Artistic director and CEO Heather Croall. Adelaide and State regions. February 17 – March 25. Programme and bookings: www.adelaide fringe.com.au and 1300621255
Preview feature by Peter Wilkins
“Adelaide Fringe is back with gusto”. Artistic Director and CEO Heather Croall tells me. Australia’s largest open access arts festival is back with over 6000 performers bringing 1200 amazing shows, interactive performances and events to Adelaide from February 17th to March 25. I have been attending the Fringe in my hometown for decades but this year the Fringe guide blows my mind. Only in Edinburgh is there a Fringe festival to rival it for its size, its scope, its amazing inclusivity and variety of experience from comedy to cabaret, theatre to interactive performance, from dance to visual arts and much much more. Adelaide Fringe boasts something for everyone including clear Summer skies and balmy nights . Where else could you have the perfect conditions for Electric Fields to perform the soundtrack for Electric Dreams with 500 drones lighting the firmament and casting dazzling patterns across Adelaide’s night sky? Croall’s dream this year is to break a record and reach her target of one million tickets sales. Performers of every artistic persuasion and genre swarm like bees to a honey pot to lure audiences to experiences that are funny, thought-provoking, exciting and entertaining. Adelaide venues are transformed for five weeks of the year into a festive wonderland. Familiar venues such as the Garden of Unearthly Delights and Gluttony or smaller comedy venues like the Rhino Room and the home to innovative independent theatre like Holden Street Theatres have been expanded with the Yurt at the Migration Museum where comedy and clowning will meet innovative and edgy theatre and experimental work and the giant Pyramid at the Treasury Courtyard in Victoria Square which will feature the remarkable New Yorker Penny Arcade as a headliner.
The Adelaide Fringe acts as an artistic magnet, attracting visitors from South Australia, interstate and overseas. Some come to see their favourite comedians. Comedy legends like Will Anderson, Tom Ballard and Tim Ferguson are all doing shows. The irrepressible Ferguson, now confined to a wheelchair with multiple sclerosis will have you in fits of laughter with his insightful, thought provoking show Disability Rules. Wil Anderson can be found in the thriving Garden of Unearthly Delights with his new show Wiluminate. Cabaret bursts onto the scene with headliners like Velvet with another showbiz legend, Marcia Hines. Artists and producers are quick to credit the Fringe with launching their careers. Billed as a love letter to disco, Velvet is such a show. What began as one of many entertaining cabaret acts at Gluttony has become an international sensation and returns to its beginning at the Fringe. It is but one of many that can boast an international reputation. So many of the international shows listed in the guide come from sell out seasons in London’s West End or at the Edinburgh Fringe. “You mustn’t miss Black is the Colour of My Voice” Croall tells me. Fringe First winner Apphia Campbell’s play has been inspired by the songs of Nina Simone and will be performed live at the Ngunyawayiti Theatre at the Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural institute. Hit of the 2021 Fringe, Nancy Wake The story of the White Mouse returns to the Goodwood Studio and Theatre. Theatre lovers could almost spend the entire Fringe visiting world class shows from Australia and overseas at Holden Street Theatres the Fringe’s award winning theatre hub.
|Fringe Ambassador Penny Arcade|
Since taking over as CEO of the Adelaide Fringe, Croall has devoted much of her indefatigable energy to ensuring that Adelaide’s major community festival is as inclusive as possible. New ticketing systems have facilitated greater ease in booking tickets and Community Partner Lumo Energy has assisted Fringe enthusiasts to limit paper use in a sustainable economic environment and book e- tickets on line that can be presented on their phones. Comedians like Tom Ballard, for example, who have been performing acts in the accessibly difficult Rhino Room have offered to do them as well in the Howling Crown with easy access for people with mobility issues. Donor seats where people are encouraged to purchase an extra seat that can be offered to people who can’t afford the price of tickets means that the principle of access allows audiences to see shows that they would ordinarily not be able to experience. Accessibility and inclusiveness underpin the Fringe’s mantra. As Penny Arcade says, “At a time when the world is becoming more narrow and exclusive, the open nature of the Fringe is more important than ever”. Croall, since her appointment as CEO of the Fringe, has done everything in her power to identify and overcome barriers that may prevent artists from coming to the Fringe and audiences from participating in the festival. “We want to make sure that the barriers are as low as possible for anyone with lived experience of disability.” Croall says.
