Fringe World: Top Picks

7682189004_507a544d5a_kThis year’s Fringe World program is intimidatingly thick, and the lists of stellar events contained within frustratingly incompatible with both my bank balance and my sleep schedule. If you’re feeling the same way, don’t despair – I’ve pored through the program to give you a starting point for shows to see.


A sassy mix of theatre, music and comedy, cabaret is the perfect genre to pick when you’re not quite sure what you want to see. Gillian Cosgriff is Whelmed is a perfect example of that – a favourite of ours from last year, Gillian is a WAAPA-trained musician with a scathing sense of humour, and her second Fringe World show is sure to be just as entertaining as her first.

Also returning for another year are ever-reliable Comic Strip, Frisky and Mannish, Trixie and Monkey and EastEnd Cabaret – we’ve seen shows by all of these producers before, and can guarantee personally that they’ll deliver an entertaining night out.

Just as reliable and closer to home, local burlesque companies Sugar Blue and Lady Velvet are both premiering brand-new shows – I’m hanging out for the gorgeous vintage costumes at Tease By The Seaside – and chanteuse Jessie Gordon seems to be in just about every jazz show possible. She’s a knockout, and it’s highly likely I’ll at least endeavor to fit every last one in, but for you I recommend The Hardships of Manhood, an intriguing gender-bending show with superstar Libby Hammer.

Finally, this genre wouldn’t be what it is without some quirky picks, so I suggest Burlesque Beats, with rhymes by old favourites Downsyde, Dr Sketchy’s Anti Art School life-drawing class, local favourite Famous Sharron and her 80s power-pop tribute band in Some Like it Yacht, and LadyNerd, by quirky Tina Fey-lookalike Keira Daley. It’ll take a lot to replace Gillian Cosgriff at the top of my list but if anyone can, it’ll be this girl.


You can go one of two ways with the Fringe circus program – over-the-top, or completely stripped back. Gaudy boylesque troupe Briefs returns to Fringe after last year’s sell-out run with two new shows – The Second Coming, and midnight show Club Briefs to keep the party going. Or try out the death-defying stunts of Zap Circus, with their not-for-the-fainthearted show Circus Freaks – think contortionists, fire twirling and machetes.

For something a little different, our favourite anti-circus stars Tumble Circus return with Damn The Circus, a reflective, funny narrative on circus life. There’s also thoughtful gender identity piece The Spaces Inbetween, by local producer Colourwheel Circus, and an acrobatic re-imagining of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.


The biggest category at Fringe – with almost 200 shows squeezed into the month – comedy is the category that is simultaneously the most daunting to mine, and the most fun.

If you’re an improv fan, don’t miss marathon laugh-fest 24 Hour HOO-HAA!, presented by Perth’s improv community with special guests. Once you’re inside, your tickets lets you stay for as long as you can handle, and endurance champs get $1 back for every hour they last! We’re also looking forward to the Fringe World debut by internationally-acclaimed UK improv group, Flash in the Can, with their show Aaand Now For Something Completely Improvised, seeing how HOO-HAA! members Bri & Wyatt Save the World in their solo show, and watching entirely-improvised musical Impromptunes.

For solo shows, try gents Colin Worth, Luke Ryan, Fabien Clark, Justin Hamilton, Michael Workman and Gordon Southern, who have all sold out Fringe shows in Perth and Adelaide previously, and come to Fringe with the weighty expectations of several hundred starred reviews awarded between them. Ladies Georgie Carroll, Adrienne Truscott, Sarah Furtner, Mary Bourke, Sarah Young and Claire Sullivan are all similarly well-awarded, and promise high-quality, entertaining shows.

If you’re after a group event (or just don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket), there are several shows that run through rosters of comedians. Try Backyard Laughs, the Fremantle Comedy Factory Open Mic, the Summerset Arts Festival Comedy Gala and Chuckles Comedy Gong Night, which lets the audience send comedians offstage to the noise of a gong (harsh, but at least you don’t have to sit through a faltering set!).

Finally, there are two shows that remind me of the unique power of comedy to connect people and break down barriers, and they’re both 100 per cent locked into my calendar.

Barefaced Stories is a fantastic local storytelling evening, and for Fringe it’s running four evenings of intimate tales. And Nob Happy Sock, by Simon Keck, is an award-winning comedy piece about Simon’s failed suicide attempt. It’s intimate and confronting and hilarious and uplifting, and it shows us how to talk about something we don’t know how to talk about.


Look, it’s not particularly artistic or profound, but I’m completely unashamed of the fact that the number one dance event on my list is the No Lights No Lycra Fringe Edition. I attend NLNL, a free-form community dance event, almost every week, and it’s fantastic fun anyway, so I can’t even begin to imagine how good it’s going to be in the Spiegeltent.

If it’s structure you’re looking for, try a Bey Dance Workshop, where you can learn the steps to Beyonce’s iconic dance routines. Or, if your tastes are slightly more artistic than either of those, catch Serena Chalker’s everywhere/nowhere, an intimate, immersive dance performance with a timed score than lets audience members in at two-minute intervals.

If you need some narrative, try out physical theatre performances Dear Fred, I need more romance – a charming piece on modern dating, and Pale Face Cold Blood, a bold, thought-provoking real-life piece about an Iranian translator working at the Manus Island detention centre.


