What’s HOT at the 2021 Melbourne Fringe

Melbourne-Fringe-2021-HeroMelbourne Fringe Festival returns in 2021 with another bold and boisterous program of more than 120 events. Running to 17 October some of the country’s best emerging and established artists, actors, comedians, musicians, dancers, DJs and designers and will once again take over our city and our homes for two and a half weeks of boundary-pushing, experimental and formidably fabulous art. Australian Arts Review takes a look at 15 events worth checking out:

Audible Cubicle
Digital On Demand: 7 – 17 October
An unexpected encounter with sonic art. A psychedelic audiovisual journey through the public toilets of Melbourne’s northern suburbs – inner urban cubicles. Public conveniences (within a 5K radius from home) reimagined as a kaleidoscope of sound and visuals. For a fully enhanced sonic experience, we recommend wearing headphones and listening to this work alone, in the privacy of your own bathroom. Your maximum use time is 10 minutes. Free!

Billy’s Choice
Digital On Demand: 7 – 17 October
Billy’s Choice is a new play set in Lockdown Victoria 2020 on Wamba Wamba country near present day Swan Hill and in inner city Melbourne, Eastern Kulin Nations. It explores the conflict that can arise as young people seek independence, focusing on the cultural and political contexts of growing up in modern Indigenous Australia. It is a story about expectations, and the challenges of moving away from family and Country. Young Billy (Brodie Murray) is facing big decisions about his future and identity as he looks towards life after school. His father John (Corey Saylor-Brunskill) is an Indigenous leader in the Koorie Justice sector who pushes Billy to pursue studies at Uni. Meanwhile Billy’s uncle, Wumyah (Dion Williams) counsels Billy to be patient and listen to country to help him think. Buried family secrets emerge and tensions arise as Billy starts to uncover the truth behind John and Wumyah’s strained relationship. What he chooses to do next rests on his uncle’s wisdom, and memories of the past. Story adapted for digital presentation by filmmaker Davide Michielin.

Design Fringe: Designers On Your Doorstep
Digital On Demand: 11 – 17 October
Celebrating Melbourne’s extraordinary independent and emerging designers as well as the ground-breaking, bizarre and propositional works they produce, Design Fringe: Designers on Our Doorstep will showcase a wide range of local designers and their works. Accessible online as well as on posters across the City of Port Phillip, and supported by its new home at Linden New Art, you will gain access to the homes and working methods of the designers featured in this year’s Design Fringe program. Encompassing all types of object design including furniture, fashion and sculpture, Design Fringe expands on Fringe Furniture’s legacy, ensuring that open access design opportunities are embedded in the contemporary design industry into the future. This year’s event has the theme of home – acknowledging that our own dwellings often provide the inspiration for exceptional design.

Lousical the Musical
Digital On Demand: until 17 October
Lousical the Musical
is an original, pop, comedy musical about To-Do List anxiety. A nuanced and electrifying foray into the world of procrastination and its roots in mental health, but in a hilariously fun, mini-pop-concert kinda way. Duh. Meet Lou Wall. From the moment they learned to write, they’ve been making To-Do Lists. On scraps of paper, in journals, in the notes app on their phone. Lou went back over all those lists and currently has a mortifying 923 items left unfinished from 2002–2020. These lists have been haunting them. Now that Miss Rona has forced everyone to quarantine, it’s about time they finally checked off those boxes. In this 60-minute, musical-combustion, Lou will complete all 923 unfinished tasks including, but not limited to: number 77 – email Kate about cat sitting (from 2012), number 423 – make pickle salad (from 2018) and number 712 – buy mum a birthday present (from 2005). Why? Because it’s never too late to get shit done.

Digital On Demand: until 17 October
Sandy Greenwood’s Matriarch is an original and dynamic one woman show celebrating the strength and resilience of four Gumbaynggirr women, spanning over 100 years of Australian history. A hit show at the Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney Fringe Festivals, nominated for a Green Room award for best writing and winning best performer in Theatre, Greenwood’s production vividly brings to life the matriarchs of her own family: herself, her mother, her grandmother, and her great-grandmother. Through a combination of drama, dance and music, Matriarch explores cultural identity, the effects of intergenerational trauma and what it means to be a fair skin goori woman in modern Australia.

Melbourne-Fringe-2020-Multiply-photo-by-Gregory-LorenzuttiMultiply – The Film
Digital On Demand: until 17 October
A film chronicling the of the most profound, collective experiences of 2020 – emerging from lockdown and re-joining our communities in-person. 2020 Melbourne Fringe Festival signature event, Multiply was an unforgettable participatory dance experience that brought Melburnians together for the first time post-COVID-19 lockdown. Hundreds of physically distant participants gathered in Prahran Square to bring to life a new work by acclaimed choreographer Stephanie Lake. This transcendent event was captured by celebrated Australian filmmaker, Rhys Graham in a half-hour film detailing the journey to making this profound work of art. Chronicling Stephanie and her collaborators’ experiences of delivering the impossible – a dance event in a global pandemic – the film also captures the full 15-minute mass dance experience that was Multiply.

Pah! Deaf Storytelling Night
Digital Scheduled: Tuesday 12 October – 6.30pm
: to realise; to become suddenly aware; to show someone you understand them; a colloquial sign widely used within the Deaf community. The inaugural Pah! Deaf Storytelling Night brings together emerging and established d/Deaf storytellers with a variety of communication styles, whose stories will delight and surprise you. Join us for an evening of watching, listening and understanding lived experiences that are far more than just not being able to hear sound. Through personal tales ranging from the hilarious to the heart-wrenching, we’ll celebrate intersectionality, human connection, and the ways our identities shape our lives in both familiar and unfamiliar ways. Settle in for a night of raw, passionate, accessible and inclusive storytelling and performance.

