THE MELBOURNE FRINGE FESTIVAL OPENS THIS WEEK
Here is the essential, unmissable and best new art for the first two weeks of October
The 2023 Melbourne Fringe Festival kicks off this week and sprinting out of the gates there’s a jam-packed line-up of bold and playful independent art filling up the first fortnight of the Festival calendar. Kicking off Victoria’s largest independent multi-arts festival with a bang are a new and exciting public art project that reimagines civic spaces (Swing, shows that provoke big-picture and nation-defining thinking and events that get the party started with a little glitz and glamour (Melbourne Fringe Opening Night Gala) Performers are limbered up, the drinks are on ice and everyone’s ready to press ‘go’ on three weeks of non-stop art.
Right in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD at State Library Victoria are two wildly different interactive artworks that both encourage users to see the city in a new light. Swing is the major centrepiece commission of this year’s Festival. This eight-metre-tall bright yellow playground swing isa bold and playful public art event that will capture the imagination the city, and reimagine key civic spaces as sites of joy, play and mischief – and it’s accessible to absolutely everyone. Swing is also located at Footscray Station on the Festival’s closing weekend.
Launching on World Mental Health Day (Oct 10), Solace at SLV is inspired by State Library Victoria’s contemplative spaces and accessed via a QR code or web link on your phone, revealing a mini-library of interactive, sensory artworks – ranging from video movement works to ASMR-inspired soundtracks – to help carve out moments of respite and imagination.
For those who love a little razzle dazzle with their entertainment, there are two huge one-off variety shows kick-starting the Festival. Melbourne Fringe Opening Night Gala is a variety spectacle featuring hot acts from across the Festival, hosted by the hilarious Michelle Brasier fresh from her comedy special. Plus, ABC’s Sammy J is back with a new iteration of Sammy J: The 50 Year Show, which lands every five years until 2058, and looks backwards, forwards, and to the events of the of the day in a hilarious comedic time capsule. Now in its fourth turn on the Melbourne Fringe stage, the show is bigger than ever and so is its audience who will pack the iconic Melbourne Town Hall.
The Festival Hub at Trades Hall is officially open for business from 4 October, with over 100 shows playing in rooms big and small – it’s a perfect way to spend a night on the Fringe, catch a couple of shows and discover something new. Highlights include Yummy: Joy Machine, an outrageous and joyful drag variety show with world class performers led by Fringe favourite, Valerie Hex and an all-star cast.
Then join the sideshow revolt with Le Freak, a variety cabaret featuring circus/sideshow performers from queer, trans, disabled and sex worker identities, using their skills and stunts to interrogate how the sideshow has historically oppressed the “freaks” it survives off. And some of Australia’s most hilarious comedians are slinging laughs at the Festival Hub in its first week, including Tom Ballard, Scout Boxall, Dazza and Keif, The Coconuts and Hot Department.
Light-night centre piece of the Festival Hub at Trades Hall, Club Fringe, plays host to night time art shenanigans, underground performance art, bent parties and loosey goosey dancefloors from 10pm til close. Among the treats on offer in this first week of the Festival is MX Fringe, an anti-pageant beauty pageant where contestants compete in subversive and chaotic categories showcasing outlandish looks and peculiar talents, and answering bonkers interview questions to win the crown.
Melbourne Fringe is collaborating for the first time with Melbourne International Games Week, and will co-present exciting events for game gurus at Fed Square’ for Big Games Night Oct (5 Oct at 5pm) including Volo: Dreams of Flight, a VR flying experience that lets you pilot one of four flying contraptions inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s famous machines, all while swinging on a bespoke playground swing. And Cult Of The Lamb: The Ritual, a live cosplay event summoning characters, artwork and music from the cult indie game Cult of the Lamb, with a live DJ set, giant puppets and large-scale animated artworks projected across the ACMI building.
Festival Park at Queen Victoria Market is a bustling pop-up play space featuring incredible new circus works including MATADOR | sabor de amor, a fast-paced fusion of dance, circus and burlesque exploring the themes of love, friendship, infidelity, heartbreak, passion and sex through thematic vignettes with reimagined dance and burlesque numbers. And Prehysterical, a hilarious circus show for children and parents of all ages, following three foolish Neanderthals as they struggle to survive the harsh natural world, told through marvellous circus skills and hilarious slapstick comedy.
Also joining the fun is the perennial favourite So Soiree Fringe Garden, bringing a touch of Fringe to Prahran in the City of Stonnington, with an eclectic program including thrilling new circus at the home of circus for Melbourne Fringe, NICA, and some of Australia’s most popular drag. Stars of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under, Karen From Finance and
Beverly Kills each belt out their own one-woman drag cabarets in The Ukiyo tent. A highlight in this circus-heavy program is Cab Sauve,a sixperson circus show featuring live music and narration with a film noir theme that isfun, silly, and asks audiences to question gender roles. Then Speed: The Movie, The Play invites you onboard a vintage bus for a shameless comedic homage to the 1994 action thriller ‘Speed’, the Burnout Paradise – Cameron Grant (Parenthesy) film which proved once and for all the best drama is on public transport.
