The smorgasbord of unbound creativity that is the Melbourne Fringe Festival runs riot across the city once more this month, unleashing a bumper program packed with over 400 shows from 15 different countries.
The North Melbourne Town Hall forms the Festival Hub, playing host to 69 curated shows, three bars and the pumping club where all saucy shenanigans end up.
Other key flash points include the southside’s Gasworks Arts Park which will be transformed into the Boardwalk Republic for the duration of the festival, hosting 13 different artistic companies covering circus acts, burlesque shows, comedic genius and a touch of magic.
Incoming festival director Simon Abrahams says he was in an enviable position when he jumped on board the Melbourne Fringe Festival boat earlier this year, with his predecessor Jayne Lovelock already having locked in this year’s festivities, including centrepiece project Uncommon Places.
“It looks at the secret spaces and hidden places of the city, which is so Melbourne,” Abrahams says. “Anything worth knowing about here is behind a secret door, down an alleyway or on a rooftop.”
Uncommon Places brings together 24 contemporary artists to create 18 public artworks the length and breadth of Melbourne, embracing our love of unknown cool stuff. “It’s all about making you seek out those fantastic little gems that bring ordinary spaces to life in new and interesting ways,” Abrahams says.
Super-excited about what’s to come, Abrahams has already got on eye on the future. “My job this year is to deliver Jayne’s fantastic program while I’m dreaming up our big vision for next year.”
Here Are Our Top Tips For This Year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival:
What better way to explore the dark and mysterious ins and outs of our fair city than packed into the backseat of Honda Jazz? Written and directed by Davina Wright, three punters at a time will be picked up from the Fringe Hub and driven on a wild goose chase with stop overs for live performances by art collective Gold Satino. Expect the unexpected at Suburbia.
Award-winning children’s theatre outfit Polyglot, originally founded by Abrahams, return from their globetrotting world tour to premier their latest show Separation Street at the Fringe Hub. Separating the kids from the kidults, parents and younglings go on separate interactive theatre journeys into outer space before teaming up again to swap stories.
Randy Writes A Novel
Definitely not suitable for children, everyone’s favourite foul-mouthed puppet Randy, currently starring in the ABC’s Sammy J And Randy In Ricketts Lane, is flying solo in this Fringe show which posits him writing a novel in between cantankerous rants. Utterly hilarious, the felt fury will be unleashing his spleen at the Lithuanian Ballroom in Randy Writes A Novel.
After wowing Perth audiences, WA theatre company The Last Great Hunt bring their outrageous two-man show Fag/Stag to Melbourne Fringe. Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Chris Isaacs play besties Jimmy, a gay guy, and straight mate Corgan as they try and get their hopeless act in gear. But how can they sort it out if they aren’t even being straight with themselves? Very clever and stupidly funny.
The Dad Show
A couple of years ago performance artist Bron Batten got fed up with her dad failing to understand what it was she actually did for a living and decided to take him on the road with her in Fringe show Sweet Child Of Mine. It was so successful she’s back this year, sharing the love in a one-off show titled The Dad Show that pairs multiple Fringe artists from this year’s crop with their pops on stage at the Festival Club, including director Abrahams.
What’s more Melbourne than a one-woman show all about female sexuality, body politics and Kelis’ ‘Milkshake’ bringing boys to the yard, staged in a super-cool bar down not one but actually three dark laneways? Bree Turner’s forthright, thought-provoking and exciting show Glory Whole is at the Croft Institute in Chinatown’s Croft Alley.
Who Is Dani Cabs?
Sticking in the city, Daniel Cabrera, nominated for best emerging artist at the Adelaide Fringe, stages his one-man show at the Tuxedo Cat. Bringing the modern Australian male into sharp focus through theatre, video and dance, Who Is Dani Cabs is an absurd exploration of his need for stardom to stave off loneliness.
Pitching contentious, one-term Queensland premier Campbell Newman as something of a Nero figure overseeing the collapse of Rome, MKA theatre company stage Erik Gardner’s searing satire Bounty, which posits a desperate Newman, under siege over his anti-bikie laws, pitching criminal gangs against each other in mortal combat, gladiator-style. It’s all going swimmingly until his daughter wants in. At Northcote Town Hall.
His Ghostly Heart
Performed in the dark, this fraught two-hander penned by Skins scribe Ben Schiffer forces your heightened senses to intrude on the strained pillow talk of a young couple played by Riley Nottingham and Bundy Marston. Pretty soon it’s a psychological minefield tripping over the pitfalls of love and lust. His Ghostly Heart is a must-see.
Indigenous artist, Noongar man and Melbourne Fringe award-winner Ian Michael challenges audiences to listen up to the lost stories of our country as he brings powerful verbatim theatre to life. Drawing on first-person testimonials from families torn apart to illuminate the forced fragmentation of his people and their culture, Hart is powerful, important stuff.
Melbourne Fringe runs from September 16 – October 4.
Image credit: Melbourne Fringe via Facebook