|Comedian Tim Ferguson|
Nancy Wake is one of many shows that has benefited from an Artist Fund that makes money available to companies to support their costs and their ability to bring their shows to the Fringe. This year the Fringe gave out $800,000 to 180 performances from the Community Fund and money donated by the Donor’s Circle. Over the years the Fringe has greatly expanded its philanthropic profile. The Fringe also enables producers and agents who participate in the highly success Honey Pot to see the work and often launch new and successful careers, Major sponsor Bank SA and other sponsors all agree that they want the Fringe to be as inclusive as possible.
As the Fringe’s commitment to reconciliation, Croall and her team have expanded and programmed a host of First Nations events, commencing with a free Welcome Ceremony on the conifer lawns of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens on February 12th.The Welcome, Kumangka Palti Yarta on Kaurna country will amplify First Nations voices in the arts. Audiences will be able to hear stories about country told by aboriginal leaders. A smoking ceremony will acknowledge ancestors and pay respect to the land on which the Fringe takes place. Fringe goers will not want to miss two unforgettable nights on February 24th and 25th when Electric Skies will come alive with an electrifying light show and music. Electric Fields will create a special soundtrack, woven with First Nations language and traditional songs. This multisensory spectacle will herald a vast number of First Nations events from Adelaide to Gawler and Glenelg to the Belair National Park.
More and more artists register with the Fringe and then take their performances on tour throughout the State. In 2023 artists will travel the length and breadth of South Australia from Adelaide as far as the Eyre Peninsula across to the Riverlands, the Murray and the Mallee, along the Limestone Coast to the Fleurieu Paninsula and the Adelaide Hills. It is truly a Fringe for everyone.
It was Oscar Wilde who proclaimed that “Success breeds success.” I ask Croall how much further the Adelaide Fringe can grow its artists and performances. “We don’t target performers or shows” she says. “We target numbers and buns in seats” Croall’s aim is to always support the artists and ensure that every possible dollar goes into the artist’s pockets. One area of growth that she initiated as a result of her background running a digital film festival is interactive performance. “The immersive industry experience is booming and it is only going to grow. As soon as we introduced it into the Fringe many interactive producers and artists registered their interactive show.
One such show is the international collaboration Torrent, an immersive show with big screens, live dancers and with the audience amongst them. It is being presented as part of the Electric Dreams programme at The Lab. It reminds us how urgent it is to reshape our relationship with water. It is something we all need to be thinking about. Another immersive experience will be a collaboration between First Nations poet Ali Cobby Eckermann and dancers from Lewis Major projects with a big screen immersive show designed by a UK team. These are the arts’ new frontiers and experiences not to be missed
Finally, I ask Croall the impossible. Can you recommend any must see shows during the Fringe
|Hung Dance from Taiwan|
“There are so many must sees” she says. As well as those that she has already mentioned there is stunning dance from Taiwanese company Hung Dance presenting See You at AC Arts.. She also mentions some one on one shows; Lien at AC Arts and Temping at the Little Theatre in the University of Adelaide. At the beginning of the festival, disabled performer Diane Divine will be presenting her burlesque show Singin’ in the Pain in the Space Theatre at the Adelaide Festival Theatre. - While being guarded about recommending shows in what is a huge open access festival, Croall does suggest one that is definitely not to be missed. Award winning writer Casey Jay Andrews in collaboration with veteran award winning producer and actor Joanne Hartstone will present A Place That Belongs To Monsters in the Treasury Courtyard. The Fringe guide describes the show as “a beating heart of spoken word punctuating stories of fury and fear”
Buskers hawk their talents in Rundle Mall. Restaurants burst alive and tumble out onto the footpaths and into the lanes. Crowds jostle their way down Rundle Street and through the Garden of Unearthly Delights or Gluttony. 500 Drones illuminate the Electric Sky and in myriads of venues the artists display their wares to festival goers from around the world and across the country. Croall hopes that the pre Covid target of 850,000 individual ticket sales will be smashed as visitors, tourists and locals surge to savour the delights that Adelaide Fringe has to offer. With a programme that will thrill and amaze that Million Ticket Sales Milestone seems just within reach.