March 12, 2011

City with the Fringe comes out on top

Filed under: 2011,Archive,Fringe

March 12, 2011
2011 Adelaide Fringe
February 18 – March 13

After more than three frenetic weeks of activity the Adelaide Fringe has come to a close, leaving the hundreds of artists and supporters to reflect on their fortunes, both creative and financial. With an uncurated smorgasbord of 759 events (405 of them Australian premieres) audiences have had a busy job finding the truffles. According to Fringe Director Greg Clarke, 2011 has even surpassed last year’s box office total of 301,800 tickets sold. Many of those have been for familiar crowd favourites, especially the army of stand-up comedians which uses the Adelaide Fringe as springboard for the Melbourne Comedy Festival which begins in two weeks’ time.

But Fringe audiences have also shown a willingness to sample the range of new and innovative cabaret and theatre which is especially to be welcomed in uncertain times. It’s always tough making independent theatre but, with rising costs and competition from other forms of entertainment, it’s getting even tougher. The Fringe, at least, brings safety in numbers and a collective energy which exhilarates both performers and audiences – even if they are in a 21 day Darwinian struggle for attention.

Among those deserving notice was You’re Not Like the Other Girls Chrissy, UK writer/ performer Caroline Horton’s wry and moving tribute to her French grandmother, Christiane and her determined constancy, waiting for her English fiancé, missing during World War II. One of Guy Masterson’s CIT contingent from the Edinburgh Fringe, Paul Slack also presented a dramatized biography, Phoenix Rising, based on the early life (the Sons and Lovers phase) of the now much neglected novelist DH Lawrence. Other CIT productions of note included The Six Sided Man, a two-hander based on Luke Rhineharts’ cult novel The Dice Man and Masterson’s own bravura Shylock.

Amongst the physical theatre, the Dutch trio Theatergroep WAK provided a season of intriguing fun at the Garden of Unearthly Delights with their wordless, often difficult, antics in Nothing is Really Difficult, performed entirely inside a large wooden container. And for something completely conceptual, the four women of Brown Council deconstructed what makes us laugh in A Comedy, which, in the spirit of UK anti-theatre company Forced Entertainment, discomforted its compliant audience but gave rather too little in return.

And among local fare, as part of Accidental Productions’ lively season at City Soul, emerging director Nescha Jelk’s revival of Ionesco’s disturbing absurdist play The Lesson, featuring excellent performances from Guy O’Grady and Elizabeth Hay, offered a glimpse of the Fringe at its creative best – and of the next wave of artists for whom this festival is a valuable opportunity to make their mark.

Murray Bramwell

“City with the Fringe comes out on top” The Australian, March 14, p.17

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