This time next week, the 32nd Melbourne Fringe 2014 will be off and running with over 400 shows by over 5000 performers in over 150 venues.
Running from 17 September to 5 October, it’s a small festival compared to the Adelaide or Edinburgh juggernauts, but this makes it an event that you can really sink your teeth into as a theatre goer and an event where the audiences are so much more than anonymous punters.
The Melbourne Fringe differs from other fringe festivals because it focuses on independent artists and on new and experimental work. There are shows that are returning or touring, but mostly this is the event where artists introduce new work out or try something different from anything they’ve done before.
Fringe festivals are not curated by an artistic director; anyone can register to be in the program. And remember that companies and artists who register are taking a financial, as well as an artistic, risk to be in the festival. The only money they get is from ticket sales, and that’s after they’ve paid for the venue hire, marketing and everything else.
This results in a range of quality and experience that isn’t seen in events that have an artistic guide.
Not every show will be a winner. One might blow your mind, while another could leave you running to the bar to obliterate the experience from your memory. That’s what risk is about.
As arts audiences who love and support independent art and artists, the Melbourne Fringe is also a time for us to be as brave and experimental as the artists who are participating.
As audiences, this is the festival where we can take risks.
Tickets are about the cost of a movie and there are preview prices, cheap Tuesdays and all sorts of offers that pop up. Or, there are FREE events that will let you see artists and performances that you may never see anywhere else. You could have an exhausting and exhilarating Fringe by just going to the free Fringe Club at the North Melbourne Town Hall.
See genres you don’t know much about. If you don’t get contemporary dance, there are 20 affordable dance shows to choose from. Don’t know much about Visual Art, spend a day exploring the 22 exhibitions.
If you love a genre, what about trying to see every show in one category? If you see all 30 cabaret shows, you’ll be an expert on Melbourne’s emerging and independent cabaret artists.
Or pick a venue. Maybe North Melbourne Town Hall, Northcote Town Hall, Tuxedo Cat, Theatre Works or Gasworks. Or pick a suburb and find every hidden and pop-up venue.
Don’t wait for reviews (reviewers, this is also a time for you to take risks as writers) and don’t believe all the quotes and star ratings you see on posters; those Five Stars could be from an artist’s nanna.
Taking a show to one of the huge festivals can be heartbreaking if it doesn’t take off, but being in the Melbourne Fringe lets artists share and show work to enthusiastic audiences so that they can see what audiences respond to and what needs to change. I’ve seen so many shows and artists at Fringe festivals that have gone on to long and magnificent runs and careers. Others learn more about performing and being in a festival than they could ever learn anywhere else.
Audiences are as much a part of the Fringe as the artists in the program. There’s no point in creating art if there’s no one to shares it with.
So get involved by seeing shows and hanging out at the Fringe Club and in the foyers and bars.
If you love a show, tell the artists who made it and buy them a drink. Really. Hang around after the show and say “Hi”. Talk about what you’ve seen and what it means to you. Tweet, Instagram and Facebook to #mFringe. Be a part of the conversation and you’re a part of the Melbourne Fringe.
Melbourne Fringe Festival|
17 September to 5 October 2014