance space line the lower levels of this old rag trade building. Staging both productions developed in-house and the work of guest artists, the space is dedicated to ‘new ideas and hybrid art forms,’ often hosting readings and developmental showings of works in progress.
Jump aboard: use your legs instead; easy stroll up Flinders Lane
Head on through the back of the Lygon Street Safeway supermarket complex and you'll find La Mama at Carlton Courthouse. With more room to move than its smaller, older sibling (La Mama Theatre), La Mama Courthouse is instrumental in bringing new Australian theatre and performance to the stage, and presents a packed program that changes fortnightly.
Jump aboard: any tram along Swanston Street