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Fringe lets its hair down
Fringe lets its hair down

Hold on to your party hats. As big and as bold as Perth’s fringe festival may have been earlier this year, it will be left in the shade by the beast that will be Fringe World 2013.

Perth’s fringe festival returns next month to unleash arts mayhem from more than 2000 performers in more than 300 shows across about 50 venues around town.

Fringe World 2013 kicks off on January 25, Australia Day eve, with a program that has grown by half again from what it was in 2012. It’s so big, in fact, that it will need two Speigeltents and nine other pop-up venues around the city to help pack in all the cabaret, circus, theatre, music and comedy over the four-week fiesta.

In the words of the 2013 fringe slogan, it will be “massively entertaining”.

The De Parel Spiegeltent returns as the heart of the fringe in the Urban Orchard at the Perth Cultural Centre.

But the expanded scope of the festival, and the start of the redevelopment of 2012 fringe venue, the Old Treasury Building, means more hubs, including the addition of the Idolize Spiegeltent, sponsored by The West Australian, at an inner city location yet to be revealed.

Another theatre tent will pop up in the State Theatre Centre courtyard, adding to the extensive program run through the adjacent Blue Room.

“I think the plethora of new pop-up venues is really exciting,” says Fringe World director Marcus Canning, from the alternative arts producer Artrage.

“It is something that the Perth audience has found really exciting over the past two years, unusual venues that pop up for the festival and then are gone,” Canning says.

“Having a whole collection of them in the next fringe is going to be part of that experience. It is a key value of the fringe and what it is all about, to occupy the city of Perth in interesting and unusual ways first and foremost.”

A sneak peek by The West Australian at the program for next year shows the return of many fringe favourites, including the Briefs, Strut and Fret, Frisky and Mannish, Barry Morgan and his organ, Ali McGregor, Sammy J, Josh Earl, Marcel Lucont and the Tumble Circus.

More than 70 per cent of the acts are local performers encouraged to take a risk on finding an audience at the fringe alongside talent from the European and North American fringe circuits and countries as diverse as Nepal, Ghana and China. Among the other highlights are baritone-voice drag star, Le Gateau Chocolat, New York burlesque duo Trixie and Monkey, nutty Irish dance troupe Ponydance, the hit migration play Angry Young Man, and the South African political thriller, The Three Little Pigs.

The open-access philosophy that allows anyone to put on a show if they can find a venue also extends to affordable ticket prices (the average will be less than $20) and the inclusion of free, family daytime programming, to be unveiled in full next week.

The 2013 program also sees the fringe extending into the suburbs, with venues opening up in Mt Lawley, Leederville, Fremantle and elsewhere.

Comedy often dominates the menu in fringes elsewhere but Fringe World organisers are pleased by the balance in the program, led by theatre (22 per cent), and then comedy (17 per cent), music (15 per cent) and cabaret (12 per cent). Other genres include visual art, circus and performance.

“We set off with a lot of care in ensuring that there was a really well-considered spread of different art forms and that they all did well,” Canning says.

The word of mouth around that has meant that it is not just comedy producers looking to make money.

“I am super pleased to see the growth in the local content, that is a huge increase in terms of local people plugging in. People have seen what Fringe World delivered last time around and are using it as an opportunity. We are there to curate the platforms responsive to the needs of the local sector as well as audience.”

A key guide to helping prepare the ground for the 2013 open-access fringe has been an impact study by British creative economy consultancy BOP, which has done similar assessments in Edinburgh, the arts festival capital of the world.

BOP assessed Fringe World’s social and economic impact on Perth and its inroads with new audiences and opportunities for local artists.

Among key findings, BOP researchers found that for the $1.09 million in State funding (one third of total revenue), the fringe generated $14.67 million in knock-on expenditure by audiences, organisers and performers.

BOP audience surveys revealed 76 per cent of those attending would have stayed at home had the fringe not been on; 86 per cent felt the fringe had increased their pride in the city; and 99 per cent intended to return for Fringe World 2013.

With ticket sales of more than 50,000 and a further 101,000 at free events, the fringe tripled its attendance targets.

“There were a lot of really exciting and positive facts and figures that came out of that,” Canning says.

“The report made us feel really good about what we are doing and that it’s all worthwhile because sometimes you wonder whether it’s worth the pain,” he laughs.

“The stuff that really jumped out at me was about the new audience, that great percentage of people who don’t normally engage with the arts who engaged with fringe in a big way.

“Sitting just behind that was the response ‘If this wasn’t on then I actually wouldn’t have come into the city and I would have stayed at home’.

“That’s what it’s all about as far as I am concerned.”

The full Fringe World program will be unveiled on December 14, when tickets go on sale through fringeworld.com.au.