Midsumma: Rhonda’s fabulous Guided CouTours

This Midsumma festival offers you the chance to go behind the scenes at Melbourne Arts Centre, guided by an Australian entertainment icon: Rhonda!

Rhonda’s fabulous Guided CouTours
Rhonda’s fabulous Guided CouTours

Rhonda Butchmore, that is. If you show up expecting Rhonda Burchmore at Rhonda’s fabulous Guided CouTours, you should be slapped by an irate Ossie Ostrich. Some people reportedly showed up on opening night expecting the original Ms B, and foolishly left before they got to appreciate the originality of Rhonda Butchmore’s show.

The delicious drag version of Rhonda is Thomas Jasper’s hilarious take on the first lady of Australian musical theatre, as a means to appreciate the LGBTI history of the Melbourne Arts Centre. Butchmore contains elements of Dame Edna along with all of Rhonda’s fire, and makes for a perfect tour guide through the decadence of the Arts Centre.

Rhonda’s tour assistant, Kyle Minall, offers a wonderful support to Rhonda’s stories and jokes. He helps facilitate the tour and brings a warm, approachable element to balance Rhonda’s vivacious presence.

As we wander the venue, our CouTour guides share their extensive knowledge about the history, development and stories of the Arts Centre, and they have definitely done their research!

The tour itself starts beside the box office in one of the several subterranean levels of the Arts Centre. We then weave downstairs and up on our way through discovering some of the beautiful hideaways of the venue.

Depending on what is happening across the venue, each night of the tour may take somewhat a different pathway – so you’ll never know what you’re in for! Still, I’m not going to spill what we saw on our tour, or the best stories – just in case you get to see or hear them yourselves. All I can say is that this tour is a MUST for anyone interested in the huge history of the Arts Centre, and in the characters that have graced its hallways and dressing rooms.

On this, the second night of the tour season, we had the pleasure of a small group, so there was lots of time for questions and special attention. At 7.30 (the planned ending time) Rhonda checked to see if anyone was in a hurry to finish. No? Okay then, on we go! Our tour extended to two hours because we had so many questions and wanted extra details and more stories. My friend and I can be somewhat blamed for that; we took advantage of Rhonda and Kyle’s willingness to keep sharing their knowledge and stories, and asked lots of questions. Our gracious guides took it in their stride, answering happily and seamlessly incorporating the extra information into the tour.

Most impressively, we were totally absorbed for the whole time. How many tours can do that for you? There are just so many stories hiding in these beautiful surrounds, and Rhonda and Kyle bring them to life.

The only slight disappointment of the tour was that we didn’t get to go into the main venues themselves. This was totally understandable for those being used at the time, however Hamer Hall for example was empty, so we would have loved to go inside. Then again, we got to see it from the special hidden sound-proof viewing box – and that really defines this tour.

Rhonda’s fabulous Guided CouTours offers you an alternative perspective on the Arts Centre; a romp around the back passages and through the stories of the places you don’t get to see when attending the venue as a patron.

Darlings, do follow Rhonda through the Arts Centre’s delightfully queer history, then finish off with some bubbles in one of the venues many scenic spots. This tour should not be missed!


Joanna Bowen

Joanna is a Melbourne-based writer and Jill of all genres. She writes content, scripts and biographies, among other things, and regularly discusses the many delights of Melbourne living.

Joanna Bowen

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