Presented by Melbourne International Arts Festival
The Playhouse, The Arts Centre

Survivor. Muse. Creator. Destroyer.  One of pop culture’s most original female artists, Nico has long remained one of its most enigmatic.

After an early career as actor and muse for filmmakers such as Fellini and Warhol, German-born Christa Päffgen blazed onto the American music scene like a meteor. Her 1967 debut with The Velvet Underground spawned one of rock’s most enduring works, but rather than becoming devoured by the New York arts scene she risked it all, shunned the limelight and dedicated the years until her premature death creating a body of work that was pioneering and marginalised, but all hers.

The Nico Project opens the line between Nico’s potent imagination and us, and commands from the shadows a figure who should never have been consigned to it.

Inspired by her stark, innovative 1968 album The Marble Index, performer Maxine Peake (Black MirrorShameless) and director Sarah Frankcom (Artistic Director of Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre)—alongside 15 female musicians from Australia and the UK—lead this exhilarating exploration into the world of female creativity and its devastating cost in a field dominated by men.

Co-Creators – Maxine Peake & Sarah Frankcom
Music- Anna Clyne
Text- E.V. Crowe
Movement- Imogen Knight
Design- Lizzie Clachan
Lighting Design- Paule Constable
Associate Lighting Design (Melbourne)- Amelia Lever-Davidson
Sound Design- Helen Atkinson


“This intensity is both The Nico Project’s strength and its weakness. While the craft bringing the show to life is top notch, it’s an intense experience that’s certainly not going to be everybody’s cup of tea. However, if you let the sights and sounds of Peake and the brilliantly talented young musicians wash over you, you’re in for a theatrical experience unlike anything else you’re likely to see this year.”

– The Beat

“The music becomes an urgent clanging – whose source proves to be one of The Nico Project’s cryptic surprises – and the theatre is briefly plunged into a darkness made almost total by the temporary covering of the ‘exit’ signs nearest the stage. In barely there golden light, Peake’s solo – Nibelungen, which was a bonus track on The Marble Index’s 1991 reissue – is a darkly beautiful epilogue as enigmatic as anything that came before.”


“We are privy to an extraordinary performance by Peake, striding and weaving through arresting visions created by Frankcom, writer E.V. Crowe and designers Imogen Knight (movement), Lizzie Clachan (set), Paule Constable (Lighting) and Helen Atkinson (Sound).”

-Kieith Gow



The Beat


Keith Gow