Australian arts online guide: the best livestreams and on-demand comedy, music, theatre, exhibitions and more – ABC News

We miss the arts as much as you do, and while galleries are set to reopen soon there’s still plenty of theatre, comedy, dance, writer’s talks and all that jazz to be found online.

This guide, which will be updated a few times per week, is for the week ahead with recommendations that focus on Australian content, with occasional international gems thrown in too.

There will be a genuine world premiere, live-streaming arts (gold!), streams from the archive, on-demand dates, bite-sized bits of content from Australian artists and theatre companies, and recommendations for the best ‘virtual’ exhibitions (ideally something that gives you the feeling of ‘being there’).

Tuesday May 26

Hannah Gadsby: Douglas
The Aussie comedian’s follow-up to wildly popular Netflix special Nanette is called Douglas (after her eldest dog) and is about the power dynamics, patriarchy and language. It’s on Netflix from today.

Wednesday May 27

Arrears windows (2009) by Destiny Deacon.(Supplied: National Gallery of Victoria)

5pm AEST: Behind the Art of Destiny Deacon
Kuku and Erub/Mer artist Destiny Deacon was set to open her largest ever retrospective at the National Gallery of Victoria when the lockdown came into effect; now the exhibition will open in October instead. But in the meantime, NGV is hosting this conversation about her work between curators Myles Russell-Cook (Indigenous Art) and Jane Devery (Contemporary Art), discussing how Deacon uses tragedy and comedy in her art to make sense of the world around her.

8.30pm AEST: Ensemble Offspring
Award-winning Ensemble Offspring are live-streaming a concert of Australian chamber works inspired by the theme of ‘birdsong’, as part of the Melbourne Digital Concert Hall project. That project is about providing a platform for musicians to continue to earn income from their performances – so tickets for this concert are $24.

Weekly, 6pm AEST: Arts Centre Melbourne’s Big Night In with John Foreman
Musical director, composer and pianist John Foreman joins forces with the Aussie Pops Orchestra and guest performers to bring you a weekly musical entertainment show, streaming on the Arts Centre Melbourne website. Tonight’s guests include: pop vocal group Human Nature and drag queen Courtney Act.

My Brilliant Career (1979) is one of the films in this week’s ACMI Cinematheque.(Supplied)

Weekly: ACMI Cinematheque
Each Tuesday, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) Cinematheque announce via their Facebook page a double feature of streaming films, information on where to watch the selected films and accompanying notes for the next day’s virtual cinematheque. You can even watch with friends, via Metastream. This week, two features (and two optional add-on shorts) by Australian director Gillian Armstrong: My Brilliant Career (1979) and The Last Days of Chez Nous (1992).

Weekly, 7pm AEST: Sound Gallery Sessions
Monash University are live-streaming recitals from their David Li Sound Gallery into your home, every Wednesday evening from 7pm. Tonight: acclaimed British concert pianist Yasmin Rowe.

Thursday May 28

7.30pm AEST: Sydney Theatre Company’s No Pay? No Way!
Marieke Hardy’s brilliant adaptation of Dario Fo’s subversive absurdist comedy had to end its Opera House run early due to the COVID closures. Next best thing? Enjoy this cast reading, featuring STC favourites Glenn Hazeldine and Helen Thomson alongside Catherine Vn-Davies, Rahel Romahn and Aaron Tsindos. Pay-what-you-can prices start at $0.

Weekly, 7.30pm AEST: MSO Live
The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra releases a recent performance from their archive every week on their YouTube channel.

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra are resurfacing their 2017 concert with Kate Miller-Heidke.(Supplied: MSO/Daniel Aulsebrook)

Friday May 29

7.30pm AEST: The State of Music (live stream)
The Victorian Government is bringing you free online gigs with musicians every weekend. Tonight: The Rubens, Abby Dobson, D’Arcy Spiller, Fergus James, Joe Camilleri & The Black Sorrows with Jade Macrae, Lime Cordiale, Mansionair, Mitch King, Nic Cester & The Milano Elettrica, Odette, Something For Kate and more. Stream on the state government website and social media; you can also catch up on previous gigs.

The Rubens headline this week’s State of Music, which will be hosted by Jane Gazzo and Tim Blackwell.(Giulia McGauran)

8pm AEST: The IsoLate Late Show
Every Friday Brisbane cabaret company Little Red presents a live concert, raising money for the Actors’ and Entertainers’ Benevolent Fund QLD. Hosted by entertainer Naomi Price, previous guests have included Katie Noonan, Queensland’s chamber orchestra Camerata, Wesley Enoch and the casts of Six the Musical and Book of Mormon. Head to their Facebook page to catch the live stream and past performances.

