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Behind The Fringe

18 September 2013 | 1:48 pm | Tobias Manderson Galvin

"Before it’s retired to be the pet of a privileged, pigtailed girl of the outer suburbs, Fringe shows no sign of slowing down."

MY FIRST MELBOURNE FRINGE FESTIVAL

2008, I spent the full three weeks wearing nothing but a pair of red speedos, a leather jacket, hair rollers, black cowboy boots and speaking exclusively in third person. I'd spent six months with a personal trainer building the body of my dreams. I'd slept with the director to get the role. The show was on late, and we sold out every night. When producers from 'real' theatres came I did the worst show of the season. We were fringe, staying fringe and even more fringe next time we did a show in a carpark where we chained up an actor for three days for what we told him was character research. None of this was going to happen anywhere else and all of it could be witnessed by the punters.

MELBOURNE FRINGE FESTIVAL IS OVER THE HILL THIS YEAR

Thirty years old but before we send it out to pasture, it breaks its leg in a race and we shoot it in the head. Before it's retired to be the pet of a privileged, pigtailed girl of the outer suburbs, Fringe shows no sign of slowing down. This year includes the stalwart Fringe Furniture (explains itself), the new Digital Creatures/Digital Gardens series showcasing new digital works and forms, as well as the ever popular North Melbourne Fringe Hub (a semi-curated chain of venues with some of the best work, making your mind up for you somewhat).

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THE BEST THING ABOUT MELBOURNE FRINGE FESTIVAL

(Which we'll now call 'MFF' or 'mother-fucker-fucker' for short)

I've been going to Adelaide Fringe (bigger) for as long as I have MFF, and Edinburgh Fringe since last year (way bigger, and started the movement) but what keeps MFF ahead of the rest is that it is the only one that hasn't sold out. The Fringe movement was created as a counter-point to major arts festivals; at their best Fringes comprise the shows that are too obscure, too fucked up, too hard for mainstream audiences – at a quarter of the cost. Unfortunately as time has gone on most Fringes have been over-run with mainstream anyway. What makes Melbourne Fringe the best is it is separate from major venue groups and other edge festivals. Melbourne keeps its Comedy fest, Spiegeltents etc separate so MFF gives you a towering level of fringe competition. The best artists of Melbourne, Australia and internationals-who-could-make-it-here know they've got your attention – they're ready and willing to throw down for it. Fringe acts are rarely supported by tax dollars, mining funds or corporate sponsorship; more likely the risk has come from the artist. Fringe epitomises what Melbourne does best; like boutique Mexican street-food vending, fixie bike riding, Day of the Dead-themed barber shops cum graffiti art galleries cum fetish expos cum crafternoon disco dance party cum laneways. Melbourne does niche like nowhere else and MFF is THE annual festival where it all goes down.

HOW TO FRINGE: A ONE-PART SERIES OF ONE

Part 1: Read The Music's Fringe Festival Guide 2013.

PUNTERS AND ARTISTS ALIKE: I do hereby declare the 2013 Fringe Festival open!

MKA SHOWS THIS FRINGE

WHAT: Kids Killing Kids

20 Sep to 3 Oct, Fringe Hub, North Melbourne Town Hall, The Warehouse

WHAT: Unsex Me

28 Sep to 5 Oct, Fringe Hub, Lithuanian Club, Son Of Loft

WHAT: Side Effect

20 to 27 Sep, Fringe Hub, meet on steps of North Melbourne Town Hall