Melbourne's Best Independent Theatres

Photo of Monique La Terra
9 February 2017

Curtains rise every night in Melbourne to cheering audiences anticipating the latest theatrical productions, and although there are plenty of mainstream, heritage-listed theatres to visit, many of the city’s most experimental and thought-provoking productions are held at independent theatres. Melbourne’s independent theatre scene hosts a variety of contemporary works packed with boundary-pushing narratives from emerging and established artists.

Melbourne Theatre Company

Australia’s oldest professional theatre company, the MTC was founded in 1953 by John Sumner and has since showcased more than 750 productions. Producing both classic and contemporary Australian and international theatre, MTC believes ‘that good theatre must contain all that life contains; the seemingly insignificant and the extravagantly momentous.’ In 2009 MTC added its Southbank Theatre location, hosting up to 12 plays a season. For August 2016, the MTC presents The Book Club, Jasper Jones and Disgraced.

Melbourne Theatre Company, 140 Southbank Boulevard, Southbank,VIC, Australia +61 03 8688 0800

Malthouse Theatre

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Malthouse Theatre and Square
Malthouse Theatre and Square | © Donaldytong/WikimediaCommons
Launched in 1990 at a former brewery and malting works factory, Malthouse Theatre showcases contemporary productions which explore artistic and cultural diversity. Collaborating with local and international artists Malthouse encourages alternative perspectives declaring that they are ‘the voice of the other.’ Malthouse is comprised of three performance spaces referred to as the Merlyn, Beckett and Tower theatres, and this season’s program includes Edward II, The Fiery Maze, Gonzo, War and Peace, and Blaque Showgirls.

Union House

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Run in association with the University of Melbourne, Union House Theatre has been nurturing student performances since 1969. The co-curricular theatre allows students to develop industry skills as playwrights, performers, directors, designers and technicians through workshops, performances and events. In 2015 Union House put on 30 student productions and upcoming program highlights include The Producers and The Apocalypse Bear Trilogy.

Eagles Nest

Founded in 2006 by theatre maker James Adler, Eagles Nest produces classical adaptions as well as original Australian scripts. Eagles Nest typically runs four full length plays each year and along with the company’s dedication to community theatre and vineyards tours Eagles Nest has toured internationally in New Zealand, Europe, the United States and Asia. Most recently the theatre presented The Crucible by Arthur Miller.

Eagles Nest, 24 Hardy St, Brunswick, VIC, Australia +61 423 339 431


Victoria’s only new writing theatre MKA began in 2012 to cater to Melbourne’s expanding playwright’s community and has since produced contemporary work from emerging and established writers. Showcasing the transformative work of local and international artists, MKA aims to prompt conversation through innovative theatre. Originally based in Richmond, MKA is a nomadic theatre with no fixed address, preferring instead to pop up in unconventional theatre spaces.

MKA, Lot 2 / 24 Tanner Street Richmond, VIC, Australia

Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre

Established in 2002, Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre has become one of the most successful independent theatres in Melbourne due to their unique assembly of resident actors who collaborate on various productions. So far this year the close-knit ensemble have presented five contemporary plays with another five still to come, including Trevor, You Got Older, Sunshine, Uncle Vanya and Extinction. Red Stitch also run a graduate program for actors and INK playwrights program.

Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre, Rear 2 Chapel Street St, Kilda, East Victoria, Australia +61 03 9533 8083

La Mama

Inspired by New York’s La MaMa on the Lower East Side, teacher Betty Burstall founded the intimate La Mama Theatre in Faraday Street, Carlton. Since 1967 the theatre has held 2,135 productions, with more than 50 new Australian works premiering annually. The not-for-profit theatre provides a rent-free venue for artists with an 80% box office return, and among the theatre’s alumni are David Williamson, Cate Blanchett and Julia Zemiro. Visit La Mama to discover experimental theatre and enjoy a cup of free coffee by the fire during intermissions.

La Mama Theatre, Carlton, Victoria, Australia | © Mat Connolley/WikimediaCommons