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A drag queen wearing a large orange wig, orange lace skivvy and orange leopard print halter dress
Photograph: Supplied

Our top picks of the Melbourne Fringe Festival

It's that time again when bold, independent artists take over the city – here's what to look out for at Melbourne Fringe Festival 2020

By Nicola Dowse

Last year Melbourne Fringe Festival made the leap from its North Melbourne hub to Trades Hall. This year it's made another leap, albeit a more abstract one. 

Melbourne Fringe Festival returns from November 12 to 29 to bless the city with all its wild, boundary-pushing creativity, while also pushing for audiences to stay safe. The 2020 program leads the way as one of Melbourne's first (if not the first) major events following a subdued year, carving a path for how to present art and performance while adhering to health restrictions. 

This year, most of Fringe is presented online, but the program is as innovative as ever. There are shows presented via Zoom... but there are also audio experiences, art shows within video games, participatory online parties and even a smattering of socially distanced outdoor events.

We know as well as anybody that the Fringe program can be overwhelming. If you don't know where to start, here are some of our faves.

You can check out the full program on the website. Only into comedy, cabaret or dance? Sort by section on the site and you'll find individual genres. 

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Highlights of the Melbourne Fringe Festival

Choir-2K people singing at Club Fringe
Photograph: Supplied

1. Club Fringe at Home

Clubs Your Place, Melbourne

Club Fringe is one of the highlights of every Melbourne Fringe Festival, so there was no way it wasn't making a comeback in 2020. Last year the hub was based out of Trades Hall for the first time – this year, it'll be online for the first time, with organisers encouraging at-home revellers to push back the furniture, create a dancefloor and party on with a stack of music, drag, art and performances throughout the festival.


A man's face with five whole carrots sticking out of his mouth
Photograph: Karen Lowe

2. Tomás Ford: Come Have A Bath With Me?

Theatre Performance art Your Place, Melbourne

Tomás Ford is drawing himself a bath, and inviting guests to do the same, while he performs his latest show. Those familiar with Ford might know him for his Crap Music Rave Parties or sets at the late, great Pony, and you can expect a similar level of wild performances, eclectic songs and trashy-but-in-a-good-way drag. And no, even though you’ll be seeing Ford in the tub, the show is broadcast (as opposed to Zoomed) so your birthday suit won’t be on show to Ford or others watching.

A person wearing a tshirt and backwards-facing cap holding a whiteboard in front of their mouth that says "Tell me something I don't know"
Photograph: Duncan Jacob

3. Tell Me Something I Don't Know

Things to do Classes and workshops Your Place, Melbourne

It’s never too late to learn something new, as the artists taking part in Tell Me Something I Don’t Know can attest. Every day at 1pm during Melbourne Fringe Festival, a different artist will be taking over the festival’s Facebook page for five minutes to teach us something new. Maybe it’ll be something serious or useful – maybe it won’t. A diverse line-up of creatives have signed on to mentor at-home Melburnians, however, so you’re sure to learn something along the way from the likes of Nina Oyama, Clementine Ford, Karen from Finance and Jude Perl to name a few.

A lit doorway surrounded by darkness
Photograph: Julian Rickert

4. Interior

Theatre Your Place, Melbourne

Creepy Zoom and audio experiences have really had a moment this year. While many of us swaddled ourselves in saccharine content to numb our suffering, some brave brave souls have decided to lean into the increasingly creative nightmare that is 2020 by engaging with equally nightmarish entertainment. Enter Interior

Interior turns your house into a stage – and an eerie one at that. The live film experience is made to be watched under very specific, very unsettling circumstances – namely in bed, in the dark and completely alone. Details about exactly what you’ll see unfold on screen are thin on the ground but suffice to say Interior will turn your cosy little abode into something much more ominous.

The silhouette of a person under an umbrella starting at Melbourne city around twilight
Photograph: Jemima Yong

5. A Rain Walk

Things to do Your Place, Melbourne

A Rain Walk makes use of Melbourne’s famous penchant for spontaneous precipitation by turning rain showers into the stage for an audio experience during Melbourne Fringe Festival 2020. The experience asks adults and families to go for a walk during the rain while listening to an audio track. While out on your rainy walk, voiced of children from Australia and New Zealand will guide you to watch, listen, imagine and play in the rain. 

Fancy a drink after all that art?

Cocktail at Romeo Lane
Photograph: Nathalie Saldumbide

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Bars Cocktail bars

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