Sunday, January 14, 2018


Adelaide Fringe 2018. 

 Fringe in Rundle Mall. Fringe at Adelaide Airport. Port Fringe. Fringe on World Tour. Fringe at Westfield. Fringe on Kangaroo Island. Desert Fringe in Port Augusta. Unearth Festival in Whyalla. Fringe in Mount Gambier. February 16 – March 18. 2018.

Previewed by Peter Wilkins

Heather Croall. Director and Chief Executive. Photo Trentino Priori
Ask anyone in Adelaide when the best time is to visit their city and they will unanimously answer “During the Adelaide Fringe!” Over four weekends from February 16th to March 18th, the self proclaimed Festival State and its capital will burst into life from Adelaide to Whyalla, from Port Augusta to Mount Gambier and from the suburbs to Kangaroo Island. Thousands of artists from Australia and around the world will flood the hundreds of Fringe venues and streets with over one thousand amazing performances and unrivalled events.
“Our job is to help people navigate the Fringe and find what they’re looking for.” Fringe Director and Chief Executive, Heather Croall tells me. “It’s not about putting on shows. We don’t run venues. Our job is to help everybody who registers in the Fringe to get as many people to see their shows as they possibly can. Some years ago we started to find that audiences couldn’t navigate the programme. We’ve really risen to the challenge to make the programme as easy to read as possible.”

Four easy to follow steps and signposts How to Fringe appear on Page 9 of the comprehensive guide. Colour coding divides the various genres of Cabaret (blue). Children’s (orange), Circus and Physical Theatre (green), Comedy (red), Dance (mauve), Events (yellow), Interactive (lime green), Magic (pink), Music (deep purple), Theatre (maroon) and Visual Art and Design (dark green). Add to this  the Index (black) and various apps and social media, and visitors to Adelaide can’t go wrong. The Fringe press team is also there to help. “We have a fabulous press team in the Fringe office.” Croall says.
People can contact them and let them know how many days they will be in Adelaide and what kind of shows they want to see. “Don’t just wait until you get here” she says. “We can actually help you to make the most of the experience, and once here the Fringe Club is really the best place for people to come to find out what’s going on. It’s the one place where everybody comes together. “

“We are here to matchmake people to discover the art in the best way possible. We exist to make sure the artists sell the tickets, get seen by lots of people and get picked up by future bookings.” Croall helped to set up the Honey Pot which was introduced by then Frnge director, Christie Anthoney. Directors, programmers and producers from around Australia and overseas apply to come to the Fringe. They find their own way and the registration fee is waived and in some instances a small bursary is made available to assist people from afar to attend to see the shows and in many instances book performances for other Fringe festivals. When it began, forty people took advantage of the scheme. This year one hundred and eighty five have so far registered.

Coall sees it as her aim to make the Fringe utterly irresistible. Up until about ten years ago there were fifteen to twenty Fringe festivals around the world. Now there are more than three hundred. It helps that, unlike many other places, Adelaide has amazing weather. “We get the big starry skies and the balmy nights” Croall says. “We are so lucky that we have parklands everywhere and that we can enjoy both the indoor and the outdoor experience. Not many cities have that canvas to convert their cities as we do. We transform into this festival playground across the entire city for a whole month. Most other cities don’t have that transformational impact across the whole city. Adelaide is the perfect city for a Fringe”

Garden of Unearthly Delights. Photo: Tony Virgo
Adelaide Fringe remains an open access festival. Anyone can register, and Croall’s mission is to ensure that artists are given as much assistance as possible to sell their shows and audiences to be able to access events easily and economically. The venues consist of major hubs like the Garden of Unearthly Delights in the Parklands alongside Gluttony and across the road from Tandanya, the centre for indigenous arts, the Royal Croquet Club on the River Torrens,  and Holden Street Theatres in suburban Hindmarsh. Hundreds of smaller venues are dotted around the city, like the quirky, out there Tuxedo Cat, the Bakehouse Theatre, the Rhino Room, where comedians like Will Anderson and Dave Hughes will still do late night performances in homage to the start that the Fringe gave them in their comedy careers. Many artists and companies will acknowledge the start they had, performing in small venues at the Adelaide Fringe. Companies like the Doug Anthony Allstars, Briefs, Hot Brown Honey, Stomp and Velvet became international sensations after cutting their teeth at the Fringe. Theatre performances, picked up by Honey Pot attendees, secured bookings to perform at Fringe festivals around the world.
North Terrace Projections: Photo Bill Doyle
Although the Fringe is not a curated festival, it has become an important training ground for emerging, young producers, who, with venue proprietors become defacto curators. Marnie Lott at Holden Street Theatres has been attending festivals, such as the world’s largest Fringe festival in Edinburgh to see shows and book mainly solo performers during the Adelaide Fringe.  However, other venues, such as the Bakehouse work on a first come first served basis. In navigating the festival, audiences can be assured of quality and variety at many of the Fringe hubs.

