Off the beaten track
Off the beaten track

Very strange shows in quite unusual places: that is the hallmark of fringes around the world and Fringe World 2013 is no exception.

A cross-dressing safari hunt in a North Perth backyard, a decadent rock star's afterparty in a Perth hotel room, a spin-the-bottle night of BYO erotic tales in a pop-up theatre and a candlelight cabaret in St George's Cathedral are among the more off-beat offerings at this year's fringe.

A scan through the voluminous Fringe World program reveals the return of the flannelette foolery of Bogan Bingo at Rosie O'Grady's and the three-course mayhem of Faulty Towers: the Dining Experience at Rigby's Bar and Bistro. Conspicuous consumption also is on the menu in The Tea(se) Party, a decadent high tea with scrumptious food and burlesque performers in the De Parel Spiegeltent. And in Geoffrey J Fowler's The History of Drinking, a barman mixes up a cocktail of drinks, history and stories customised for each audience member.

Time is of the essence for two shows at opposite ends of the temporal spectrum. In the 24-Hour Improv Festival at Mt Lawley's pop-up Noodle Palace, actors, musicians and comics take to the stage around the clock while, in 600 Seconds, performers have just 10 minutes each to make an impression on their fickle audiences in the tiny Blue Room theatre.

Some other quirky events include the Public Space promenade performance around the Perth Cultural Centre, the Death by Soprano famous operatic death scenes at the Noodle Palace, the Folklahoma micro-folk festival at Clancy's Fremantle and the Duck Project auction of artistic wooden ducks at Heathcote.

Fringe World program producer Amber Hasler says shows like The Wives of Hemingway, Uta Uber Kool Ja, Spin the Bottle and Cathedral Candlelight Cabaret epitomise the broad church that is the fringe.

The Wives of Hemingway, by Zoe Pepper's Side Pony productions, will be playing at The Havana Special, a tiki-styled backyard turned into Ernest Hemingway's big-game jungle for the tale of angry former wives hunting down the hard-livin', hard-drinkin', hard-lovin' author.

"Having access to a really off-beat venue will add a new dimension," Hasler says. "It just adds a whole other new sensation to what you are seeing. It is really an amazing work they have created."

A hit at fringes elsewhere, the hotel-room show Uta Uber Kool Ja is immersive theatre at its best as an irrepressible washed-up diva throws a party for just 30 audience members, complete with bubbly wine for all, tales of misadventures, extreme mood swings and mandatory dancing in a guest room at the Riverview Hotel.

"She created this show for the Melbourne Fringe a few years ago and we saw it at the Adelaide Fringe and said 'You must bring it to Perth'," Hasler says. "It is heaps of fun. I would recommend it absolutely."

Hasler says the many mixed and varied venues enhance the personality of the festival.

"It is a really nice way to see some of the smaller, less performance-driven kind of things," she says. "It is a bit more engaging in terms of intimate, personal and interesting stories. People feel that this (Fringe World) is a platform for them to present their work when it doesn't necessarily fit in a traditional theatre environment or a little bar."

The West Australian

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