This category in particular is replete with strong WA talent, and seeing a film is a great way of supporting the local industry. The Perth Underground Film Festival is a great place to start – it’s showing local indie flicks on the Rooftop Movies big screen.

There are also plenty of options if you’re not convinced of the value of just watching a film by itself. Local band Viola Dana plays a live score to accompany the outdoor showing of silent film classic, The General;  Arcade, presented by local games company SK Games, is a curated collection of video games that anyone can play – no skill required; and at the opening night of burlesque showcase Teasing Talkies there’s a post-show panel discussion about the art of burlesque.

Finally, keep an eye out for 12 Films Heart on the Perth Cultural Centre big screen – free short films from international filmmakers will be playing throughout Fringe.


This year’s music program is maybe the most diverse the festival has had – there’s everything from soul, funk and reggae, to clashy garage rock; Australian hip hop, and big theatrical musical scores. Because of that, it’s difficult to choose favourites – how can you compare when everything’s so different? – but here are my standouts.

I’ve mentioned (repeatedly) my fandom of Jessie Gordon, and her swing group the Darling Buds of May. Their show Swing Revue from last year’s Fringe was one of my favourites, and I’d highly recommend it this time around – as I would Swing Revue’s Ali Bodycoat in her show Over the Rainbow, where she celebrates sex and gender diversity with Libby Hammer – who, if you’re following this rabbit trail, is a special guest in Stratosfunk’s Tell Mama: The Music of Etta James – which is fronted by none other than Ms Gordon.

Indie-pop auteur Ariel Pink will be playing his first Perth headline show, with support from Nick Allbrook, of Pond fame; local indie-folk singer Rachel Gorman launches her second album; and award-winning local composer Rachael Dease premieres her new work, a symphony of the recordings sent into space on the Voyager 1 and 2 missions.

If you’re looking for a party, try the Boys Boys Boys! Life’s a Beach Party, or Tomas Ford’s famous Crap Music Rave Party, which takes any song request – so long as it’s crap. Or, for something lower-key, I’m hanging out for hip hop collective the Community’s co-op show Mattress Money, eclectic music love letter Hey Music! I [heart] You, which features the inimitable Odette Mercy, and the beautiful Hush: An Evening of Quiet Music at St Georges Cathedral, which fills that space with the music of locals like Abbe May, Felicity Groom, Mathas and Timothy Nelson.


Again, this category full of strong local talent, and buying a ticket to a WA-produced show is a great way of supporting the industry. The Summer Nights program, presented by PICA and the Blue Room, is an oh-so-deserving award-winner – there’s some serious high-quality theatre there, and you won’t go wrong with any of their shows.

When I spoke to local theatre-maker Adriane Daff late last year she mentioned that applications for Summer Nights were more competitive than ever – which I (excitedly) take to mean this year’s program will be its best yet. You won’t go wrong with any of those shows, but in particular, I’m looking forward to local productions A Circle of Buzzards, In The Shadow of Venus, 10,000 and Fag/Stag. Kiwi oddball shown Kraken also gets a look-in, as does The Bookbinder.

As someone who feels very awkward trying to make friends I’m intrigued by the premise of FRIENDQUEST – an interactive show that pitches friend-finding like speed dating, requesting audience members attend solo in the spirit of finding a new pal.

If my admission of awkward friend-finding didn’t make you realise I’m not a particularly competent grown-up, this next recommendation will: reading the description of Sophie Joske’s Become a Functional Adult in 45 Minutes I wasn’t entirely convinced it wasn’t a biographical piece written about me (that self-centeredness? Another sign of my deficit maturity). I’ll be there – notebook in hand.

Finally, Yoshi’s Castle, from local production company The Last Great Hunt is an intriguing, sassy thriller, that I’m definitely going to take my older sister to (that passive-aggressiveness? A sure sign that functional adult play actually isn’t about me).

Visual Arts

Again, the visual arts category this year is diverse, and very subject to personal preference. I like delicate, intricate drawings, so I’ll definitely be visiting Bedroom, and I’ll also be viewing two photographic exhibitions: the Art Gallery’s newest photo portrait acquisitions in new passports, new photography, and the World Press Photo exhibition in Fremantle.

If performance art is more your thing, Alina Tang’s presentation Guilt Flowers will intrigue you – she invites audience members to confess their wrongs, and then makes a small bouquet as a token of forgiveness. Eat Your Art Out will also appeal – guests feast on edibles inspired by food and drink in famous artworks.

Finally, Cinema Portraits live-projects portraits of audience members onto the walls of the Cultural Centre, giving you the chance to become immortalised on a building.

Exhausting and thrilling, compiling a Fringe highlights list delivers a fraction of the excitement of the real thing. I’m so impatient for the festival now – hurry up, weekend!

By Sophie Raynor

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Categories: Art, Burlesque, Cinema, Comedy, Culture, Dance, Events, Family fun, Festivals, Theatre

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2 Comments on “Fringe World: Top Picks”

  1. January 22, 2015 at 2:14 pm #

    thanks for the mention, (though it is called every/nowhere, rather than everywhere/nowhere). Hope to see you at the show!

  2. January 30, 2015 at 5:30 pm #

    If you can, check out The List at the Guild Studio. Only three tix left for Sunday. It was such a powerful piece of theatre – moving, thought-provoking, intimate and brilliantly acted.

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