Adelaide Fringe .
Director and CEO Heather Croall. February 18 – March 20 2022.
Previewed by Peter Wilkins
Adelaide Fringe Director and CEO
Even a brief glimpse at the 2022 Adelaide Fringe guide would be enough to make people believe that the world was not in the grip of a global pandemic. Over 130 pages lure the Fringe dweller into the mainstream of Australian entertainment. An astounding array of acts, performances, installations and events offers something for everyone. This is the community’s once a year festivity and they come out in their droves from the suburbs, from the towns, from the far flung regions and from anywhere far and wide.
|Garden of Unearthly Delights|
Fringe aficionados, familiar with the southern hemisphere’s largest annual Fringe festival will flock to Adelaide between February 18 and March 20 to immerse themselves in both the familiar and the unfamiliar attractions that the Fringe has to offer. The regular genres are there for eager audiences seeking out their favourite shows from Cabaret to Comedy, Circus to Dance. Theatre to Interactive, Film and Digital to Kids and Family and much much more. “We’ve got an absolutely fantastic programme” says Director and CEO, Heather Croall. Covid has had an impact on international visitors to the Fringe. “Normally we have 150 international shows and that has shrunk to twenty or thirty this year. However, with 75% of the shows coming from South Australia,20% from Interstate and about 10% from overseas the Fringe will still boast an amazing thousand shows during the month long festival. In 2021, even with Covid restrictions, the Fringe sold 650,000 tickets. Audiences hungry for live entertainment came in their hundreds of thousands. “It was one of the happiest Fringes ever. It happened and it was an enormous success.” Croall says.
|Adelaide Fringe East End|
Unlike the curated Adelaide Festival, the Fringe has always been an open access festival, attracting artists from all over Australia and overseas. As well as ensuring that the Fringe will cater for the entire community, Croall is passionate about providing opportunities for the artists, the presenters and the venues that host the performers. “My whole focus is to get better box office returns for the artists, the presenters and the venues” says Croall, “and so we embarked on an entire digital transformation for the organization. And the reason we did that is because we want to bring the ticketing system into the modern day so that it could work for artists and the ticketing system was so easy that you could find what you were looking for and browse the programme without any hurdles to overcome. We built an entire new digital platform. We put in place a brand new ticketing system and we built a new artist and venue platform. All of that was about trying to improve the artists and the venues but also to increase box office.” The result was an increase from 450,000 ticket sales when Croall took over the job seven years ago to 850, 000 before Covid hit. Last year, even with pandemic restrictions, the digitalization strategy still achieved a target of 650,000 tickets to events in the 300 venues across the city and the hub venues such as The Garden of Unearthly Delights, Gluttony, the Royal Croquet Club, the Rhino Room and the Holden Street Theatres to name but a handful.
|Adelaide Fringe Ambassador|
While the focus has been on the growth of ticket sales, there has never been an ambition to exceed the thousand shows. The focus on ticket sales means that the artists, the presenters and the venues have a more sustainable experience and they get a better box office return. This has also been accompanied by a lowering of fees and costs for visiting companies. Inside fees have been reduced from 15% when Croall arrived to 5%, made possible by increased government funding, private and corporate sponsorship, donations and foundation grants to artists and the disadvantaged, who may not be able to afford to attend shows or need access to events. . The Fringe covers its costs and then ensures that any profit goes to the artists via available grants and box office returns .
“As a result we see about 80,000 people descending on the Fringe on any given night for both ticketed and free events. It is a phenomenal transformation of Adelaide. We are in the business of transforming the entire city really.” Croall says. And not only the city. Regional Fringe is happening as far afield as towns in the north, east, west and south of Adelaide. It has been a great success story over recent years.. Audiences that want to stay close to home can go out and see fabulous shows in wonderful theatres in their neighbourhood.
During Fringe, the city explodes with teeming streams of Fringe-goers. Some watch buskers in Rundle Mall in the heart of the CBD. Some throng to the pubs, restaurants and cafes in Adelaide’s East End or cross the road to the twelve venues in The Garden of Unearthly Delights or more bustling venues in Gluttony. Some venture to Tandanya to watch phenomenal indigenous artists presenting theatre or music performances. Some split their sides laughing at comedians in the Rhino Room or catch shows at the Royal Croquet Club in Victoria Square. Whatever your taste,there is something for everyone. Top comedians like Fringe ambassador Nazeem Hussain or leading playwrights like Henry Naylor or the phenomenal singer-songwriter Michaela Berger rub shoulders with circus performers, burlesque artists, magicians and some of Australia’s funniest comedians or foremost cabaret artists.
Everyone wants to be a part of the Fringe. Fifteen years ago, the Fringe launched the Honey Pot, modelled in part on Croall’s Meat market that she established while director of a Digital Film Festival. The Honey Pot is a meeting place for artists and presenters. Pre pandemic, delegates had grown from about 70 to almost 400. It is an opportunity for presenters to pitch their shows for touring opportunities and some of Australia’s foremost companies from a range of genres have gone on to national and international stardom. Gravity and Other Myths is headlining the Adelaide Festival on March 5th. Velvet with Marcia Hines has toured the country. Hot Brown Honey, created by South Pacific Islanders has become an international sensation as has the drag show, Briefs. Henry Naylor is a leading playwright, whose shows are staged each year at Holden Street Theatres. The Honey Pot epitomizes Croall’s ambition to raise the profile and opportunities for artists and presenters.
The Fringe’s continuing commitment to promoting the works of First Nation artists is evident in an exciting new initiative and collaboration between the Fringe Hub, Gluttony, indigenous artists and drone arts specialists Celestial. Throughout the Fringe Sky Song will be presented at the Adelaide Showgrounds where the sky will come alive with hundreds of drones flying in majestic formation to a soundtrack of First Nations storytelling through poetry and song. Narrator Archie Roach invites audiences ‘ to find our way back to the fire, for the strong stories of our First Peoples to inspire hope and signify an awakening to the truth of our entire existence’ As poetry is read, stories are told, music is played and songs are sung hundreds of drones will light the sky with evocative images. The programme promises an experience “Immense in scale, rich in meaning and unlike anything you’ve seen before” It is an unique event, featuring such artists as Archie Roach, Nancy Bates, Electric Fields and Major Moogy Summer and deserves the ultimate accolade “not to be missed”
And for those who may not be able to travel to South Australia, Watch at Home enables audiences to watch live streamed performances in the comfort of their own home wherever that may be in the world. Indefatigable actor and producer Joanne Hartstone will again be presenting her award winning show The Girl Who Fell Off The Hollywood Sign and other shows on Black Box Live. You may not be able to get to Adelaide at this exciting time of the year, but the Fringe can come to you. Check the official Fringe Guide for details.
And finally, for the ultimate virtual reality experience, Fringe goers will be able to swing to the stars in VR artists VOLO: Dreams of Flight. Participants climb onto swings on the lawns in front of the South Australian Museum and are then fitted with virtual reality headsets that will take them above the sea or over rainforests or wherever their individual headset may take them. You can fly above the world, soar over the ocean or launch into outer space.
The Fringe, envisioned by founding father, the late Frank Ford, was always about bringing communities to life through the wonder and power of the arts. “It’s so important.” says Croall. “That is the absolute bedrock of what we are and at the centre of everything we do. It is about making sure that we are building communities. It is a festival for everybody so we are making sure that we have an accessible, inclusive programme for everybody. It will forever I hope be the heart of Adelaide Fringe.”
February 18 – March 20 2022
Bookings: www.adelaidefringe.com.au or Fringetix at 1300 621 255 or the ticket booths in Rundle Mall.
Download your official guide at: