Last weekend, Melbourne awoke to the very sad news that a fire had severely damaged La Mama Theatre in Carlton. La Mama is a Melbourne institution, and for over 50 years La Mama has been at the heart and soul of Melbourne's performing arts community.
It was established by Betty Burstall in 1967, inspired by off-off-Broadway venues to create a space for small vibrant performances, at a time when there was simply nothing like it in Melbourne. When La Mama was founded, the production of Australian plays was almost non-existent and certainly financially risky. La Mama's not-for-profit organisation provided the venue for the performance of new and experimental Australian theatre works. It's a place where emerging artists have found their feet and have connected with new audiences. Burstall described it as 'essentially a playwright's theatre', a place where new ideas and new types of expression can be tried out, a place where you can hear what people are thinking and feeling.
Its alumni are a roll-call of the most prominent performers and writers in Australian theatre: David Williamson, Cate Blanchett, Jack Hibberd, Graeme Blundell, Judith Lucy and Julia Zemiro to name a few—and so many others have passed through their doors and across their stage. Generations of Melburnians have stories about the performances that they've seen at La Mama, and Carlton would not be what it is without La Mama, where it remains a community focal point.
This week has been a time of sadness and reflection for the La Mama community. But it is clear that La Mama will be back and will rebuild. In whatever form it takes into the future, La Mama will continue to be the beating heart of Melbourne's arts community. And, as the local MP for Melbourne, I stand ready to support La Mama now and into the future. To the entire La Mama community, I'm sorry for the loss that you've experienced this week. Thank you for the important part you play in making Melbourne what it is today.