Darebin Arts Speakeasy 2023 Season

Darebin Arts Speakeasy

Darebin City Council

Darebin Arts Speakeasy launches its 2023 season and celebrates ten years of Darebin Arts’ role as an influential hub for performing artists to develop and present innovative new work. Since 2013, Darebin City Council’s Speakeasy program has invested in contemporary dance, circus, theatre and multi-disciplinary work that speaks to issues that matter to the community, celebrate cultural diversity and reflect the times we’re living in. 

Over the past decade Darebin Arts Speakeasy has supported over 1,500 artists to create over 150 original works presented to over 75,000 patrons, receiving 40 creative industry awards and a further 116 nominations. Darebin Arts has backed many of the ground-breaking artists and companies that make Melbourne’s art sector so iconic: RAWCUS, Ilbijerri Theatre Company, The Hayloft Project, Little Ones Theatre, Stephanie Lake Company, Elbow Room, MKA, Double Water Sign, and lead artists like Joel Bray, Michele Lee, Emilie Collyer, Anna Seymour, Stella Young and Sammy J.

With an independent panel of local artists leading the curation of each season, Darebin Arts Speakeasy offers audiences a dynamic and diverse mix of shows from Melbourne’s best performing artists. To realise each production, artists receive an impressive package including cash investment, marketing, publicity and technical support, and space to rehearse and present their work in either the Northcote Town Hall Arts Centre or the Darebin Arts Centre.

The first suite of shows in the 2023 season features well-known companies, hot young ensembles, and talented emerging artists, presenting two new plays, three contemporary dance works, and a cutting edge First Nations-led circus company.

  • SLIP by Rebecca Jensen
  • A Certain Mumble by Amelia O’Leary
  • Body of Work + QWERTY by Atlanta Eke
  • Arterial by Na Djinang Circus
  • Crocodiles by Vidya Rajan and Elbow Room
  • Animal Farm by Bloomshed

‘Over ten years, Darebin Arts has built this program to support new works by Australian artists and arts organisations. Its top priority has always been to reflect the diversity of its community, advocate for the sustainability of creative careers and share stories that matter. This inclusive approach is central to providing audiences with thrilling arts experiences.’ – Beau McCafferty, Head of Programming, Darebin Arts Speakeasy

‘For over a decade now, Darebin Arts have been doing the one thing that so many other, more richly resourced bodies can’t seem to manage: they’ve been listening to artists, and trusting them to know their audiences, and what they really need to reach them. To be included in a program that showcases some of the best of what Melbourne has to offer, but to be able to remain fiercely independent whilst doing this, is a rare privilege. Every partnership we’ve had with Darebin has been better and more successful – by every metric – than the last, because they keep learning and improving.’ – Emily Tomlins, Elbow Room  

Darebin Speakeasy presents the first half of their 2023 season with a collection of exciting performances taking place from March – July 2023 at the Northcote Town Hall Arts Centre and Darebin Arts Centre.  

Slip by Rebecca Jensen (DANCE) | 1 – 5 March

Northcote Town Hall Arts Centre

Slip is a dance work exploring the illusion of Foley, a technique in film-making whereby everyday sound effects are artificially created and layered over the image.  In this humorous and mesmerising dance piece, choreographer Rebecca Jensen and award-winning sound artist Aviva Endean use this fascinating artform to bend reality, where your eyes and ears start playing tricks on you, time zones collide, and the bond between objective and perception comes unstuck. The show is a response to the complexity of our present reality, where almost everything around us is processed, and we find ourselves entangled in acts of delay and deferral. Slip was seeded at the Keir Choreographic Awards in 2022. Darebin Arts Speakeasy is proud to support Jensen and this new, full-length work with visual design by Romanie Harper.

