By Jonathan Porter
From a moving and gutsy tribute to Leonard Cohen, to cabaret, to an act which ponders the eternal question of whether farts are indeed as funny as they are cracked up to be – and everything in between – there is something for all at the 2017 Adelaide Fringe (February 17 to March 19).
And for the first time ever the Fringe is being gamified – with a Pokemon Go-style mobile app called Goose Chase allowing you to score points for the most venues visited and the most acts you have seen, naturally with prizes as well as bragging rights for the most active culture vulture.
Next year will be the biggest Fringe yet, with over 4000 artists taking part in 1100 acts at 400 venues across the city’s CBD and into the suburbs, as well as spreading to the bush districts of Port Augusta for Desert Fringe, Fringe in Mount Gambier and Fringe in Whyalla.
Fringe director and CEO Heather Croall, is approaching her second Fringe with unbridled enthusiasm.
Croall, who has been associated with Fringe since the 1990s – with time off to host festivals in the UK – says the Fringe is all about open access and the free exchange of ideas.
“We wait to see who registers and make the program from there – so we are at the mercy of what the artists and venues want to do,” she says.
“We rely on the innovation and new ways of thinking that the artists provide – we are the glue in between the artist and venue.”
In the CBD, February to March in Adelaide undergoes a transformation – the days’ blend into balmy evenings and the city becomes the nation’s premier “party town”.
Think fairy lights in the tress, partying on the banks of the River Torrens, late night shows in the Spiegeltent in the Garden of Unearthly Delights and late night drinking, dining and laughing in pop-up bars and restaurants to supplement the city’s already-large number of venues.
“There’s nothing like Fringe time in Adelaide. The Parkland becomes a greenfield festival site – if you can imagine a greenfield venue in the country but placed in the middle of the city . . . it’s very much a carnival atmosphere.
“People who live here say it’s their favourite time of year. Adelaide is a great place at any time – but during the Fringe is becomes a magical wonderland.”
“From the opening parade and for the next 31 nights the city is on. Visitors say the atmosphere is just jaw-dropping.”
She says the Goose Chase initiative is designed to incentivise the digitally native generation to go to more shows by appealing to their competitive nature.
“They get points for the venues and acts they visit and they can upload pictures of themselves with artists.”
“Once the curtain is down they (artists) do mill around and mingle with the audience – it is likely you will end up having a chat and a glass of wine with the cast of the show you just saw.”
New way of looking at the world
Croall says there are numerous new venues coming online for the 2017 event such as Adelaide Oval, which promises to be exciting.
“We have an amazing program this year – cabaret, comedy and circuses are all booming and magic is on the rise.
“We have artists from Adelaide, regional South Australia, and all over the country as well as great acts from around the world.”
Some of the hit acts from the Edinburgh Fringe are also heading down for the Fringe and they all promise to give you a new way of looking at the world, Croall says.
Other offerings include a virtual reality experience, with games projected on to walls and a digital arcade in the State Library.
“We encourage the audience to get out and explore the city – all the little nooks and crannies we are creating.”
And because of where it lies in the calendar, the Adelaide Fringe sets the tone for other festivals around the world.
Today’s niche artists at the Fringe could become the next global hot property if global talent spotters are lurking in the crowds.
“A lot of the shows appearing are new – they are testing something new. So the Fringe is a launchpad – there will be festival directors from Europe, the UK and Canada who will be watching – it’s another layer to the Fringe.
“It’s like a speed-dating service for artists and festival directors.”
And in another first, the BBC will be doing live broadcasts of the Fringe from the Adelaide Oval.
Whether it’s cabaret, comedy, theatre, or you’re watching something for the kids, Croall says she would encourage people to explore at least a couple of venues every day.
“When you go to a venue you are in a completely different world.”
The Adelaide Fringe runs from February 17 – March 19, 2017
Virgin Australia flies to Adelaide from all major Australian cities. Most major hire car companies are at Adelaide Airport.