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20 Must-Sees At The 2016 Melbourne Fringe Festival

By Stephen A Russell - 16 Sep 2016

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If you see green lasers setting the city’s iconic buildings alight, fear not, aliens haven’t descended on Melbourne raining death from above. Nope, it’s just the return of the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

Sky Light is a massive, city-scaled light instillation designed by celebrated audio-visual artist Robin Fox. Best viewed from the banks of the Yarra, it’s the biggest thing the festival has ever pulled off and creative director Simon Abrahams is excited.

“Sky Lights is about people feeling ownership of the buildings in their city and looking at it in a way that they haven’t seen before,” he says. “It’s something that all of Melbourne can own.”

Busting open the Festival club’s doors at North Melbourne’s Arts House tonight for the Melbourne Fringe Gala, from here until October 2 there will be a cornucopia of 463 shows, with roughly quarter totally free.

Accessibility is a big deal for Abrahams. “I’ve been fascinated by this idea of cultural democracy, that anyone, no matter who they are, age, race, gender, ability, talent, they all have the right and the capacity to contribute to the cultural life of their city.

 “Fringe is a champion of the outsider, to seek them out, encourage their participation and bring their work up to the surface for everyone else to discover.”

La Petite Merde

Brianna Williams is back! Following on from sold-out shows in the Perth Fringe Festival, Williams is coming to the Melbourne Fringe Festival with her solo sketch show. La Petite Merde (The Little Shit) will use her unique brand of storytelling, improvisation, sketch and audience participation to navigate the most elusive of all states: happiness. 

Sammy J - Hero Complex

Had enough of the never-ending parade of big blockbuster superhero movies? Why not plump for comedian Sammy J’s origin story and how getting into Phantom comics at school wound up with cops in his attic as an adult.

The Awkward Years

Adelaide based theatre company isthisyours? host a 20-minute party where every audience member is encouraged to channel their awkward teenage selves. Pack the acne cream.  

Laura Davis: Marco. Polo.

Hot off her Golden Gibbo Award-winning show Ghost Machine at last year’s Comedy Festival, Laura Davis sets herself a new challenge by performing this gig blindfolded while on top of a ladder. What could go wrong?

Adam Page - Chairman of the Beard

In a possible breach of peak hipster, multi-talented musician Adam Page literally plays his beard on stage in this weird and whacky one-man performance.

Restrung

Singer/songwriter Helen Clark teams up with five acrobats from Brisbane’s outstanding circus act Casus to deliver this raw and ready act in Collingwood’s Melba Spiegeltent.

Echoes

Winning pretty much all the awards in Britain, St Kilda’s envelope-pushing Theatre Works hosts this incredible show connecting a colonial schoolgirl 175 years ago to a would-be jihadi one today.

Islamofarcist

Pakistani comedian Sami Shah may have given up being Muslim, but with a name and face like his and the current climate in Australia, folks haven’t quite got the memo. At North Melbourne’s Lithuanian Club this is bound to be in-your-face hilarious.

A Prudent Man

Lyall Brooks suits up in this hot political satire, taking a swing at the big C men, Abbott, Howard, Cameron and, err, Thatcher. A charmer, his pot shots never miss.

Gold Class

Wes Snelling unleashes his outrageous alter ego and all-round bloody legend Tina Del Twist in this gutsy queer cabaret that pulls out all the stops so hard it’s indecent.

Madame Tulalah's Magnificent Box

Got no money or time to spare and always worried about what may come? This free, five-minute one-on-one with Madame Tulalah will unveil your fortune in the most peculiar way.

Menagé

Devised by award-winning playwright Ryan Good this is as immersive as theatre gets with only two audience members and one performer delivering dialogue taken from interviews with sex workers here, in London and Edinburgh.

Blind Spot

Another not-to-be-missed two-audience member only show, Daniel Santangeli’s true-crime drama at the Northcote Town Hall winds back in time to unravel the consequences of a bodged get-rich-quick grab.

Terror Australis

Brisbane-based satirical, multi-cultural theatre outfit Polytoxic let loose the dingoes of war as Leah Shelton skewers the dark heart of Australia in this post-colonial cabaret.

Andre Tonight

Italian-Australian actor and musical theatre star Chris Ryan channels his alter ego Andre DiVenuto and his search for true love at the Arts House Fringe Hub. 

Blowin’ Up

Scooping the Best Dance gong at last year’s Melbourne Fringe Awards, Alice Dixon, Caroline Meaden and William McBride are back with three interconnected solo works at the Newport Substation.

Girl in the Wood

Bagging loads of awards, this teenage fairy tale sees young Peggy set out to save her older brother from hunger demons and merciless bandits hiding in the trees.

The Offensive Nipple Show

Sarah Tuck and Jess Holly Bates bare all at North Melbourne’s Arts House, delivering power ballads that shoot straight from the nip.

Down Down Lucifer

Rake and Home and Away actor Philippe Klaus takes on Beelzebub himself in this lauded black comedy staged, appropriately, in the basement of the Hawthorn Arts Centre.

HardQueer DeathPony (You’ve had Worse Things in Your Mouth)

How could we not? This one’s in for the shock name value alone, plus it promises J-Pop and Death Metal mash-ups.

Fringe Comedy Pub Crawl!

Does what it says on the tin – follow the leader round North Melbourne’s finest pubs and encounter a top-notch comedian (and possibly a drink) at every stop.

To keep up to date with the best things to do in Melbourne, make sure to check out our A-List

Image credit: Brianna Williams (La Petite Merde) by Mark Gambino.

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