Melbourne’s snap lockdown forces Adelaide Fringe artists to flee the city

AF21-Absolute-Riot-Miss-Friby-photo-by-Alexis-Desaulniers-LeaAfter four gruelling days of packing/unpacking and bureaucratic run arounds while staring down the barrel of a season cancellation, Melbourne based artists, Elizabeth Dawson-Smith (Miss Friby) and Stuart Atkin, finally breathe a sigh of relief from their quarantine accommodation in Nairne, South Australia.

Their three week season of Absolute Riot is due to open on Tuesday 2 March at The Lark – Gluttony for the 2021 Adelaide Fringe Festival.

“It’s been quite an intense four days,” says Elizabeth Dawson-Smith, the show producer and principle performer, Miss Friby. On Wednesday 10 February, when South Australia announced a border closure with Victoria, Elizabeth and Stuart immediately prepared for departure.

“We frantically packed, re-shuffled work commitments and prayed we could make the 12.00am cut off, but knew it was near on impossible,” says Elizabeth, who turned back when it became apparent that they would arrive at the border 30 minutes after the cutoff.

Based on SA Health directions, their travel plans now included two weeks of quarantine and bureaucratic exemption permit applications, all of which had the potential to push their season back.

“All we could do was follow the directions from SA Health, and hope that our permits arrived in time,” says Elizabeth, who was excited to be performing in front of a live audience for the first time in over a year.

“With less than three weeks until opening night, I had already invested so much of my savings into this season, so this is particularly stressful,” says Elizabeth who is likely to lose her part-time job at the Melbourne Showboat when Job Keeper ends at the end of March.

On Friday 12 February, Melbourne’s ‘snap lockdown’ was announced, the pair were convinced their season would be delayed and/or cancelled. Moments later, Elizabeth was informed to get to the border before 11:59pm, where an exemption permit would be waiting.

“It was like groundhog day, once again we were manically packing, I rushed to my daughter’s primary school to have one swift goodbye hug, and we were on the road within the hour,” she said.

Elizabeth’s story is not unique with multiple artists now undergoing two weeks of quarantine to be able to present their shows. Adelaide Fringe has offered $400 accomodation assistance to each artist affected, but for many of these artists, the additional two weeks of quarantine has made the season financially unviable.

“Many of us will be lucky to break even,” says Elizabeth, who knows of artists that are now scrambling for new cast members, casts that are ‘doubling’ up to learn multiple shows, and producers who are faced with additional wages.

Elizabeth and Stuart are now using this time to rehearse for the show, rest and prepare for their first live performance since Adelaide Fringe 2020: “after what we’ve been through, an Absolute Riot is guaranteed!”

Absolute Riot
The Lark – Gluttony, Rymill Park, Adelaide
Season: 2 – 7 March 2021 – 9.00pm / 11 – 13 & 18 – 20 March 2021 – 10:20pm
Information and Bookings:

Image: Elizabeth Dawson-Smith stars as Miss Friby – photo by Alexis Desaulniers-Lea