A theatre rises from the ashes

Those closest to La Mama relay their agony at its loss in flames and a new joy at a grand return supported by so many nationwide.
A woman in front of a small crowd raises her hands towards a building with a sign reading La Mama

When esteemed Australian playwright David Williamson heard the awful news that La Mama, the beloved Carlton venue where he had got his start, had burned to the ground, he feared it may be the end for the 50-plus-year-old institution and its remarkable place in the nation’s cultural fabric. ‘My heart sank, like just about everyone who has been associated with theatre in Melbourne, or, indeed, Australia,’ he recalled. ‘La Mama was the generator of so much in Australian culture and the loss, which at the time seemed permanent, was quite shocking.’

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Stephen A Russell is a Melbourne-based arts writer. His writing regularly appears in Fairfax publications, SBS Movies and SBS Sexuality, The Saturday Paper, The New Daily, Time Out, The Music and Metro magazine. You can hear him on Joy FM.