REVIEW | Melbourne Fringe


Melbourne Fringe Festival

40 Years of Fringe

Reviewed by Brendan Daynes

In 2022 Melbourne Fringe turned 40, and it is safe to say that life begins at 40!

This year Melbourne Fringe was set to be epic! It promised to be a celebration of creative expression, discovery and experimentation, supporting the development and presentation of artworks by, with and for the people of Melbourne and we were not disappointed.

This years festival ran from 6 to 23rd October and audiences were ready for anything and everything. For the first time in 3 years the festival was back on the streets, with Fringe playing all over from Queen Victoria Market to the Docklands Sheds to Northcote Town Hall to their home at Trades Hall in Carlton. This years program was the biggest yet, with 450 events taking place over 18 days, with some extending beyond this due to demand, featuring works by some of the country’s most talented actors, dancers, drag queens, musicians, and DJs presenting immersive exhibitions, massive participatory artworks and the return of the iconic Fringe Parade & Lygon St Block Party.

One of the feature works, Pendulum, was originally commissioned to appear as part of RISING at the National Gallery Victoria but found its home at Shed 21, Docklands. Created in collaboration by percussive artist Matthias Schack-Arnott, choreographer Lucy Guerin and a cortege of dancers, this mesmerising piece captured the attention of its audiences. Inspired by the ebb and flow of time this performance installation was simply captivating with dancers moving in sync with a field of suspended bells with the stunning backdrop of the Melbourne skyline and the iconic Bolte Bridge.

The other works across categories including experimental, theatre, cabaret, circus, dance, music, and kids showcased the large variety of inspirations that become catalyst for an artists self expression.

All Blank Wasteland by Jason Pearce, was inspired from Frank Herbert’s 1965 science fiction novel ‘Dune’ and looked at how throughout time humans have survived through irregular movement patters and the breaking of protocols.

No Former Perfomer Has Performed This Performance Before #7 a performance/improvisation explored the fact that nothing is something and inspiration can change with every performance. The two artists Penny Baron and Carolyn Hanna proved that no two shows of theirs will be the same as they bounced out loud thoughts and ideas between each other while moving meticulously through space and time.

Artists are continually inspired by mythology and Ingress, performed by Bridie Hooper, explored through an amazing display of physical strength the Greek myth of Psyche. Traded for marriage to a God, then condemned for her curiosity, Psyche was exiled to wander the earth and complete tasks set by the Gods. On completing their trials, she was granted immortality – a ‘golden deathlessness’, more imposition than gift. In Ingress the artist “attempted to unburden herself from the real and imagined limitations of her being.”

Another performance inspired by Greek mythology in the circus category, Godz, took a more tongue in cheek point of view. The boys from Head First Acrobats, after being the most highly reviewed show in Adelaide Fringe 2022, put on quite the spectacle with a “bodyssey” of gravity-defying stunts, true tests of heroic strength and muscularity, and surprise comic twists.

Side splitting comedy is what audiences have come to expect from YUCK circus and their performance Deadset, was just that! Think larrikin humour, high-flying acrobatics, and a ripper night of comedy and circus and that is what audiences got. From female tradies to Kath and Kim and iconic moments in Aussie history, like Shannon Noll being “robbed” on Australian Idol, these powerhouse female circus performers were unafraid and uninhibited.

Headliners of Magic also added to the mind bending and hilarity that audiences experienced. Audiences were lucky enough to witness the amazing skills of Dom Chambers, Simon Coronel, Dr Vyom Sharma, and Laurence Leung and these four gentleman proved why they are winning awards all around the world. Their mind bending magic has still got audiences scratching their head in amazement.

Although there was a whole lot of laughs happening during Fringe, don’t be fooled, this festival also provided artists with a platform to express themselves openly and be completely vulnerable.

Written and performed by Benjamin Nichol, Sirens was a poignant showcase of the complexity and depth of emotions experienced when one is in love, obsessed, inspired by possibility and fantasy. Stripped back to essentials, the words, the performer and the audience all share intimate moments that were not only beautiful but truely moving.

Naomi was awarded 2 major awards at Adelaide Fringe 2022 and audiences were lucky enough to witness the artistry of Patrick Livesy at Melbourne Fringe. In this one man show, Patrick vividly portrays eight different characters, who are actually based upon his family and friends, all on the same stage with effortlessness and is testament to his incredible skill as an actor. This absolute standout show was an emotionally charged and moving piece of theatre about love, family and mental illness.

Another standout during the festival was Analects of Aliveness, created and performed by members of emotion21 which is run by the Inclusion Foundation. This group of short dance works, created and performed by 7 artists living with Down Syndrome, was simply breath taking. The inspiration of each young artist came to life on stage and each received a thunderous and well deserved applause from the adoring audience. The post performance Q&A highlighted the joy and happiness felt by the audience and also how having a platform to showcase their self expression through art made each of the artists feel.

At the conclusion of Melbourne Fringe there are five different types of awards presented to congratulate and celebrate artists works, with winners being determined by the audience, their peers or selected judging panels.

Best in Category Awards are judged by the Melbourne Fringe judging panels and this years winners are:

Artist Development Awards are presented by a range partner organisations and recognise achievement in specific fields and provide recipients with further mentoring and professional development opportunities.

Touring Awards provide assistance to present your work at a partner festival and are chosen by representatives from the partner festival.

Design Fringe Awards

  • Best in Furniture
    Chair board Cardboard Café Chairby David Durance
  • Best in Lighting
    ebb and flow verticalblur by Jasmine Pilcher
  • Best in Object Design
    Shagpile by Lis de Vris
  • Best Experimental
    Timber Shaving Vesselsby Bolaji Teniola
  • Best Bespoke Design
    Solitudeby Stuart Davidson
  • Design Futures Award, supported by Authentic Design Alliance
    The Timber Shaving Vesselsby Bolaji Teniola
  • Banyule Design for a Circular Economy Award, supported by Banyule City Council
    PhycoLightby Hung Hin Chan and Shimroth Thomas

Special Awards are presented by Melbourne Fringe along with some of our key partners. These recognise excellence from our participants in ways that aren’t covered by Artist Development awards.

The 40th chapter of Melbourne Fringe was spectacular, hilarious, seductive, thought provoking, fascinating, confusing, tender, loving and entertaining, giving audiences all the feels, which is exactly what it set out to do. The amazing showcase of ridiculous talent gathered together for 18 days of pure entertainment has truely cemented Melbourne Fringe as a staple, not only in the Melbourne arts scene but has proven that here is Australia our artists are world class.

Melbourne Fringe was proudly presented by major partners Creative Victoria, City of Melbourne, the Australian Government RISE Fund and Monash University.  Many other local and international government, philanthropic, program, venue, supporting, production and supply partners as well as donations made to Fringe Fund made this years festival possible. Big thanks and shoutouts to the brilliant festival and venue staff and the hundreds of volunteers who give up their time in the name of independent work, bold ideas, brave art and a good party!

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