Unlike the Fringe, the Adelaide Festival, WOMAdelaide and the unticketed Writer’s Week, all of which occur during March, are all curated events. I ask whether this has any effect on the Adelaide Fringe. ”The clustering  of the festivals has been a key to me why the Fringe is so successful” Croall replies. “It’s that clustering that brings the critical mass to Adelaide. It’s a reason why the tourism numbers have exploded. Eighteen percent of our audience are tourists.” This is a potential growth area that does not go unnoticed. Croall worked the Fringe in the Nineties and she has seen ticket sales grow exponentially. Ticket sales in the Theatre category have surged, as have the number of shows that come to Adelaide. Making the Fringe easier to navigate has also boosted ticket sales and now audiences are discovering that there is also Fringe in their neighbourhood. Fringe events are occurring at the Adelaide Showgrounds, RSL clubs. Lawn Bowls clubs, pubs and the Salisbury Secret Garden. Because of her experience, introducing interactive and digital aspects to the Sheffield Film Festival that she directed prior to returning to Adelaide, Croall has a keen eye for alternative initiatives. Under her leadership Circus has grown, Magic has been given its own category, Children’s events have exploded and the Youth Education Programme for schools has been revived. “We need more women in the Magic performances” Croall concedes.
Tindo Utpurndee Sunset Ceremony. Photo: Claude Raschella
One has a sense speaking to the daughter of a gynaecologist from Whyalla that Croall is passionately dedicated to giving birth to an exciting Fringe festival that will accommodate all sectors of the community, provide support for artists, encourage attendance by leaders of other world Fringe Festivals and constantly seek the creation of new initiatives. She has persuaded the state government to provide an additional eight hundred thousand dollars so that the Fringe can provide tickets to disadvantaged groups. She has continued the bursary scheme for artists who would otherwise not be able to attend and for disadvantaged audience members who would not be able to afford the modestly priced and generally affordable tickets. She is the only Fringe director in the world, with government assistance, to have successfully abolished the inside fee for artists, so that more money that they receive in box office will be returned to the artists. She wants the artists to return to future Fringes. Fringe box office last year amounted to sixteen million dollars, which is money that goes back to artists. She has also introduced the Friends of the Fringe Donors Circle, which raises money that goes to charities and various organizations to encourage wider participation in the Fringe by people who would not be able to otherwise afford to attend.
Croall has lost none of her passion after twenty five years of directing festivals. “I really love it,” she says, ”because I am trying to get into the minds of everyone who is a part of the festival and leave thinking ‘Wow, we have had the best festival experience.’. “There’s no limit to the brilliant shows and I trust the open access nature of the Fringe. I believe that gens come through. I have seen things that have gone on and killed the world.”
Fringe in Rundle Mall
I hesitate to ask for any recommendations. The guide is now so much easier to navigate, and Croall’s suggestion to contact the press team is perhaps a good way to go. It is left to the father of the modern Fringe, Frank Ford A.M. to list his five top picks. Theatre recommendations include: 19 Weeks which returns after winning the 2017 Best Theatre Award. (Page 114); Borders by Henry Naylor at Holden Street (Page 115); Fleabag (Page 117); ,Flesh and Bone (Page 118); Intoxication (Page 118); It’s Only Life (Page 118); Séance (Page 120);  One Long Night in the Land of Nod (Page 120), That Daring Australian Girl (Page 121); Orpheus (Page 120); The Cocoon (Page 122); The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Family (Page 122);Your Bard ((Page 123) and Anthem For a Doomed Youth (Page 114) Both Ford and Croall urge audiences to be adventurous. “After all it is the Fringe!”
In the end it is up to audiemces to immerse themselves in the wonderland that is the Adelaide Fringe, and search out for themselves with the aid of the wonderful team at the Fringe  experiences that suit their tastes and their pockets. Croall’s main mission is to grow the audience and make sure that artists feel fulfilled when they leave and that they had doors open for them at the Adelaide Fringe.
“Adelaide is the place where they will have an experience like no other!”

Adelaide Fringe
February 16 – March 18
Bookings: or FringeTix on 1300 621 255