9.05pm AEST: In Concert Together: National Reconciliation Week
Reconciliation Australia and ABC Radio are putting on “an hour of deadly music” to celebrate this year’s National Reconciliation Week 2020. Hosted by Christine Anu (tune in via her Evenings show on ABC Radio or the ABC Radio local and Reconciliation Australia Facebook pages) with performances from Busby Marou, Alice Skye, and Jimblah.

G — a reworking of Giselle — will be available to stream for 48 hours.(Supplied: Australian Dance Theatre/Ashley De Prazer)

Fortnightly: Australian Dance Theatre ADAPT
Adelaide-based company Australian Dance Theatre release a work from the archive each fortnight on Fridays, as part of their new online season ADAPT. This is a rare chance to see contemporary Australian dance for free. Sign up to the ADAPT newsletter and ADT will deliver a new show to your inbox fortnightly on Fridays. Today, they’re releasing a 2013 recording of their show G — available for 48 hours.

Weekly: Prototype Care Package
Every Friday until mid-June, Prototype will be delivering new, specially commissioned screen works (including short experimental films and video art) to your email inbox for you to watch over the next week. Sign up on the Prototype website.

Saturday May 30

Neo-soul singer Kaiit will be closing out These Digital Times.(Supplied: Melbourne International Jazz Festival)

12pm to 10.30pm: These Digital Times
The 22nd Melbourne International Jazz Festival was scheduled to run this week, but instead they’ll be presenting an online music festival on the last Saturday of May, June and July. The free festival includes panels and performances with local and international artists, live-streamed on the festival’s website. The May line-up includes multi-ARIA award-winning vocalist Kate Ceberano, the album launch for saxophonist Julien Wilson’s STOCK project and neo-soul vocalist Kaiit.

Weekly: Poet Laureates of Melbourne
The Melbourne City of Literature office will be sending out a new poem by a different poet straight to your inbox every Saturday. Sign up for your weekly dose of poetry reflecting on and responding to these strange times.

Weekly, 12.55pm AEST: Isol-aid music festival
Head over to Isol-aid’s Instagram towards the end of the week to see who will be appearing in the latest edition of this weekly weekender. Previous iterations of the festival have seen Courtney Barnett, Ngaiire and Missy Higgins perform pared-down 20-minute live sets from their homes.

Comedian Steph Tisdell (and presumably her cat) will be appearing in the final episode of Stan’s Australian Comedy Lockdown Special.(Supplied: Stan)

Weekly, 7pm AEST: Australian Comedy Lockdown Special
In Stan’s four-part comedy special, six comedians perform short stand-up sets from their homes. The fourth and final episode is emceed by Wil Anderson and features sets from Claire Hooper, Sam Campbell, Steph Tisdell, Michelle Brasier, and newcomer Blake Freeman. 

Weekly, sunset-sunrise AEST: Spectra live stream
Every Saturday from sunset to sunrise, MONA streams Ryoji Ikeda’s light and sound artwork Spectra on the MONA website.

A view of Spectra light show by Japanese sound and light artist Ryoji Ikeda, for Dark Mofo in 2018.(Supplied: MONA/Jesse Hunniford)

Sunday May 31

Weekly, 1.55pm AEST: Isol-aid music festival
Head over to Isol-aid’s Instagram towards the end of the week to see who will be appearing in the latest edition of this weekly weekender.

Recent releases available on demand:

James and the Giant Peach
Roald Dahl’s story of a boy, a bunch of insects and a giant peach is being read by Taika Waititi and a drop-in cast of pals and peers that includes Liam and Chris Hemsworth, Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sarah Paulson, Eddie Redmayne, Kumail Nanjiani and Tessa Thompson, among others. The catch? They wouldn’t mind if you donated to Partners in Health.

Movie Night
Sydney’s Golden Age cinema have now launched Movie Night, a curated online collection of films to rent. They’ll be adding new titles weekly, but right now you can watch documentaries about the cats of Istanbul (Kedi) or the life of 89-year-old Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama (Kusama: Infinity) — plus there’s a bunch of indie films from Australia and elsewhere. This week’s featured films are Non-Fiction and The Trip to Greece.

Stream the acclaimed UK production of A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Australian Benedict Andrews and starring Gillian Anderson.(Supplied: National Theatre/John Persson)

National Theatre at Home
London’s National Theatre have been resurfacing their recent repertoire via filmed performances released on YouTube for a limited period. Australian director Benedict Andrews’ note-perfect production of A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, with Gillian Anderson as the tormented Blanche DuBois, is available for few more days (check out this interview with Andrews on RN’s The Stage Show).

