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How to choose your Fringe World shows

Seesaw’s Nina Levy offers her tips for avoiding a Festival freak out navigating the Fringe World program.

Ah Fringe World. When, for a blissful month, Perth becomes a cultural wonderland, packed to the gills with arty goodness and fairy-lit festival gardens. This year’s Fringe World is bigger than ever with over 750 events to choose from. It’s set to go off with a bang from January 26, with a long weekend stuffed full of free and ticketed treats that will launch us into over four weeks of Fringe fun-times.

Opening the Fringe World program brochure for the first time (or browsing the website if you prefer) is exciting… but it can also be daunting. 750 is a big number. More than 750 is even bigger. It’s not difficult to morph from Fringe anticipation to Fringe panic.

To help you avoid a Fringe Freak Out, Seesaw’s editor Nina Levy has put together this handy guide for choosing a show. These suggestions are in no particular order and may be used independently of one another.

Get comfortable and go old school
As the folk at Fringe World suggest, don’t rush this. Make a cup of your preferred hot beverage (or pour a glass of your favourite cold one), and relax while you browse the brochure. While the program is available online, Seesaw recommends grabbing a hard copy of the program for the purposes of choosing shows.

Don’t try to do it in one go
Life is short but the program is long. It will be easier to make decisions if you’ve had a few chances to peruse the program before you start the selection process.

Break it down
a) By genre: The hard copy guide is conveniently organised by genre and tackling a genre at a time is a great way to avoid overwhelm.. although – be warned – some of the genres seem like festival programs in their own right. If too much choice stresses you out we suggest starting with one of the following: dance & physical theatrefree & community, music & musicals, street performance buskers or visual arts.

b) By hub/venue: Some of the Fringe venues run curated micro-programs under the Fringe World umbrella. Seesaw’s pick of the bunch is the ‘Summer Nights’ program which operates from the Blue Room Theatre, the State Theatre Centre of WA and COMO The Treasury. Check out some of the suburban programs too such as the Sunset Verandah in Scarborough, or further afield, regional programs like Geraldton’s Funtavia.

Second time around
If a show is returning from last year it’s likely that it was popular the first time around. You can Google the reviews and/or talk to friends who saw the show to get a better idea of whether it’s for you; likewise artists who are returning with a sequel/follow-up show. Case in point: Lucy Peach’s My Greatest Period Ever was a huge success at Fringe World 2017, winning the Martin Sims Award (the top prize at Fringe World). Peach is back in 2018 with that show plus How to Period Like a Unicorn, aimed at teens and their parents.

Take a risk
Don’t play it safe, though. There’s always that show that takes your fancy even though you know nothing about the artists or company involved. Maybe they have a super cool promo photograph or the blurb made you laugh out aloud… whatever, having a strong image or copy doesn’t happen by chance and does tell you something positive about the presenter. Go with your gut – most Fringe shows are relatively cheap (especially the ones that are lesser known) and only take up an hour of your life so you can afford to back some outsiders. And there’s nothing like the thrill of realising, a few minutes in, that you totally picked a winner. (My gut tip is Turquoise Theatre’s Seventeen. Premise: actors over 60 play 17 year olds. Cool pic. I’m in.)

Support your local
Seesaw is all about WA so we strongly suggest you include some WA acts when booking your Fringe shows. While we can’t guarantee enjoyment, we reckon you’re in with a good chance of a solid show – one of the reasons we started Seesaw this year is because of the high quality of artistic work coming out of our state. If we want WA to remain a cool arty place we need to support our artists, so make sure you’ve got some WA in the mix. Handily Fringe includes this info in each listing, alongside an age rating and sizzle factor or you can head to the Homegrown Heroes page, which has a link to all the local acts.

Once Fringe starts there’ll be reviews to read (keep an eye out for Seesaw’s coverage) plus recommendations from friends. It’s worth leaving some space in your calendar for impulse tickets but remember that Fringe venues are often small and word-of-mouth spreads quickly, so it’s worth booking for anything you really want to see.

See you there!

– Nina Levy

Photo: John Leonard

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