30 September 2019

Melbourne Fringe: The good news stories

12–29 September 2019

So Melbourne Fringe is over and we have a couple nights off before Melbourne Festival begins. I saw a lot of shows – I think 31, but it's a blurr – and missed that many again that I wanted to see.

So many people don't see, go to or cover Fringe because of the big curated Festival – and they miss out on so much. Melbourne Fringe is the event where we see the beginnings of works that go on to change how we make theatre. It's where we see stuff that will never be seen again. It's where you will see an artist who connects with you and you and know that you are going to see everything they do. It's where arts community and audiences are developed and built, and where no one gives a toss what the sponsors think.

These are some of the many good news stories this Fringe.

Danny Delahunty and his team creating a new Fringe Hub at Trades Hall. So many more venues. A place full of history that reminds us every moment that the word "union" means working together.

Indie media stepping up again. There was the ARTery podcast - EVERY DAY, thanks to Jason Cavanagh and host extraordinaire May Jasper. Myron My at My Melbourne Arts saw 61 shows! And wrote about them. The only way to get the context, depth and importance of this event is to see a lot.

Awards. Yep, sometimes awards they are guff, but a lot of Fringe prizes are support to get to other festivals, and the "best" ones are decided by panels of industry people who also see so many shows throughout the festival. It's one to be genuinely chuffed about.

Ones that made me smile.

Andi Snelling's Happy-Go-Wrong is off to the Adelaide fringe.  (I talked about this on ARTery podcast.)

Andi Snelling.  Happy-Go-Wrong

Bron Batten's Waterloo is off to North Melbourne and to Edinburgh. I can't wait to see what this show becomes. This means that I somehow have to get to Edinburgh next year. As an arts writer, if I saved everything I earned as an arts writer in a year, I couldn't even get a flight. And that's more than others get.

Oh No, Satan Stole My Pineal Gland directed by Jean Tong and Louisa Wall won Best Ensemble. They were.

Claire Rankine won a producing award for Polygamy, Polygayu, which she also directed  and it was developed and performed by Alice Tovey, Charity Werk, Margot Tanjutco and Hayley Tantau.

Alice Tovey, Margot Tanjutco, Charity Werk, Polygamy, Polygayou. Photo by Ling Duong

Bryony Kimmings won Best Theatre for I'm a Phoenix, Bitch (ARTery podcast). She's still one of my favourite artists and even if I wasn't 100% sure about this work, its impact is astonishing. I've spoken to people who say their lives have changed since they saw it. Produced by Daniel Clarke and Arts Centre Melbourne.

Selina Jenkins's BOOBS won Best Cabaret. It's one of the best shows I've seen this year (ARTery podcast).

My favourite story is the two clowns from LA, Amritha Kaur Gemma Soldati, who came to Melbourne and knew no one and won Best Comedy. I saw The Living Room because someone from The Butterfly Club told me about it. (Those networks of people really do work.) It only ran for a week and us who saw it now have some pretty good bragging rights. If you missed it – well, I told you it was good.

Frobert and Joshua Ladgrove. Pic nicked off Facebook.

My nearly-favourite story isn't a prize (but this show won the Golden Gibbo at MICF). Joshua Ladgrove Presents Melbourne’s Only Bilge Pump Sales Seminar sold out – in the good way, the every seat filled way. Add an extra star to my comedy festival review. Three years ago, he did a Fringe show with an audience of nine: we will always be the Portenza Nine.

There many other artists and shows that I could mention – and hopefully did on Twitter – , but a lot of them are going to get lots of words in the future. And I many never have known about them if I hadn't seen them in this festival.

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