Top Picks for the 2023 Melbourne Fringe Festival

MFF23-Sky-Symphony-photo-by-Mary-LivingstoneThis October, the Melbourne Fringe Festival returns to reimagine the city into one epic art adventure playground, with three weeks of ground-breaking new events, art and bold ideas, that is set to re-invigorate the cheeky and artistic spirit of Melbourne.

With more than 2600 artists featured in 475 events across the city and suburbs of Melbourne, Australian Arts Review takes a look at 25 events worth checking out:

Andha Yug
Club Voltaire: 4 – 8 October
Dharamvir Bharati’s Andha Yug is a dark, gritty play about the last days of the Mahabharata war, as told from the perspectives of Queen Gandhari, grieving the loss of her sons, and warrior Ashwatthama, struggling with survivor’s guilt. It is an exploration into the philosophy of karma, the mysteries of time, human journeys through heightened emotions, and the volatile actions that emerge from dislodged passions.

Meat Market Stables: 5 – 21 October
In an Australian premiere season, Sophie Swithinbank’s Bacon is an unflinching and unexpectedly humorous look at masculinity, sexuality and power. Mark is new and too scared to make friends. Darren is out-of-control and too scary to make friends. The two need each other but neither of them would ever admit it. Worlds apart, but more similar than they realise, the pair form a complex and manipulative relationship that leads them blindly into a dangerous experiment that alters the course of both their lives.

Big Dyke Energy
Club Voltaire: 9 – 14 October
Part stand-up, sketch, character confessional and exorcism. Big Dyke Energy is a blistering comedy show about becoming your ‘best self’ in a culture that is intent on bringing out the worst in you. What is Big Dyke Energy? A badass b*tch. Confidence that is unassuming but infectious. At the most basic level? A relaxed woman. Now if someone could tell me how to relax that would be fantastic. Don’t be fooled by the title, Big Dyke Energy is a show for anyone who has ever felt like they were scared to reveal their whole self in a world where the goalposts are constantly shifting. Laugh along as Hannah brazenly explores the pressures of being a queer woman in 2023 and an embarrassing tale about that time she cat-fished her ex. Acclaimed writer, performer and internet pest Hannah Malarski brings a live show that will make you laugh, think, then spread your legs and take up all the available space on the tram ride home.

Brolga: A Queer Koori Wonderland
The Substation: 7 October
Take flight with a party inspired by the Queer Aboriginal stories of the dancing Brolga. For one night only Brolga will transform The Substation into a psychedelic Queer Koori Wonderland, cramming every nook and cranny with art, film, interactive games and Naarm’s best Queer performers, including Luke George, Bendy Ben, Dandrogyny and many more. Different mobs have different Brolga stories. Some tell of a boy who only wanted to dance the women’s dances, and so the Ancestors transformed him into the Brolga so he could dance for eternity. Others speak of a young woman who defied a ban on women dancing and who refused to marry a man. This party, a reimagined contemporary gathering ground, celebrates the Queers and the Trans folk in our communities. Curated by Wiradjuri dance maker and Queer AF party creator Joel Bray.

Cupid Reincarnate
Queen Victoria Women’s Centre – Millarri Murnmut: 3 – 14 October
Let’s wreck it all and start again. You’re invited to a raucous party that could tip itself over the edge…. but only if you let it. If Bette Midler and Rik Mayall had a love child who likes singing lullabies. Chaos. Bedlam. Anarchy. Popped Cherries. Broken Hearts. Love Songs. Balloons. Explosions. Kapow. Kaboom. Oopsies. Oh no. What happened? Oops. Cupid Reincarnate stars Sophie Bengough who is a regular busker & street performer and can be seen busking around Melbourne’s CBD. She also owns a giant balloon that she sometimes climbs in and out of. Sophie hula hoops and roller skates and is currently trying to do both at the same time.

