A Survivor’s Guide to the 2012 Adelaide Cabaret Festival

For some, attending events in a festival is just like attending a normal show – you buy your ticket, you get to the theatre on time and enjoy the short hour or two of entertainment.  For the true festival goers though (and let’s face it, Adelaide has plenty of festivals each year to practice and refine those skills) there is a fine art to getting the most of what is on offer.

It’s not enough to just see the show… it’s important to absorb the atmosphere, see something new and exciting and perhaps even rub shoulders with a star at the end of the night.

This year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival has a bunch of new ideas and spaces to explore with a fresh team and the stunning Kate Ceberano at the helm as Artistic Director.  But, for the less initiated, there are some tried and true experiences and tips that can help you survive two full weeks and three weekends of cabaret fun.

This I give to you Grasshopper… enjoy.


The great thing about the Cabaret Festival is that every venue is within the Adelaide Festival Centre (AFC) complex… there’s no need to hop in the car or look at a map to find out where your next show is and the most time you need to allow between shows depends on how quickly you can run across the Centre in heals (even for some of the guys!).  The AFC tend to ramp up the signage during June which makes it a bit easier to find things, but if you can remember that the Space, Artspace and Dunstan Playhouse are west (at the railway station end) and the Banquet Room, Festival Theatre and indeed the Festival Stage are east (King William Street end), you’re set to go.

PS. running from the space to the banquet room in heals takes approx. 4.5 minutes so long as you don’t bump into slow walkers or a crop of wine drinkers enjoying the cool night air.


If you’re like me, you’ll take advantage of the short show times and cram in 2 or 3 performances a night, often dashing from work to the first venue… or perhaps you have a bit of a gap between shows and need to kill an hour or two?

There’s no need to drive through Maccas or go hungry as there are plenty of options for food.  Going off-site there’s the awesome Parlamento on North Terrace, Regattas (gorgeous views usually, although not sure about all the construction at Riverside at the moment) in the Convention Centre and many others.

If you’re after a sit down meal, the Bistro by food business downstairs at the Dunstan Playhouse offers an a la carte menu and bar snacks.  It’s probably the more pricey option and can sometimes be a bit slow, so allow enough time (although they have a $55 deal for a two course Cabaret Express Menu which seems pretty reasonable), and their cocktails are pretty good!

For cocktails you can also check out the Belvedere Vodka Bar (great for late night drinks) – they make a mean martini and you can enjoy whatever late night frivolities are going on in the Banquet Room and/or Piano Bar nearby.

For my money though, the best place to grab a bite to eat and hang out enjoying the chilly night air and festival atmosphere is the Winter Garden on the Festival Theatre terrace (up near King William Street).  Whether you’re after a curry or wood oven pizza for dinner or looking for an oily, chocolatey treat of Spanish Chorroz it’s the meeting place and “hub” that really reminds you that you’re a part of this exciting winter festival.

Getting there and parking

Some people feel the need to find a free park when they come to the Cabaret Festival… let me be the one to let you know – they are as rare as hen’s teeth and so not worth the effort.  Shell out the extra $10 – $12 and park in the Riverbank carpark if you like to leave it to the last minute.  It’s a slight trek up the hill from the carpark (yes, difficult in heals… pop on the flats/boots that night) but they never close and never seem to get full.

Alternatively (and this is my preference) you can pre-book your carpark in the AFC by phoning BASS on 131 246.  This lets you just ride on in to the carpark a few minutes before your show without a care in the world… and it’s the same price you would pay normally!

Of course, if you’re really adventurous, you can take a chance on Adelaide’s not so reliable public transport which drops off just a few metres away on King William Street, North Terrace or in the railway station, which is just across the road.

Finding the gems and seeing as much as possible

Mark Nadler. Image: supplied

So you’ve found a park, you’ve had dinner and you know where your next show is… but you’ve still got an hour to kill? Why not get a last minute ticket to something you’ve never heard of.  I call this Cabaret Russian Roulette… look at the rush tickets board (often there’s one or two shows with $10 – $15 tickets for that night) and choose one that fits your timetable.  It’s less of a risk if you hate the show (which looking at this year’s lineup is unlikely) because you haven’t shelled out exorbitant amounts of money, and if you DO enjoy it, then you’ve discovered a gem of the festival!

Talk to your fellow festival goers.  Many of the shows you have to sit at a cabaret table shared with a group of strangers in close quarters.  You provide the cursory “hello” and adjust your chair so you have the best view of the stage.  It’s intimate and it’s all part of the Cabaret Festival.  But here’s my tip – when you say hello to your fellow table dwellers, why not ask them what they’ve enjoyed so far? There’s always one or two shows each year that become the hot ticket as the show you HAVE to see… word of mouth is your best chance of catching that show before it sells out and it’s the one you regret missing (trust me, missing Smoke and Mirrors in the 2010 CabFest is my biggest regret it to this day).

Enjoy it for what it is… a celebration of art

David Bromley. Image: supplied

Give yourself the opportunity to immerse yourself in the joys of art in all its forms by popping in to the David Bromley Exhibition (nestled between the Piano Bar and the Banquet Room in the east end of the AFC) or revel at the free shows with Mark Nadler (Broadway Hootenanny – a favourite for regular festival goers) and friends at the at the Backstage Cabaret Festival Club (in the Banquet room).   You might even discover another performance you want to add to your list… if you can squeeze it in.

Enjoy the 2012 Adelaide Cabaret Festival for all it has to offer…  Berocca suppliers will be depleted on June 24 by all survivors!

The Adelaide Cabaret Festival runs from 8 – 23 June 2012.  Full details can be found at www.adelaidecabaretfestival.com.au.

Hayley Horton

Hayley was an arts worker in South Australia for twelve years working freelance for small to medium clients as well as for companies such as the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, State Theatre Company SA, Urban Myth Theatre of Youth and the Australia Business Arts Foundation. As part of her freelance work, Hayley founded the ATG Curtain Call Awards (which is now an annual gala event), co-produced three 24 Hour Show charity fundraiser events, has judged for the Adelaide Fringe Festival and reviewed for Aussie Theatre and the Adelaide Theatre Guide. Hayley now runs a boutique events and arts management business, Footlight Events and in her spare time, is involved with Adelaide’s amateur theatre community as a producer, performer and director.

Hayley Horton

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