Postcard from Adelaide

Diane Spencer looks back at the Fringe festival

This year it was my first time at the Adelaide fringe festival. I had never been to Oz before, my only real ‘experience’ coming from Steve Irwin’s Crocodile Hunter.

The festival coincided with Womad (World of Music and Dance), Adelaide Street Theatre Festival (world of pissing-off the street performers who had come to the fringe, rather than that festival) and Clipsal 500 (world of cunts who like cars). To have all of these festivals at once in a small town meant that there was intense competition for audience, especially as the Adelaide Fringe is second in size to Edinburgh – and this year was twice as large as in 2009.

The popular area to flyer, I was told, was Rundle Mall. This didn’t prove quite the case – there were many street performers who regularly commanded the attention of the crowds. I often found that chatting to people sitting at cafes provided a better haul. There was also some weird territorial moves. When I wanted to flyer punters leaving a female comedy line-up show, I was warned off the public street by a door bitch who insisted that this audience was hers and the shows for that venue should take priority. Her attitude pissed me off and I said once they were on the street, they were fair game. Suddenly I felt like a bereft hooker having a turf war.

Sometimes getting an audience was worse than not having one at all. The worst result was to get an influx of pissed-up dudes wearing Ford T-shirts. Expecting to deal with cunts is usual fare at a gig, but you hope for something better at a festival, where you’re up there for an hour. The noise from the cars actually drowned out some of the shows happening at the tented venues in the Garden, and some buskers had to give up working Rundle Mall because the street theatre festival came in. Some people cancelled their runs, paid the bruising venue hire and slunk away to lick their wounds in preparation for Melbourne.

The beaches in Adelaide are not to be missed, Brighton especially, which makes you accept the infinite space between the sky and the sea. The sand is white, the beaches long and the warm sea is the type of beautiful azure blue you only see in magazines.

Jaywalking is a crime in Adelaide – I saw police officers regularly booking people with their on-the-spot $200 fines. You have to fight every instinct in your body not to do it, because I think they hide in wait.

The camaraderie was excellent, and the people of Adelaide were some of the friendliest, most generous people. I don’t think I even opened a door myself.

There was the wonderful woman who coordinated my posters/flyers as well as producing her husband’s show and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, coffee shop outings with friends, supportive and enthusiastic venue/fringe staff, meeting new people, drinking on rooftops till sunrise, watching stars at the beach and getting outrageously drunk and being told off by numerous security people at the Fringe awards (yes, because telling a group of carnies, comedians and circus folk to behave is going to work).

It was magic, and despite the tales of woe, and the undulation of people’s moods, there was a brilliant bonding spirit that was so sweet we all momentarily got diabetes.

I had a sad moment occur in my personal life, wrote a quick ‘Diane Spencer gutted’ note on Facebook, to which one well meaning friend replied: ‘Those reviewers don’t know anything.’ Which let me know all at once, that I had not only this sad moment, but a bad review as well.

At this point, I checked the newspaper website, and my crying turned to hysterical laughing as I realised I had been given HALF a star. I was secretly pleased I could create such a trainwreck.

Then on reading the review, it became obvious that this was a typo – I went to the beach with a mate, just preferring to get some space. An hour later, I received phone calls and messages from new and old friends who had leapt to my defence and challenged the editor – the other three stars had been duly stuck on the website. People I had only met a few days ago had written emails, made phone calls, there really was a sense of family and protection. Whenever somebody put out the SOS call “I have judges in tonight!” we all duly rushed to be in the venue, filling out the empty seats that not even a day of flyering could fill, and using our own laughter to drown out the car noises.

Although Adelaide Fringe is not dedicated to comedy, if you are on the beginnings of your adventure, Adelaide is a friendly and helpful place to start. The Fringe Office did what they could to support their artists and provided a friendly haven. The staff would make time for you no matter how busy they were. The double bookings with the other festivals isn’t perfect, but it teaches you how to be more tenacious in your marketing, that’s for damn sure. But it’s a chance to see a wide range of work and get to know lots of talented people from different areas, without the hills, rain and intensity of Edinburgh. Adelaide Fringe gets a yes from me.

  • Diane is currently performing her show Lost In The Mouth Specific at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Published: 4 Apr 2010

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