Dubious Intent
Club Voltaire: 19 – 22 October
Two twenty-year-olds book a study room consistently every week and work with the intention of becoming successful writers. However, one man’s dream can be another’s nightmare, and a once functional relationship, held together by a shared promise, ceases to be sustainable. It’s saying goodbye though, that proves to be the hardest struggle of all, especially when contention seems to be the most favourable way of communicating. Written by Callum O’Mara, Dubious Intent is Lonely Heart Theatre Company’s first original piece. Having formed early in the year, this new and emerging company aims to shed light on different areas of the emotional condition by working with fresh and exciting talent.

EXHUMED: The ‘Best’ of Bradley Storer
The Butterfly Club: 2 – 8 October 
After reaching his 10 year anniversary in cabaret (minus those pesky lockdown years!) and breaking down weeping in despair, Bradley Storer – Melbourne’s own Dark Princeling of Cabaret – is looking inwards and asking the same question everyone on earth is also asking in the face of climate catastrophe: ‘where did it all go wrong?’ Digging up the corpses of shows past, Bradley splices together the best musical moments of his career so far into a glorious Frankenstein’s monster of music. Songs by artists such as Nick Cave, Patti Smith, Kate Miller-Heidke and Radiohead are sliced, chopped and vivisected together into an alt-cabaret musical concert bonanza!

Queen Victoria Women’s Centre – Millarri Murnmut: 10 – 14 October
FLUSH is a multidisciplinary creation; a fusion of contemporary dance, classical theatre, stand-up comedy, projection, text and voice. A solo work by Isabella Gilbert, FLUSH explores the concept of water through biblical and Shakespearean contexts and overlaying these themes onto a contemporary society in crisis. FLUSH interrogates traditional constructs of gender and explores these in the supercharged context of dating, sex and relationships. It’s boys and lockdown, nostalgia and innocence, nightmares, dreams and hallucinations.

Friends with Detriments – Dating Stories by Candlelight
Jimmy Watsons – The Snack Monster: 17 – 22 October
At the finest establishment north of the Free Tram Zone, let power non-couple Sweeney Preston and Jodie Sloan wine and dine you with tales of modern courtship and cheeky anecdotes spanning moose attacks, accidentally being interviewed about dating on national radio, astrology and Stanley Tucci. Whether you’re on a romantic date, a friend date, a solo date, or a group date (we see you, Melbourne), venture out for a cosy night in, with two of the city’s finest young comedians. You know when people say, we’ll laugh at this someday? Well, that day has come. So grab your ex and call your tickets… (or was it the other way around?) as we swap shame for silliness this Melbourne Fringe.

Garbage Trash
Theory Bar: 5 – 22 October
Ellen Mahoney is making her debut at Melbourne Fringe Festival with her brand-new show Garbage Trash. Taking its title from the now-iconic Lisa Barlow meltdown on The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City – Garbage Trash hilariously unpacks how romantic comedies, noughties pop culture and the general air of toxic masculinity have warped how women view themselves – all from the mouth of an incredibly warped comedienne, too dirrrty to clean her act up! In Ellen’s world, there’s nothing more real or relatable than getting completely dolled up in your most carefree, badass apparel, heading over to your ex’s house to pick up your mail and having a total meltdown in the front yard.

Gender is a Scam and I am Winning
Festival Hub: Trades Hall – Corner Store: 18 – 22 October
The best joke Josh ever told was during a terrorist attack in Paris in 2015. Josh will tell this joke, other jokes, and sing songs containing jokes. Josh Cake (any pronouns) has external identities of brown, Australian, man. All of these are scams and Josh feels no internal connection to any of them. However, Josh is in this game for the money and power. Josh is sticking with Australian for the strong passport, sticking with man for the numerous benefits, and sticking with brown because that one is too hard to modify. Josh will consider other options if offered a better deal.

Festival Park – The Vault: 3 – 29 October
A hedonistic dive head-first into the lives of the ancient Gods of Olympus! Follow Cupid (the God of love), Hercules (the God of strength) and Dionysus (the God of wine) as they paint the scene of Ancient Greece and bring you to the biggest party to hit Mount Olympus since 500 BCE. Your favourite group of comedy acrobats – the boys from Head First Acrobats – take their unique mix of storytelling, circus and physical prowess to god-like proportions. Expect a bodyssey of gravity-defying stunts, true tests of heroic strength and muscularity, and surprise comic twists. Winner of the Melbourne Fringe People’s Choice Award 2022.

