Australia’s arts industry has been savaged by COVID-19. Just as it was getting back on its feet, the current lockdowns in NSW and Victoria are once again wreaking havoc, as hundreds of performances are cancelled, leaving arts companies and producers reeling financially.

Vastly higher rates of vaccination are essential to help prevent lockdowns. The  Australian vaccination “strollout” is partly due to vaccination hesitancy – although there are still not enough vaccines available for all those who want to have the jab, with the Federal Government slow to secure sufficient orders. As a result, Australia currently sits near the bottom of the list of OECD countries in terms of the amount of the population to be fully vaccinated.

Performance of a Lifetime

Performance of a Lifetime. Photo courtesy of Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

For those feeling anxious or hesitant about getting vaccinated, Government adverts have so far failed to get the message through in a clear, reassuring way. Cue the Victorian arts community, which has swung into action with a terrific video called Performance of a Lifetime to try to help counter vaccine hesitancy. The campaign is based on health advice that mass vaccination is essential to preventing further lockdowns, avoiding the need for social distancing and for shuttering performance venues or reducing seating capacities.

Written and directed by Emma Muir-Smith, the Performance of a Lifetime video features a fabulous line-up of Melbourne-based performers including Deborah Cheetham, Tim Minchin, Meow Meow, Rhonda Burchmore, Virginia Gay, Tripod, along with artists from The Australian Ballet, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Theatre Company, Short Black Opera and others.

Conceived and developed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, the video encourages audiences to play their part and give their own ‘performance of a lifetime’ by getting vaccinated against COVID-19 so that the community can be kept safe, and artists and entertainers can return to performing live. A statement from MSO said that the content “is based on health communication theories and models to address vaccine hesitancy in the community”.

Meow Meow in Performance of a Lifetime

Meow Meow in Performance of a Lifetime. Photo courtesy of Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

“Whether we play in an orchestra, act within an ensemble or dance in the corps de ballet, it’s essential that we each perform to our highest standards in order to deliver the performance of a lifetime,” said MSO Managing Director Sophie Galaise.

“Along with our colleagues in the arts community, we are encouraging our audiences and the wider community to get vaccinated so we can all get back to doing what we love – whether that’s playing contact sports, enjoying a meal with our loved ones, or getting back on stage to entertain our treasured audiences.”

The Performance of a Lifetime video is clever, lucid and fun, with humour and apt theatrical puns (such as “let’s give COVID its final curtain call”), making it entertaining, while still delivering its message loud and clear. Artists address the audience directly and take viewers “backstage” to a mock COVID vaccination centre. The video is also interwoven with performance footage.

The Victorian Minister for Creative Industries, The Hon Danny Pearson MP applauded the campaign and the MSO’s creative and community leadership in organising it.

“Our arts community is doing everything they can to recover and reactivate and this campaign is a clever and creative way of encouraging audiences to play their role and get vaccinated. If you can get vaccinated, please book in or visit a Hub – the sooner we get vaccinated, the sooner we can get back to doing the things we love.”

The social media campaign, which will also be aired at select MSO performances, was filmed at St Vincent’s Hospital Royal Exhibition Building Vaccination Hub and Arts Centre Melbourne, and features archival footage from a range of arts organisations.

The video will include captions for priority languages recommended by the Department of Health – Arabic, Cantonese, Greek, Hindi, Italian, Mandarin, Punjabi and Vietnamese.