This 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, the Australian Pride Network takes a look at 16 events worth checking out:
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.
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.
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.
The MC Showroom – The Showroom: 4 – 15 October
The ripe sweat of men in spaghetti-strap singlets blurs your senses. Pulsating house music throbs from the end of the hallway bathed in neon lights. You sign the dotted line and a complimentary microfibre sweat towel (definitely not already used) is handed over the counter with a smile. “Welcome to the family.” This is Potency Gym; where your personal trainer-cum-deity has assured you that you’re just one shaker of Creatine away from your next ab. And you’ll do anything to please him and climb the ranks of Potency until you reach Top Tier. A high-octane descent into the world of fitness, CULT follows Alex as he commits mind, body, and soul to achieving his “best self”. Following a sellout Midsumma ‘23 season, Ryan Henry’s one-man, camp spectacle returns to the stage, candidly dissecting and interrogating our wellness obsessions. Hold onto those endorphins; it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
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.
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!
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.
The Ukiyo – So Soiree Festival Gardens: 20 October
Australia’s nastiest nans can’t wait to pull their balls out for you! Edith Vale and Maureen McGillicuddy have been hosting their hilarious bingo night Granny Bingo for eight sold out years. Expect big laughs and fabulous prizes but make sure you’re on your best behaviour because you don’t want to get on the wrong side of these nans. There’s nothing quite like a visit from nana, and these nanas are like none you’ve ever met before.
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?!
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.
The Motley Bauhaus – Cabaret Stage: 2 – 8 October
A good boy doesn’t talk. A perfect boy shouldn’t need to. When you wish upon a star, maybe also pray it doesn’t listen. Inspired by the beloved tale of a lonely weird man wanting a little fantasy boy. And wait, a whale? And wait… hang on… What’s it like for a boy to learn he’s a beautiful handmade fantasy? An adaptation with no interest in nostalgia. Sometimes bad things happen when wood gets this hot. Kissing Booth’s work fixates on the darker regions of the contemporary human experience, while never losing its taste for sweet glittery gayness.
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.
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.
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: www.melbournefringe.com.au for details.
Image: YUMMY: Joy Machine – courtesy of YUMMY Productions