Hot Fat Crazy
Festival Hub: Trades Hall – Music Room: 4 – 8 October
The true story of one woman’s HOT journey through a very FAT psych ward admission, also she is CRAZY. Written by and starring Eadie Testro-Girasole & Thomas Bradford, Hot Fat Crazy is the inaugural show from emerging comedy duo, Tommy & Eadie. The show is based on Eadie’s eye-opening, healing and hilarious experiences during her many psych ward admissions, and her journey of reclaiming the word ‘fat’ and rejecting its negative connotations! Hot Fat Crazy submerges you in a hyper-surreal, silly and sexy fictional Psych Ward, where inpatients get it on, the nurses can get away with anything, and wizards cure your depression with the power of magnets … Oh, and did we mention the 27 SOCK PUPPETS?!

I Am Seaweed
Theatre Works: 10 – 14 October
Follow Sheryl with an ‘S’ on her quest to become as resilient and as versatile as Seaweed. Enter a world of moody projections, quirky presentations, satirical ads and a lot of the ‘weed’ from the sea. In a society where we are constantly pushed to be more productive, skilful and self-sufficient, what does it mean to ‘just be?’. Can we grow from a place of love and trust instead of shame and comparison?

If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You
Meat Market Stables: 5 – 21 October
Halloween. A small town in the west of Ireland. There’s a party to get to, and Mikey and Casey have everything they need… Booze. Cash. Drugs. Each other. The only problem is they’re stuck. Stuck on a roof. Stuck together. And as they wait for the Guards to stop circling the house, they find out there are some truths you just can’t climb down from.

Sky Symphony
Yarra Promenade: 11 – 15 October
Sky Symphony is a light, water and sound installation on the Yarra River, created by Australian laser specialists LASERVISION, featuring the orchestral music of Melbourne composer Shaun Rigney. Sky Symphony emerged from Shaun’s desire to connect with people, and to work with the magic of lasers projected onto mist. Starting as a collaboration between the composer and a collective of twenty seven volunteer photographers, this event has grown into a synthesis of light, water, music and the sky. The symphony, recorded for this project by the Orchestra Victoria, was composed in response to the images the composer requested from the public. Those images form the basis of the dazzling water projection created by LASERVISION.

Love Letters
Festival Hub: Trades Hall – Old Council Chambers: 11 – 22 October
A man and a woman have known each other since childhood. Through decades of correspondence, they shared many important aspects of life together: growth, youth, careers, love, marriage, and death. As children, they despised each other, yet they kept in touch. As adults, they pursued their own paths but remained tightly connected through letters. As time went by, they came to realise that within each other’s hearts, they had already become an inseparable entity.

So Soiree Fringe Garden
Grattan Gardens, Prahran: 7 – 22 October
The City of Stonnington has transformed Grattan Gardens into a cheeky neon playground for adults, with music and fabulous drinks served from a retro caravan. Head on down to the So Soiree Fringe Garden and get amongst the eclectic vibe of Fringe before heading into your favourite show inside the Ukiyo Tent. Acts include Karen From Finance in DOING TIME, Rouge, Club Briefs, Smashed Arvo, Granny Bingo, Sh*t Wrecked and Cab Suave. Climb onboard the vintage bus for Speed: the Movie, the Play – a shameless homage to the 1994 action thriller Speed, the film which proved once and for all the best drama is on public transport. Bring your friends, grab a drink from our cocktail caravan and soak up the atmosphere under glittering festival lights.

State Library Victoria Forecourt
| Footscray Station: 3 – 22 October
A seriously ambitious public art project that transforms our civic spaces into sites of joy and play – literally. Swing is an eight-metre-tall classic playground swing (you know the sort – two ropes and a seat; no bungy-jump business here) with a dizzying arc that will give the young-at-heart a whole new perspective on the city. Anyone can come have a swing, before work, on a lunch break, after school – catch it in performance mode and you’ll even be serenaded by a choir as you soar through the air. Swing is fully accessible – just BYO spirit of adventure.

