PERFORMANCE - ADELAIDE FRINGE 2002
Adelaide Fringe was going to be huge even before the Festival shrank.
With over 300 productions listed in the Fringe’s printed programme,
and more shows only on the Website, Fringe events are drawing record
numbers to their three-week run. Adelaide would have had a great
festival even if the main events had been cancelled.
Adelaide gets five
stars from “Tiger Lil” of “The Happy Sideshow” which has been
around the world’s Fringe Festivals in the past year. She rates its
weather, which lets her mix with other performers between shows, and its
flatness, which lets her ride her bike between venues. Edinburgh, by
contrast, was bleak and hilly.
But what gives this
year’s Adelaide Fringe its edge of excellence over other Fringes is
The Garden of Unearthly Delights in the East Parklands. There, the big
venues are the Spiegeltent, which was there last Festival, and the
innovative Lunar Tent. Also different this time is that the environs
have been transformed into a twilight zone of entertainments, with bars,
food stalls and a multitude of diversions.
Although the Garden is
fenced, its atmosphere is as inviting as that associated with the
Writers Week marquees. On the outside is a trapeze from which anyone
with ten dollars can launch themselves into space. Buskers draw crowds
before they pass through the painted gates.
The Garden feels as if
it is The Fringe. The Fringe organisers had designated venues on
Adelaide University Campus as The Hub but that area works more like a
transit lounge between theatres in a multiplex. Down at the Red Lion
centre, which had been the equivalent of the Garden in 1992, a set of
Japanese shows provided earthy delights.
The Garden is an
experimental space. At five dollars for fifteen minutes in The Tiny Top,
an audience of ten or twenty will see tyros test their talents or a
professional try out new routines. Even tinier is the studio of “Love
TV” which interviewed passers-by bout love. Those transmissions have
been a catalyst for countless discussions in the ever patient queues.
As part of the vision
of erstwhile Festival director Peter Sellars, workshops by top trainers
are available to Fringe participants during the day. “Tiger Lil”
would be perfectly content if the Garden had the mundane delights of
more space in which to warm up, and for yoga and massage. The high risk
of the physical theatre in the Lunar Tent demands focus from its
The Famous Spiegeltent
is a dream to work in as its crew create and extend the enjoyment across
its fourteen-hour nights of cabaret, comedy and musicians, ranging from
The Stiff Gins to panel discussions on the environment and on asylum
“Acrobat” in the
Lunar Tent flew away with the award for the best Fringe show when these
trainers of the Fruit Fly Circus demonstrated that you are never too old
to break a leg. Funny and frightening by turns, the Albury aerialists
are so skilled that you leave feeling that you should join the queue for
Sideshow” stars the double-joined Captain Froddo and the
sword-swallowing Space Cowboy, who takes my prize for the most talented
performer among the 30 shows I saw. I made myself watch him by telling
myself that he was faking. He wasn’t, which became undeniable when the
plugged-in neon tube he had swallowed glowed red through his throat and
household irons dangled off fishhooks in his eye sockets.
At the center of the
Lunar Tent’s triumphs is thirty-year old Scott Maidment, from
‘Strut&Fret Productions in Brisbane. The catalogue of overseas
bookings that his shows have picked up showed, yet again, that Brisbane
has moved to the fringe of the global art market, and is no longer at
the outer edge of the Australian scene.
the Garden is attracting a new audience, not the usual theatre goers,
and perhaps not even regular Fringe followers. Many seem to be from pub
culture, and thus find the Garden’s informality an entry into the
realms of art.
Adelaide pubs housed other Fringe Events such as the Tingle-Tangle Cabaret at which a pair of bra-brandishing feminists performed their own songs of how they love passing motorists to ask them to show their tits. The night I heard them they invited Doris from Sydney’s Hollywood Hotel to celebrate her 72nd birthday by giving us two of her songs. After flashing her thigh, she exposed a range of talents that the mainstage Barbara Cook no longer possesses. Doris deserves her own show at the Garden in 2004.