Patrick Collins – The New Nine
Digital On Demand: until 17 October
Ever thought about how nine is the same as six upside down? Patrick has. More than you have. More than anyone has. And they’re doing something about it. Patrick needs your help. We’re changing the symbol for the number nine, and you need to know what we’re going to change it to, and exactly how we’re going to do it. Don’t be on the wrong side of history. Embrace the New Nine.

Selina Jenkins Sings
Digital On Demand: until 17 October
Selina Jenkins is a critically acclaimed cabaret/theatre performer whose award winning songwriting and breathtaking vocals never fail to evoke a response. Whether they be songs of protest, humour or heartache, this highly relatable content will have feet tapping, minds ticking and hearts racing. It’s a rare opportunity to catch Selina performing outside of her stage shows, and one you don’t want to miss! Winner Four Green Room Awards 2020 ‘Cabaret’ – Writing, Original Songs, Best Artiste and Production.

Star Spangled Banter
Digital On Demand: 14 – 17 October
Star Spangled Banter
laments, salutes and magnifies homogenised anthems. Using the national anthems of Australia and U.S.A as a starting point, this solo by Jonathan Homsey creates a vocabulary of somatic oxymorons. Star Spangled Banter unpacks and negotiates political urgency from his lived experience of the 1997 handover of Hong Kong and American patriotism. Fuelled by the philosophy of Dr. Philipa Rothfield on the corporeal uncanny, this work unravels how cultural and political phenomenons sit within our body and how we can expunge them one booty-shake at a time.MF21-Streaming-Seamen!-photo-by-Jodie-HutchinsonStreaming Seamen! The Digital Sea Shanty Spectacular
Digital On Demand: 14 – 17 October
Join Melbourne’s newest cult choir sensation for a bounty of seafaring songs and nautical naughtiness. Inspired by TikTok’s #1 viral trend which saw sea shanties catapulted back into popular culture and rocketing up the charts, ten of Melbourne’s finest indie choir performers are putting a modern pop spin on these folk classics. With music direction and arrangements by Alex Morris (Shania Choir, Bae Marie), and featuring original remixes from Beatrice (Haiku Hands, Kardajala Kirridarra), Victoria Falconer-Pritchard (People of Cabaret, Fringe Wives Club), and Will Hannagan (WILLING), this is sea shanties as you have never heard them before. So get ready to shake your pirate booty and enjoy some rum-soaked tomfoolery from the comfort of your own home.

Truth to Power Café
Digital On Demand: 2 – 17 October
Jeremy Goldstein’s Truth to Power Café is an internationally acclaimed digital theatre event told through memoir, poetry, image, music and film. Shot live on location at Conway Hall London and Bunjil Place Narre Warren, the event is a unique meditation on time, place and community as participants from Bunurong and Wurundjeri lands speak passionately from the truth of their lived experience in response to the question ‘who has power over you and what do you want to say to them?’ Speaking truth to power is a non-violent means of conflict resolution, the origins of which lie in the anti-war movement. In our era of post-truth, speaking truth to power is widely accepted to mean saying something to those in positions of trust who don’t want to hear it. Is it to your parents, a sibling, politician, neighbour, banker, religious leader or simply your best friend? It’s time to tell them the truth before it’s too late!

WCB: Sigil
Digital On Demand: until 14 October
‘Sigil’ is an exploration of musical spell-casting. Walking through a surreal projected landscape, we go with WCB deep into his psyche to reveal sometimes uncomfortable truths but ultimately cathartic emotions. WCB has been described internationally as neo-soul, R&B, electronica and trip-hop, “emotional and soulful”, “with a distinct moodiness”, but what draws listeners to his music is a haunting assurance in his songwriting that perfectly conveys the emotional complexities of the human experience. ‘Sigil’ combines his love for music, visual storytelling and movement, providing a glimpse inside the world in which his music exists; giving an authentic representation into the the struggles of being queer and an artist.

What rhymes with orange?
Digital On Demand: 8 – 17 October
A tender and funny two-hander following an ordinary couple simply trying to survive their relationship. Things started out pretty regularly for Rosie and Tom, but they soon learnt the hardest lesson of all. And while they bicker and banter over the little things, it’s what’s not being said that’s really troubling them. What happens to a relationship when it is held together not only by love, but also by secrets, shame and guilt? Nominated for a Green Room Award for Performance (2021) and Best in Theatre at the 2020 Melbourne Fringe Festival for her debut play EMBER, Isabella Perversi now presents What rhymes with orange? – her intimate new work about modern love and sacrifice, set amongst the seeming randomness of life.

YUMMY: How to Make a Western
Digital On Demand: until 11 October
A live cinematic experience. During lockdown 2020, the award-winning cabaret ensemble YUMMY wrote a brand new show – a spaghetti western spoof exploring westward expansion and the perils of manifest destiny. This production was shot as a feature-length film and will be screened in full with hilarious audience engagement (think Rocky Horror screenings). With cinematography by Chris Bennett and lighting design by Jacinta Anderson, this production is a stunning hybrid of cabaret, theatre and film aesthetics. Narrated by iconic Tiwi drag superstar Foxxy Empire, and featuring Valerie Hex, Hannie Helsden, Jandruze, Bendy Ben, Zelia Rose, and Aysha Buffet, this project sees YUMMY growing in new ways: new collaborations, new mediums, and a new take on political cabaret. Saddle up, partner!

The 2021 Melbourne Fringe continues to 17 October. For more information, visit: www.melbournefringe.com.au for details.

Images: Melbourne Fringe Hero 2021 – by Giulia McGauran x Raft Studio | Multiply – photo by Gregory Lorenzutti | Streaming Seamen! – photo by Jodie Hutchinson