Melbourne Fringe Festival has unveiled its wild and wonderful 2023 Program! Promising a Melbourne city-wide adventure playground, Melbourne Fringe organisers are calling this year's festival it's biggest event in its 41-year history. Among the 475 events, there’ll be a giant eight-metre-tall gold swing, a free sound and light installation over the Yarra, an ’80s high school-style formal, and the return of Klub Kong.
This year's Melbourne Fringe Festival will turn the vibrant city and suburbs into a giant adventure playground. And creative director Simon Abrahams means that quite literally, with an eight-metre-tall gold swing being erected on the forecourt of the State Library to open proceedings before it makes its way to Footscray Station to close out the festival.
“Fringe is a place where you discover new things and see your city in a different way,” says Abrahams. “So we’ve really thought about how we can activate the city and make people look at [it] through the eyes of a child.”
In keeping with that brief, a kid will strap you into your swing seat (rest assured, an adult will make sure you’re fully secure) before you’re soaring through the air while being serenaded by a choir. It’s one of two swinging spectacles in this year’s program; the other, Volo: Dreams of Flight, is a breathtaking VR experience that lets you fly through the sky while strapped into a swing in Federation Square.
This year’s program will be the biggest in the festival’s 41-year history, with 475 events taking place across the CBD and ’burbs from October 3 to 22. Also among the free, family-friendly highlights: a massive sound and light installation over the Yarra River featuring an installation of hydraulically controlled fountains, laser technology, and a symphonic score; plus three powerful site-specific outdoor circus works happening at Gasworks, Footscray and Fed Square.
Of course, there’ll be plenty of classic Fringe shows across theatre, cabaret, music, comedy and more, including Knick Knacks, an open-mic show-and-tell for adults; Dumplings Darling, a cabaret show about saving the world with dumplings, in which the audience gets to eat said dumplings; and local sketch comedy duo Hot Department’s latest set, which, if their previous shows are anything to go by, will be one of the funniest things you’ll see at the festival.
There’s also two works staged inside a car: Cruising in Third, an immersive music show in which the artist will pick audience members up from their home and play them songs as they’re driven to festival hub Trades Hall; and Joyride, a physical-theatre piece inspired by Thelma & Louise and other road movies, situated in the Trades Hall’s carpark.
Another immersive show is the Fringe Formal, a comedy variety show culminating in a late-night dance party with roving performers, “all set in a haunted, daggy ’80s Australian high school”. And last year’s hit Klub Kong returns with its drag show club night, again hosted by Drag Race Down Under alumnus Kween Kong.
Other highlights include Deadly Sinners, an all-First Nations queer cabaret, drag and burlesque line-up presenting new interpretations of the seven sins, and reclaiming them against religious systems; and Brolga: A Queer Koori Wonderland, an interactive art and dance party at The Substation curated by Wiradjuri artist Joel Bray (Daddy). The late-night event will feature kinky installations, queer short film, an interactive art garden, pop-up performances from drag artists, and a number of club DJs.
“For over 40 years Melbourne Fringe has been showcasing the most vital voices and brightest artistic talent to Melbourne,” Abrahams said in a press release. “This year, we have incredible public art projects, free performances, pop-up performance tents and hidden performances in hard-to-find places. Fringe is about discovery – from our Festival Hub at Trades Hall to work on the streets and in venues across the city. The Melbourne Fringe Festival is all about platforming voices from the margins.
“We’ll again see incredible First Nations artists, d/Deaf and disabled artists, people of colour, and trans and gender diverse artists telling their stories. Encouragingly, LGBTIQA+ artists make up over half the Festival’s participants.”
“Fringe is about seeing things differently, and this year’s program promises that and much more.”
Melbourne Fringe Festival runs from October 3 to 22 2023. See the full program online.
Melbourne Fringe 2023