In less than two weeks, Adelaide will break out in fringe fever. Running from the 24th February -18th March, the festival is the largest arts festival in the southern hemisphere and the second-largest fringe festival in the world. With all that cred under its belt, it’s no wonder that Sydney’s about to experience a temporary mass exodus of independent and fringe artists. Three such artists that have created new works for the festival are performance artists Aileen Huynh and Alice Cooper, and independent theatre company subtlenuance.
So what makes a show suitable for the fringe? Whilst fringe festivals are about showcasing a range of artists and stories, all of the interviewees agree on one thing – scale. Of her show Gobbledygook, Aileen says “[it] is a show that can be bumped in and out quite quickly to allow for other shows before and after and it doesn’t rely on huge lighting requirements. It’s a compact, manageable and efficient show, which is needed in a fringe environment.” This restriction of space can also be a blessing, though, and some artists find serendipitous advantages in the non-traditional performance space they’re given. subtlenuance’s show about wine selling Blind Tasting, will be performed at the fringe in a wine cellar. Company producer Daniela Giorgi explains “It’s interactive. Sylvia tells a beautiful narrative, punctuated with wine tasting, which the audience is welcome to take part in.”
Alice Cooper, who will be returning to the Adelaide Fringe for the second year running and has also been involved in fringe festivals in Sydney and Melbourne, explained to me the myriad benefits of participating in a fringe festival as an artist: “I suppose the main advantage for me is being able to meet lots of other artists and see lots of work. I have made some good friendships over the past year of Fringing. Also, it’s a great opportunity to invite presenters and programmers from Australia and overseas to see your work- the Fringe attracts a great diversity of the touring industry which other formats do not.”
Such a glut of shows and artists, though, can pose difficulties in terms of getting people to come and see your show. Alice agrees that this is a very common problem, but one that can present a welcome challenge to the artist: “after all the work you do to put [your show] up – usually months and months of preparation – [it] can be disheartening. However it’s always good to talk to other artists and you quickly discover that if you have four people in your crowd one night, it’s not unheard of. In fact I heard that is the average at Edinburgh. Whatever the averages, it certainly makes you question whether you really want to be there! And I have decided I do. And it does get a bit easier, eventually.”
The shows referred to in this article are Aileen Huynh’s Gobbledygook, Alice Cooper Clown Lights Stage, and subtlenuance’s Blind Tasting. For details of each of the shows, go to www.adelaidefringe.com.au