Melbourne Fringe turns 40 – reveals 2022 program

Spiegeltent-Bernie-Dieter-photo-by-Rachel MIaThe 2022 Melbourne Fringe Festival is about time, literally, with this year’s theme: it’s about time. With Victoria’s biggest independent arts festival turning 40, the program celebrates four extraordinary decades of history, while looking boldly into the future to bring the best, boundary pushing art to the present.

This year’s program features an extraordinary list of leading artists and companies including Back to Back Theatre, Lucy Guerin Inc, Polyglot Theatre, Matthias Schack-Arnott, Koorie Heritage Trust, Theatre Replacement (Canada), Kutcha Edwards, and Bernie Dieter.

There are over 450 events in clubs, theatres, computer screens, galleries, parks and bars of Melbourne, including the return of the Festival Hub at Trades Hall and the introduction of a Festival Park at Queen Victoria Markets.

Diversity sits at the heart of the Festival – with boundary pushing events across every artform amplifying voices from the margins. This year’s program is led by its largest Deadly Fringe program celebrating First Nations artists exploring concepts of time – past, present and future.

In addition, over 51% of the Festival’s shows are led by LGBTQIA+ artists, including 290 trans and gender diverse artists, with the Festival also featuring 238 Deaf and disabled artists (13% of Festival).

Melbourne Fringe Creative Director & CEO, Simon Abrahams, explains how an expanded program of new exhibitions, dynamic public art and brand-new art precincts celebrates the organisation’s 40th birthday, making it the most ambitious Festival in its four decades of history.

“Through this festival, we’re writing a history of the future,” says Abrahams. “This year’s Fringe celebrates 40 years of extraordinary game changing, city shaping art from the margins, as we look to what we will create over the next four decades.”

“We’ve centred free events as our birthday gift back to the city, including a huge, immersive exhibition at State Library Victoria, free participatory public artworks and of course the return of our iconic Fringe Parade.”

“After three years, we are thrilled to take to the streets for our 40th birthday – there’s a lot to celebrate. Melbourne Fringe is back!” added Abrahams.

Joining the recently announced Fringe Parade & Lygon St Block Party (Saturday 15 October) and the Runaway Festival Park headliner, Bernie Dieter’s Club Kabarett is a selection of featured events and programs:

The Rest Is Up to You: Melbourne Fringe 1982-2062 (6 October 2022 – July 2023) – a major new, free exhibition and sound installation at the State Library of Victoria reflecting on the previous 40 years of the Melbourne Fringe Festival and imagining its next 40 years.

Groundswell (Matthias Schack-Arnott) (6 – 23 October) – an innovative, enormous percussive rain drum installed on the forecourt of the State Library that can be played by the people of Melbourne by walking upon its vast surface. This free immersive installation explores people’s joint efforts to address climate change that is as sonically beautiful as it is visually arresting.

Runaway Festival Park (6 – 30 October) – This ‘art park’ will the home of spectacular cabaret, laugh-out-loud comedy, new and experimental circus, and the very best in for-kids-only entertainment, right in the heart of the Queen Victoria Market at the new location of Testing Grounds. Headlined by international cabaret sensation, Bernie Dieter, the site includes two beautiful venues – the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent and the Headfirst Acrobats Vault performance dome.

Pendulum (Lucy Guerin Inc and Matthias Schack-Arnott) (7 – 23 October) – a site-specific, contemporary dance event and spectacular meditation on time coming to the Docklands with amazing views and unforgettable art. Dancers move in sync with a field of suspended bells in a dance performance installation that will transform the Docklands’ unique open-air Shed 21.

So Soiree Garden (6 – 30 October) – our south side entertainment destination! A vibrant hub embedded in the beautiful Grattan Gardens and featuring eight days of performances across comedy, cabaret and circus, featuring Garry Starr, Granny Bingo, Hot Department, Michelle Brasier and more.

Radial (Back to Back Theatre) (23 October) – a new short film, shot on the streets of Prahran on a circular camera track showing 40 years of the Fringe community in motion. It will be created, recorded and edited entirely during this year’s Festival and premiere at a special screening at the Jam Factory alongside a retrospective of Back to Back’s work on film.

Town Choir (Theatre Replacement) (22 October) – in this free, live outdoor music event three local contemporary writers pen their thoughts, which are then sung, unedited, in perfect four-part harmony by a mass choir of 200 people in a spectacular performance at Prahran Square.

Deadly Fringe – Melbourne Fringe’s First Nations program features brand-new works by senior and established First Nations artists including: Yalinguth Live (8 October) – an immersive art event along Gertrude Street exploring Aboriginal Fitzroy’s extraordinary history through music and talks (Produced by Jason Timaru and featuring Kutcha Edwards, Bart Willoughby and local Elders); and a group exhibition exploring Blak queer futurism led by emerging artist Stone Motherless Cold, A Rainbow of Tomorrows (8 October – 12 November)

Radical Access – Fringe’s brand-new sector leadership program for Deaf and Disabled artists and arts workers featuring two extraordinary new commissioned works including: If Our Bodies Could Talk (6 October) by Roya the Destroya and Eliza Hull at the Great Hall at NGV and Temperance Hall Presents Raina Peterson (19 – 22 October).

• XS – a program of experimental, contemporary and live art for children. Featuring the world premiere of Pram People (22 – 23 October), a major new work by Polyglot Theatre, alongside Kidstruments Live (16 October) by Playable Streets and presented in partnership with the Melbourne International Jazz Festival, Threads (15 – 16 October).

Design Fringe (17 September – 18 October) – the evolution of Fringe’s 36-year-old iconic Fringe Furniture program. The program features an exhibition across Linden New Art and Carlisle Street Art Space and includes a public program of talks, keynote events and designer in residence program.

Festival Hub and Club Fringe (6 – 23 October) – Fringe’s beloved late-night Festival Hub and Club is back and transforms Trades Hall with over 100 performances in 10 different venues from some of Australia’s most boundary pushing artists. Thursday 6 October is Melbourne Fringe’s enormous opening night 40th birthday party, with the dress code, Fringe Fashion 2062.

The 2022 Melbourne Fringe Festival runs 6 – 23 October. For more information and full program, visit: for details.

Image: Bernie Dieter – photo by Rachel Mia