Now in its 64th year, Adelaide Fringe is the ultimate arts lover’s destination, with its wide-ranging program providing a vibrant snapshot of independent arts practices from across Australia.
From hugely popular comedians and circus acts to more experimental and experiential works, the Fringe offers shows for every age and every taste, while its unique nature encourages experimentation – for audiences as much as artists.
‘Adelaide Fringe is an incredible launching pad for new work. Artists try out new shows here because they know the audience is really up for trying something new in Adelaide,’ says Heather Croall, CEO and Artistic Director of Adelaide Fringe.
‘The audience numbers are enormous in Adelaide Fringe, and so diverse, which creates a great platform to try new work, whether it be in a small intimate space or a large venue,’ she adds.
This year’s program features more than 1200 shows, with the number of international shows very strong – indeed, participation by international acts this year has returned to pre-COVID levels.
‘It’s great to see the international shows come back. This year there is a diverse international program with artists from all over the world. We have people coming from India, Singapore, the UK, Germany, France, Taiwan, Korea – there are over 200 international shows in the program. Some are international collaborations between artists across borders, such as Torrent in The Lab, and See You at AC Arts,’ Croall says.
This international flavour extends to other aspects of the program, which celebrates Australia’s rich multicultural society in events such as Feshene (an evening of Kenyan and Australian fashion and design), the Irish dance and music production Tara – Tuatha Dé Danann, a showcase of Indian magic with illusionist Karan Singh, and the dance and drum ensemble Sun of Africa.
As Jo O’Callaghan, Adelaide Fringe’s Executive Director – Programs & Development, explains: ‘We definitely represent a national landscape in the arts… and those shows vary from a 1500-seat venue that’s hosting performances by the Soweto Gospel Choir and Groove Terminator, to a one-on-one 10-minute contemporary dance performance with Lewis Major. It’s really a very broad spectrum showcasing how diverse our national arts offering is, but also speaking to a global representation, and all in one time and place.’
Taking the pulse of the Australian arts sector
For those with their finger on the pulse, Adelaide Fringe represents an important opportunity to identify national trends and concerns across the arts. This year’s program demonstrates a renewed interest in immersive, intimate and one-on-one arts experiences, such as Temping at Adelaide University and Lien at AC Arts, O’Callaghan says.
Does she think such shows are a creative response to the lack of intimacy in our lives caused by COVID-19?
‘That’s an interesting question,’ O’Callaghan replies.
‘Thematically, some artists are responding to COVID in terms of the content of their shows, but we’re also seeing a diversity in our venue landscape that pays testament to the fact that we can have more people in smaller spaces again. For example, there’s a show on a bus this year, and shows in a yurt – so we’re seeing the reintroduction of those smaller, more intimate venues and also more shows that are interactive and immersive.’
Other arts trends are reflected in the different genres that collectively comprise the diverse Adelaide Fringe program.
Croall explains: ‘Six years ago we created the Interactive genre at Adelaide Fringe and it’s gone from strength to strength – a lot of immersive shows register in the Interactive genre. We also created the Magic genre because the magicians wanted their own genre, so we changed that a few years ago. We’re always open to listening to how we can improve the way the program is set out.’
This year, a new program category called Eat & Drink has been created, reflecting an increase in past events that included a food and beverage component.
O’Callaghan says: ‘We’ve seen the popularity of immersive, one-on-one or intimate experiences like a local bar running a whiskey tasting with the whiskey maker, and sommeliers doing afternoon wine tastings at Gluttony, so this year there are lots of really unique Eat & Drink events. People like Michelle Pearson have been doing Comfort Food Cabaret for a long time, but I think we’ve really seen that trend come to fruition now in implementing a new genre.’
Croall agrees, adding: ‘There are also shows like Smashed, which is a fun cabaret-circus show, but it’s at 10 in the morning and you have a glass of champagne and brunch as part of your experience. So thinking about those sorts of experiences we felt there were enough to justify creating a new genre, and hopefully that will be something that will grow in the coming years.’
From Adelaide to the world
While Adelaide Fringe is eagerly attended by Adelaide residents and interstate visitors alike, the festival is also a must for Australian and international producers and presenters who are looking for the next big thing to program in their own venues.
‘One of the important things that happens backstage in the Fringe is this amazing marketplace that we’ve been developing over the years called Honeypot,’ Croall says.
‘We are now seeing around 200 to 300 programmers, festival directors, venue curators, cruise ship programmers, television talent show scouts – all sorts of people, all sorts of delegates – descend on Adelaide and scout for shows for the future. And so a lot of Adelaide Fringe shows end up touring Australia after they have their debut in the Fringe,’ Croall explains.
And it’s not just producers and presenters who swarm into Adelaide for the Fringe, she adds.
‘We have around 6000 artists descending on Adelaide for Fringe, which absolutely transforms Adelaide into a festival wonderland for the whole month. There’s no other time of the year and no other city in Australia that can compare to that,’ Croall says.
Adelaide Fringe runs from 17 February – 19 March 2023. Tickets for over 1200 productions and events are on sale now.