A Certain Mumble by Amelia O’Leary (DANCE) | 15 – 19 March

Northcote Town Hall Arts Centre, Studio 1

Two women, strong in their identities, express what it feels like to be an outsider in Australia. Amelia O’Leary is a First Nations Gamilaroi dancer and choreographer. Janelle Tan Yung Huey is a Chinese Malaysian artist with a rich understanding of the diverse culture that surrounded her growing up. In A Certain Mumble, they step through the sticky terrain conviction and confusion, voice and incomprehensibility, sisterhood and lineage, being watched and being understood. O’Leary has created an original soundscape and art projections to support the choreography, evoking refracted memories from the performers’ past experiences throughout the piece. In this intimate new dance work, these two young choreographers invite you into the murky realm between the certainty they hold in themselves, the perils of being misunderstood, and the subterranean rumblings that try to convince you that you don’t belong here.

Body of Work + QWERTY – A double bill from Atlanta Eke (DANCE) 23 – 25 March

Darebin Arts Centre

A celebration of the collaborative mastery between choreographer Atlanta Eke, video artists RDYSTDY and composer Daniel Jenatsch. These artists continue to demonstrate a persistent rigour and dedication to the questioning of the relationship between the physical body and the digital realm. This double bill presents two works examining the relationship between the human body and technology through an evening of stunning visuals and innovative possibilities. Body of Work + QWERTY recently premiered in Auckland NZ – this will be the Australian premiere.

Body Of Work explores the tension between the performance and the documentation of the performance, by making them one in the same through a synthesis of the human body and technology, playing with the perception of time. A hybrid, a cyborg, a performance where opposition is irrelevant so that the question remains, who choreographs and who is choreographed?

QWERTY is a new work exploring the footprint technologies have made on the human body, and our capacity to rewrite our choreographic coding. Experimenting with interior and exterior interfaces and notions of path dependency, QWERTY probes the capability of the dancing body to break free of its pre-installed design.


Arterial by Na Djinang Circus (CIRCUS) | 20 – 30 April

Northcote Town Hall Arts Centre

Arterial explores the complexities of lineage within Indigenous communities, and how this lineage impacts upon a sense of identity and community. A moving acrobatic performance linking people, Country and culture, the performance uses physical gestures and greetings that are unique to young First Nations Australians (such as handshakes and hand gestures) to inform the acrobatic movement on stage. Arterial draws on the invisible bonds that connect our people, like the roots of a tree that spread out, these bonds are unseen but transcend time, displacement and colonisation.

Following a sold-out season at the 2021 YIRRAMBOI Festival, this award-winning work returns energised and extended as a new redevelopment. Director and performer Harley Mann is a rising circus star gaining national attention by his industry peers and Darebin Arts Speakeasy welcomes this work to the season, providing a place where Mann and the Na Djinang Circus can expand their vision.

Crocodiles by Vidya Rajan, produced by Elbow Room (THEATRE) | 24 May – 4 June

Northcote Town Hall Arts Centre

Set in an aged-care facility the story revolves around an incident culminating in the death of a resident, and the official inquiry that follows. The play unfolds in episodic structure, spending significant time with several characters. The inquiry of the play, unlike the fictional inquiry which closes it, extends past the immediate horrors of abuse and neglect rife in Australian aged-care facilities, to examine their origins in class, culture and relations of labour.

This new play comes from one of the most exciting young writers in Australia. Vidya Rajan’s work is making waves in sketch comedy, stand-up, theatre and experimental art, winning the Best Experimental award at the 2022 Melbourne Fringe and her adaptation of Looking for Alibrandi playing to sold-out seasons at the Malthouse Theatre and Belvoir. Teaming up with award-winning company Elbow Room (Enlightenment, Prehistoric), Crocodiles is a hilarious and poignant drama about the realities of the Australian dream for migrants.

Animal Farm by Bloomshed (THEATRE)| 12 – 23 July

Northcote Town Hall Arts Centre

Green Room Award winning ensemble Bloomshed (Paradise Lost) return to Northcote Town Hall Arts Centre with an epic rework of George Orwell’s riveting response to the Russian revolution and the Soviet slide to totalitarianism. With their signature satirical style – and a political climate that’s ripe for a good roasting.

Orwell’s classic political fairy tale is a satire about the use and abuse of power: an assault on disinformation, extremism, and greed. Adapted to a contemporary Australia, this is a high-octane mix of dance breaks, physical comedy, and confetti. Bloomshed has a growing reputation for shining light on political satire. Their return to the program illustrates Darebin Arts’ commitment to investing in sustainable careers for artists.

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