The beating heart of the Melbourne Fringe Festival is the 470+ events in the Open Access Program, taking over theatres, bars, community halls, lounge rooms and open-air spaces right across the city. Highlights from the first two weeks of the Festival include (in alphabetical order):
- ~~~~~ “…derelict in uncharted space…” – An intrepid, collaborative homage to a 70s Star Trek fan club told by blind, d/Deaf, hard-of-hearing and queer dancers and sound artists, featuring recorded and live creative captioning and audio description.
- 1800ClimateEmergency – A one-on-one hotline providing people experiencing emotional distress due to the increasingly alarming state of the world with guidance on how to take climate action and prepare for climate disasters.
- Apricity – Casus Creations weaves together exquisite imagery and world-class circus artistry for a show inspired by the unwavering strength found in collective resilience.
- Beauty Queen – A gripping satire that follows the story of Greek mythological heartbreaker Narcissus reincarnated as a young woman vying for the crown of Miss World Australia.
- Be Bold Festival 2023 – Creative Brimbank presents its annual arts and cultural fest in an action-packed day in Melbourne’s western suburbs.
- Beverly Kills – Heaven & Hell – Part comedy, part cabaret, Beverly Kills is stuck between Heaven and Hell and must compete to land a spot before G.O.D.
- Body Fiction–An experimental performance by two gender diverse artists who are life models, exploring the trans body and incorporating movement, acrobatics and live experimental percussion.
- Burnout Paradise – Exploring artistic burnout, four performers run on treadmills for the entire show while completing ever more complicated tasks… and the audience controls the speed.
- Club Briefs – A celebratory club night featuring variety acts from members of the world-famous Briefs troupe.
- CLUB FRINGE: 3 Minutes to Save the World – Short, sweet and weird as hell, Melbourne’s boldest makers deliver bite-sized acts.
- CLUB FRINGE: Beam Me Up – An immersive, alien-themed art party blending UV, neon, and blacklight decor with guests dressed as extra-terrestrials and DJs playing intergalactic disco and house.
- CLUB FRINGE: Klub Kong – A drag and variety night hosted by ‘Ru Paul’s Drag Race Downunder’ alumni Kween Kong – category is “UNIQUE”
- CLUB FRINGE: Mx Fringe – An anti-beauty-pageant pageant that throws out the rule book to crown Mx Fringe 2023.
- CLUB FRINGE: Rhinestone Whispers – Deep Soulful Sweats host a hoedown-meets-rave, teaching fancy footwork alongside live karaoke from the audience.
- Cult Of The Lamb: The Ritual – A gothic ritual performance led by the cult hit game’s characters, plus skyhigh projections and a wicked dance floor.
- Eulogiser Bunny – A comedic and theatrical stage show where an artist performs their own eulogy, featuring video elements, music, dancing, crowd participation and stand up.
- Garry Starr: Greece Lightning – Absurd comedian Garry Starr performs all of Greek mythology. All of it.
- GODZ – Return season of the award-winning circus show about the ancient Greek gods of Mount Olympus, told through a unique mix of storytelling, circus and physical prowess.
- Guái – A fun exploration of the possibilities of AI with an interactive musical installation using biometric facial analysis and mixed reality to assign kids an amazing, digital monster ‘avatar’ and produce a unique individual
- HIGH PONY – From Green Room Award-winning Mel & Sam comes a boisterous musical comedy sketch show full of spiky attitude, cutting lyrics, queerness, social commentary and memorable melodies.
- Hot Department – Deleted Scenes – Award-winning comedy duo Hot Department present sketches from their notes apps and night terrors.
- How to Shave – Stand-up comedy from a 25-year-old transmasculine comedian about their experience of being on testosterone for two years.
- In Common – A stunning work of circus and sculpture in the Fed Square Forecourt that sees a seemingly impossible tension sculpture become a playground for acrobats exploring support in all its forms.
- Irreligious Blessing – A Brunswick church transforms into a secular, spiritual immersive temple where audiences walk in solo and are blessed by a performing high priestess.
- Jazz Or A Bucket Of Blood – An hour of absurd musical sketch, masquerading as a contest between two performers, about whether the show should be about jazz or a bucket of blood.
- Journey to the Kingdom of Hypnos – An immersive anticolonial audio experience where 10 patrons wearing headphones sit in a circle and listen to a 360-degree sound design and story about Memory and Oblivion, two characters from classical folk myth.
- JOYRIDE – An outdoor physical theatre experience inspired by road trip movies, performed in and out of cars in the Festival Hub at Trades Hall car park.
- Juniper Rising – Alternative cabaret artiste and self-proclaimed gay icon Juniper Rising dies and makes a deal with Devil, but gets more than she bargained for. A tale as old as time really.
- Karen From Finance is Doing Time – A one-woman drag cabaret from RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under alum Karen From Finance that sees her thrown in the slammer for a crime she says she didn’t commit.
- III 三 III – A signature circus work taking on high-pressure workplaces that reduce their workers to robots, and asking: what happens when we forget to interact and communicate with each other? Watch a video from FOCA here.
