North Melbourne’s Meat Market Arts centre was bathed in warm blue light, had music playing and was filled with theatre makers and their friends to welcome the 32nd Melbourne Fringe Festival this week. This year’s the festival boasts a record 400 events with 6,000 artists all of whom are 100 per cent independent and eager to keep Melbourne holding the title of the cultural capital of Australia.
Aside from the usual array of performances of cabaret, circus, comedy, dance, plays, visual art and music, punters can also enjoy Fringe Furniture (a look at how design influences the way we see and experience the world) and Fringe Film (a selection of short films by up and coming new filmmakers).
The Fringe Festival spans 19 days from September 16th and uses at total of 170 venues. A collection of these 170 public spaces will be used in exciting ways with a new venture, Uncommon Places, which was proudly unveiled by the Creative Director and CEO of the Fringe, Simon Abrahams. This sees 24 contemporary artists create 18 free, site-specific public artworks where Melburnians will get to walk, touch, and see their public spaces they take for granted used in all manner of different ways.
Alongside this attraction will be an extensive program for children with the Families at the Fringe Hub series of performances of puppetry, comedy, theatre and dance neatly coinciding within the school holidays. This event promises to be as much fun during the day as it is by night for young and old alike.
Attendees of the Festival’s launch were welcomed in the foyer by quirky trombone quartet, the Melbones. Proceedings then started with a fabulous acrobatic act by troupe No Punch Line. Two performers displayed amazing agility and strength writhing closely against each other as they climbed, hung from and wrapped around a solitary trapeze. It was sensual and suspenseful and totally enthralling. They are one outfit you should see this year.
Yana Alana was MC in her camp and indomitable style. Her first line was a hit when she welcomed all theatre makers and lovers. She announced, “Welcome first time artists, emerging artists, mid-career artists and even submerging artists to tonight’s festivities.”
Victorian State Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley was next at the microphone acknowledging the work of the festival and its major contribution to the Arts in Melbourne. He encouraged the thousands of artists to ‘strut their stuff’ at this year’s festival.
Foley also introduced the Ralph McLean ‘micro-grants’ program. McLean, who died five years ago, was mayor of Fitzroy and the first openly gay mayor to take office in Australia (way back in 1984). To continue his legacy, his estate will bestow small grants which will be available to encourage LGBTIQ, Indigenous Australians, the culturally diverse, the deaf or persons living with a disability with their theatre endeavours.
Yana Alana gave us a song and she did it sporting a glittering golden full-length evening gown à la Shirley Bassey and sang History Repeating Itself and dedicated the song to the sorry state Australian federal politics finds itself in. Simon Abrahams then took to the stage and revealed this year’s theme ‘Look Between the Lines’ encouraging Melburnians to use this Festival time to re-look and re-think their ideas regarding their city and all it has to offer. He joked that it was great that we now have a new public holiday, the day before AFL Grand Final day, but it really should be renamed to Melbourne Fringe Festival Day.
There are so many interesting performances on offer, far too many to mention here, but the Festival brochure is now available in hard copy or at melbournefringe.com.au
With titles like, Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, Wet Cement, You Know What I’m Like and La Petite Mort, there is something for everyone at Melbourne Fringe Festival.