Love in Lockdown
Stream this new isolation romcom web series told entirely over Zoom and FaceTime and made over 17 days during lock down, starring Lucy Durack and Eddie Perfect.

ABC Arts on iview
On Arts iview you can stream productions by Opera Australia, The Australian Ballet, Bangarra Dance Theatre and Sydney Theatre Company.

The Australian Ballet digital season
From May28-June 11 you can stream two performances from The Australian Ballet archive: La Sylphide, one of the oldest existing ballets, choreographed by Danish master August Bournonville, about a ill-fated romance between a ‘sprite’ of the air and a mortal man; and the quintessential classical ballet Paquita, choreographed by French master Marius Petipa.

STC Virtual
This series by Sydney Theatre Company features bite-sized videos made by their artists and former collaborators during lockdown. The latest drop of episodes includes Hugo Weaving performing a soliloquy from Hamlet, and Richard Wherret Fellow Shari Sebbens and Luke Carroll performing a scene from Kylie Coolwell’s Battle of Waterloo.

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Together in Art
The Art Gallery of NSW Together in Art project features online performances, artist interviews and art how-to-guides. They’ve recently added an online exhibition of newly commissioned artworks (From My Window) and a video (above) that gives you a fly-on-the-wall perspective of conservator Simon Ives cleaning an Arthur Streeton painting.

Visual arts online:

White Gilt 2.5
After his exhibition closed due to the COVID-19 shutdown in March, Perth artist Nathan Beard and Sydney artist-run gallery Firstdraft have uploaded a virtual version on Nintendo Switch’s hit game Animal Crossing: New Horizons. On Saturday May 30, Beard will open his fantasy island of Slovetzia to Animal Crossing players, so they can attend the premiere of his exhibition White Gilt 2.5. Sign up via Firstdraft, and they’ll share visiting hours and details in the days leading up to the opening.

Marking Time explores mark-making and drawing in Indigenous art from prehistoric to contemporary times.(Supplied: National Gallery of Victoria)

Marking Time: Indigenous Art from the NGV
As part of the National Gallery of Victoria’s suite of immersive virtual tours of its exhibitions, you can check out this showcase of their Indigenous art collection, which includes video by Hannah Brontë, animation by Josh Muir, neon works by Brook Andrew, and paintings by Richard Bell and Reko Rennie.

Do It (Australia)
Kaldor Public Art Projects has launched the best possible lock-down art project: they asked a line-up of Australian artists, performers, musicians, architects, writers and choreographers to create a set of instructions that each audience member can follow from the safety of their home. Julia Jacklin’s “turn crying into acting” is a particular favourite. Do It is an ongoing international project started in 1993 by curator Hans Ulrich Obrist and artists Christian Boltanski and Bertrand Lavier. Do it (Australia) features instructions by Rafael Bonachela, Jonathan Jones, Janet Laurence, Ian Milliss, Tracey Moffatt, Glenn Murcutt, Gerald Murnane and more.

Confined (May 14-June 7)
This year, this annual showcase of artworks made by Indigenous artists currently in or recently released from prison will be available online. The exhibition features 300 works from 286 artists “depicting Indigenous perspectives on identity, art, connection to culture and Country,” with 100 per cent of the sales going directly to individual artists.

At the centre of Watami Manikay is a larrakitj, a kind of hollow log that was originally made to house the remains of a deceased person.(Supplied: The Mulka Project)

Watami Manikay
The Yolngu artists of Arnhem Land-based multimedia collective The Mulka Project have created an incredible, immersive digital version of their work for the Biennale of Sydney. Their powerful installation Watami Manikay (Song of the Winds) mixes song, video and animation to express their manikay (ancestral songs). It’s the closest most of us will get to being on country where these artists live, in north-east Arnhem Land.

Pulse of the Dragon
This group exhibition at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre features a line-up of Chinese and Chinese-Australian artists whose work explores themes of “religious witchcraft”, folklore and mythology in Chinese culture, curated by Chinese Australian artist Guan Wei and his Beijing peer Cang Xin.

Biennale of Sydney
The Museum of Contemporary Art have brought their part of the Biennale online, with a selection of artworks and galleries now available as 360-degree virtual experiences.

The Biennale of Sydney’s exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art includes bark paintings by Noŋgirrŋa Marawili.(Supplied: Biennale of Sydney/Ken Leanfore)

Rite of Passage
Eleven contemporary Aboriginal artists (including Glennys Briggs, Megan Cope, and Karla Dickens) reflect on the 250 years since James Cook’s arrival in this now online exhibition at QUT Art Museum in Brisbane.