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Fringe Series: Festival wrap up

For the past thirty years, the Melbourne Fringe Festival has been a proud supporter of independent arts and this year was no different. Melbourne Fringe 2013 was a fantastic fourteen days packed with more than 3400 artists who performed, exhibited, explored and created a diverse range of works in over 100 venues. This year’s Fringe also entered the digital realm, with the Digital Gardens initiative – a pop-up space that consisted of an immersive multiplayer game designed by Wander, a Melbourne-based gaming developer. Donning virtual reality headgear, players could become a walking tree, a flying gryphon, or other characters to explore a virtual world (I’d like to testify that it’s not as lame as it sounds and was in fact, really fun). Fringe Furniture, a design exhibition, included twice as many works as last year, and presented refreshingly innovative works.

Melbourne Fringe also heralded the best in independent Australian comedy, which included standup from Dave Callan, Adam Knox, Khaled Kalafalla and my personal favourite, Luke McGregor. McGregor’s best known for his awkward OCD persona, and his endearing performance was utterly hilarious. Sketch comedy was not to be missed either, as the end­lessly energetic Wizard Sandwiches won the Fringe 2013 People’s Choice Award. The Experiment clumsily meshed together different comic styles into an alternative comedy club of sorts. The highlight was comedian Oliver Clark, a pale caricature of a cheesy 70s TV presenter, reading love poetry to a sandwich, only to become increasingly aroused and subse­quently stuffing the sandwich down his pants. Comedy, eh? A more solid comedy performance was Radio Variety Hour, a show that satirised a 1950s radio experience with its bad sound effects and cliché “lady detective” story pieces. Backed by a ten-piece band, Kai Smythe starred in Hairy Soul Man, where he blasted through some righteous soul music. Smythe was slightly lacking in charisma, but he ended the night with a hysterical rendition of the viral hit, Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That. Parodies of popular culture appeared to be a common theme as well. Stephen Hall pulled off quite a feat, doing a One Man Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones-style, in Raiders of the Temple of Doom’s Last Crusade. The most talked-about parody of Melbourne Fringe was arguably Wolf Creek: the Musical. With its low-budget props and amateur singing, the musical humorously mocked the Australian horror film. Another personal favourite of mine was Winter is Coming, a Game of Thrones parody that was highly absurd, insanely manic and extremely funny.

Melbourne Fringe’s cabaret performances were simply superb as well. In Here Comes Your Man, MUST’s Alex Roe played an assassin that dealt with the grim matters of death, while still keeping an appealing touch by singing the blues and, unexpectedly, Portishead. The notion of “girl power” ruled, but not in a corny Spice Girls way, with Lady Sings It Better. Defying gender expectations, the girl group took on the most misogynistic songs by male musicians (Shaggy’s It Wasn’t Me, anyone?) and re-invented them as a high energy, feminist cabaret. In A Singer Must Die, Melissa Langton tells amusing stories and sweet lullabies of aspiration in between her powerhouse performance of captivating songs. The 2013 Fringe Winner of Best Cabaret, This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, featured Gillian Cosgriff producing original songs on very relatable topics for the modern twenty-something: drunk texts, disgusting ex-boyfriends and social humiliation.

Never hesitant in exploring the unconventional, Melbourne Fringe theatre was also truly memorable. MKA: Theatre of New Writing presented startling productions, like the pulp-violence play Kids Killing Kids, which won the Fringe 2013 award of Best Experimental Perfor­mance. Also under MKA, Mark Wilson starred in Unsex Me, a riveting gender-bending solo performance which culminated in a shockingly disturbing scene involving a microphone. The Fringe 2013 winner of the Tour Ready Award, FOMO, featured Zoe McDonald who played several characters discussing social anxiety, the fear of missing out. McDonald was an engaging performer, but the subject quickly wore thin. Innovation in Theatre Award Fringe 2013 winner, Black Faggot was a bittersweet and poignant production about homosexuality set in New Zealand’s migrant Pacific Islands communities. Spoken-word show Love in the Key of Britpop followed Emily Andersen falling in love against a backdrop where the Blur vs. Oasis battle is still very much alive. Lastly, A Chekhov Triptych consisted of three of Chekhov’s one-act plays. The show exquisitely re­produced Chekhov’s signature vaudevilles, with an undertone of pathos.

Without forgetting its compelling visual arts exhibitions, such as 101 Vagina Book, a decent range of live art including the award-winning Confetti, and some pretty remarkable performances from the circus, dance and kids, this year’s Melbourne Fringe was definitely one of the best. With such bold plays, engrossing performances and riotous comedy, it is hard to imagine how next year’s Fringe would beat this.

About Patricia Tobin

Patricia Tobin is a 21-year-old full-time Arts student, part-time marathon napper and overtime pop culture enthusiast. Hailing from the sunny island of Singapore, Patricia enjoys being excessively attached to Doctor Who and listening to the fine tunes of Frank Ocean. Her favourite films include The Apartment and Strangers On A Train.

Patricia Tobin

The author Patricia Tobin

Patricia Tobin is a 21-year-old full-time Arts student, part-time marathon napper and overtime pop culture enthusiast. Hailing from the sunny island of Singapore, Patricia enjoys being excessively attached to Doctor Who and listening to the fine tunes of Frank Ocean. Her favourite films include The Apartment and Strangers On A Train.

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