Melbourne’s La Mama Theatre, one of the city’s most iconic and longstanding independent playhouses, was destroyed in a massive fire overnight.

The Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) received a call about a blaze at the Carlton location “shortly after 5am” on Saturday morning, it said in its report. About 50 firefighters arrived at the Faraday Street theatre in less than six minutes to find the two-storey brick building “fully ablaze”.

There has been “substantial damage” to the building, according to the MFB, which also advised people to avoid the area if possible due to smoke. The cause of the fire is not yet known but MFB’s specialist Fire Investigation teams are currently investigating.

No one was hurt, and the MFB was able to contain the fire so it did not spread to neighbouring buildings.

“The brick building, which houses the ground floor theatre and the office-cum-dressing room on the first floor, has been badly damaged,” ArtsHub reports. “The interior floor and staircase, and the roof have collapsed … Costumes for the current La Mama production, Bully Virus, have been destroyed, along with all office fittings, records and artworks.” A large portion of the theatre’s archives are housed off-site at the University of Melbourne.

La Mama has been a breeding ground for pioneering and experimental Australian theatre for more than 50 years and has produced some of the country's most cutting-edge productions since opening in 1967. Alumni of the theatre include Cate Blanchett, dramatist David Williamson and comedian Judith Lucy.

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“Thank you everyone for your support and thoughts – we sincerely appreciate it,” La Mama tweeted earlier today. “Our staff are on site working through it together. We will update everyone in due time. With so much gratitude and appreciations, La Mama and all.” Broadsheet reached out to La Mama for comment but did not hear back before publication.

Melbourne theatre and cultural groups from the MTC to Writers Victoria to Circus Oz offered support and condolences on social media.