The Astonishing Comet Boombox
Bluestone Church Arts Space: 17 – 21 October
Surreal, wild, and wickedly funny, The Astonishing Comet Boombox is an incisive exploration of human-AI dynamics. Tech influencer, Retro, and her childhood AI, Comet, have a blockbuster relationship podcast. They are beacons of hope for human and AI relations. But a secret affair leads to a public meltdown, revealing the pathological lying that’s been maintaining their relationship. The Astonishing Comet Boombox is a wild, multi-generational tale of two former best friends in a public fall-out, playing on either sides of a war, reuniting on an Esther Perel podcast, and going on an ancestral journey to the motherboard factory where it all began.

The Axe in the Ceiling
The Motley Bauhaus – Black Box: 7 – 22 October
Written and Directed by Jaya Berged, The Axe in the Ceiling is a story about a newly married couple on a journey of self-discovery, through a series of absurd events. Chhaya is a playful, imaginative woman who has always lovingly walked the path that she’s been taught to walk. Hunar is a responsible, self-reliant man who has always provided well for himself and made Good Decisions. Their relationship begins with an axe in the ceiling, and peaks with a bird net in a corn field. Their journey together rocks their individual stability and reveals gaps in their self-image, compelling them to reflect on what they truly want and whether they have what it takes to get it.

This Is Living
Meat Market Stables: 5 – 21 October
Alice and Michael met six years ago. Three years later their daughter Lily was born. Now, in a Yorkshire meadow, just past midnight, they’re having an argument. Because Alice is cold, she’s tired, and Michael won’t stop telling her that she died twelve hours ago. Dealing with themes of loss, grief and heartache, this intimate portrayal of a relationship forces us to examine our own lives, Liam Borrett’s This Is Living seamlessly weaves past and present – switching without warning from comedy to tragedy and back again.

Vikings vs Climate Change
The Butterfly Club: 2 – 8 October
It’s 2023 and the Earth is in a grim state. As the permafrost melts at an alarming rate, two literally-frozen-in-time Vikings emerge from the ice; and they’re ready for war. Using only their Viking knowledge, some ancient Nordic myths and a sacrificial beer, Eric and Ingrid attempt to solve the world’s Climate Change problems one axe swing at a time. Vikings vs Climate Change follows our two rambunctious characters on a journey of song and silliness as they try to figure out exactly what a carbon footprint is anyway. Featuring physical comedy, hilarious antics and original songs and covers, Babble Productions brings a brand new comedy that is sure to tickle your funny bone and inspire you to raise your battle axe.

Queen Victoria Women’s Centre – Millarri Murnmut: 3 – 7 October
WHALE is a raw, hilarious and poignant show that is part comedy, part theatre and a lot of storytelling. It tells the true story of Courtney, a fat and funny lesbian, documenting her journey from a boy crazy, hyper feminine ‘pick me’ girl to a woman who quite frankly does not give a f*ck anymore about what people think of her weight. It’s been a very long journey with failed diets, passive aggressive comments and crying in a Sportsgirl changeroom on multiple occasions, but she’s ended up alright. More than alright, actually. WHALE explores the ‘Funny Girl’, a persona that attempts to disguise weight with a blanket of humour and aims to make people forget that you’re overweight.

YUMMY: Joy Machine
Festival Hub: Trades Hall – ETU Ballroom: 4 – 21 October
Get ready for one of the most entertaining variety shows of the Fringe. From its humble beginnings as an underground club cabaret, to sell out shows on the West End and 5 Star reviews in Edinburgh Fringe Festival, YUMMY has taken the world of drag cabaret by storm. Having performed in over 50 festivals around Australia and overseas, YUMMY has left a trail of glitter and won hearts everywhere it’s gone. Outrageous, outlandish, and always unpredictable, this is one of the strongest cabaret ensembles to emerge from Melbourne’s vibrant cabaret scene. Led by fringe favourite Valerie Hex and an all-star cast prepare for the perfect balance of fast paced, sexy, and ridiculous variety show perfection.

The 2023 Melbourne Fringe Festival runs 3 – 22 October 2023. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Sky Symphony – photo by Mary Livingstone