- Mythos: Ragnarok – A Scandinavian WWE-style circus smack down at Festival Park at Queen Victoria Market where the Norse Gods battle each other in glorious spandex!
- Ned Kelly: the Big Gay Musical – A Drag King-led, flaps-to-the-wall, queer re-telling of Australia’s most infamous bushranger tale.
- Of The Land On Which We Meet – An exciting new circus commission about connection to culture from Harley Mann (Na Djinang Circus);
- Pining For Affection: A Tree Musical – A remount of a musical told from the perspective of a tree.
- Pork Chop – Comedian Scout Boxall uses stand up, music and prop comedy to go on an absurdist journey through everything they’ve ever quit.
- Prahran Square Circus and Street Arts Spectacular – A free circus and street art spectacular taking over Prahran Square with roving performers and staged shows.
- Puzzle – A free outdoor interactive performance in which observers help direct five acrobatic performers as they tumble, balance, handstand and form human pyramids to solve a mind-bending puzzle.
- She’s Crowning – A satirical cabaret tearing into Netflix’s royal family juggernaut, The Crown.
- Shower Thots – A new music and dance event held at Melbourne Baths where the audience is encouraged to get in the pool with the aquatic choir.
- Simon Taylor and Friends – Comedian Simon Taylor hosts a rotating comedy stand-up and spoken word night with different guests each night.
- Sky Symphony – A free laser and light show spectacular projected on the Yarra River to music recorded by Orchestra Victoria.
- Soup Friends – An absurdist theatre show about soup and friendship.
- STUD – Award-winning comedian Aiden Willcox explores self-esteem.
- Talk Dirty in French – An interactive cabaret style workshop that teaches people how to say smutty things in French.
- TattleTales: Immersive Tarot Storytelling – An improvised storytelling experience where the audience draws tarot cards to passively and actively influence the story.
- Te Pō: The Mean As Māori Show – Māori martial arts school, Te Ara Hononga, share a mix of ensemble and individual performance pieces across spoken word, song, physical theatre, haka, fighting and mau rākau (weaponry) demonstrations.
- The Coconuts – Brown on the Outside, White on the Inside – A musical-comedy show about growing up brown in Australia, finding self-affirming friendships, queer and straight relationships, and funny stories.
- The Little Nests – An enchanting immersive experience where children are invited to build their own little nests as part of a magical and evolving landscape of shadow puppetry, performance and other-worldly soundscapes, bringing to life stories of climate refuge and safety in evocative, playful ways.
- The Modern Music Machines – A hybrid DJ set with synced visuals that tells the story of seminal music machines from times gone by.
- The Vegabus: Tales of an Uber Driver – A comedic storytelling show about the chaotic and colourful adventures of queer/trans Uber driver, hype-girl, life and relationship therapist, counsellor and party facilitator Tea Lily Vega.
- Till Takes – A theatre show set and performed inside Brunswick’s iconic second-hand store Scavengers.
- Tits Out – A 30-minute contemporary dance performance celebrating breasts, featuring five bare-chested dancers and multimedia elements.
- Tom Ballard – Yes/ No: A Comedy Lecture – Year 11 Legal Studies graduate and university law dropout Tom Ballard deploys jokes and funny pictures to blast through the history of Australian referenda.
- VOLO: Dreams of Flight – A VR experience in which users look down from the clouds as they soar through the sky in a da Vinci-inspired flying contraption…all without leaving Fed Square.
- WAKE – Visionary theatre makers THE RABBLE bring together an ensemble theatre show featuring older women from the West reflecting on the ageing body, death and loneliness.
- “Weird Al” Piano Bar – A piano bar singalong night where all the songs performed are by musical parody oddball Weird Al Yankovic.
- Werkin’ 5 to 9 – A one act jukebox/cabaret musical featuring two drag queens on the topic of money, employment and making a living as a full-time artist.
- What I Know, How I See – A photographic exhibition at the intersections of place and Blak identity: exploring place and the way it has influenced / intersected with the experiences of First Nations people.
- Zaffé – A theatre show set a Middle Eastern wedding, complete with dancing, games and the audience as the
guests…but the bridal party is mysteriously missing!
-ENDS- Melbourne Fringe Festival
3–22 October 2023 melbournefringe.com.au
Melbourne Fringe empowers anyone to realise their right to creative expression through the Melbourne Fringe Festival, year-round venue Fringe Common Rooms at Trades Hall and a range of sector leadership programs. For 2.5 weeks each year, the Melbourne Fringe Festival allows audiences to discover the unexpected with art being made and created across the city in theatres, galleries, venues, public spaces, homes, studios and everywhere in between. Its open access framework means that anyone can register to be part of the Festival, bringing voices from the margins and amplifying them across the city. Melbourne Fringe believes that access to arts and creativity are fundamental rights, and encourages artistic participation through large scale public artworks, experimental children’s art, design exhibition Fringe Furniture, Fringe Common Rooms at Trades Hall and late-night Club Fringe programming. Melbourne Fringe keeps access and inclusion at its heart, actively working to remove barriers to participation and develop artists skills through First Nations commissioning program Deadly Fringe, Deaf and disability arts programs, mentorships, workshops, residencies, forums, awards and touring support.