Newcastle Fringe festival - back March 18-22 - offers something for all entertainment tastes

VARIETY: Newcastle Fringe founder and director Phillip Aughey. The performing arts variety festival returns to Newcastle venues March 18-22. Picture: Marina Neil
VARIETY: Newcastle Fringe founder and director Phillip Aughey. The performing arts variety festival returns to Newcastle venues March 18-22. Picture: Marina Neil

Entertainment tastes of all varieties will be sated when Newcastle Fringe returns to the city in March.

The popular performing arts festival, which turns five in 2020, features a strong line-up of 27-plus acts and 78 performances ranging from cabaret, children's theatre, comedy, music, dance, spoken word and circus, all of which will be staged in Newcastle venues March 18 to 22.

Newcastle Fringe founder and director Phillip Aughey said the five-day festival showcased a smorgasbord of performing artists and variety acts which meant it had "something for everyone".

"One of the beauties of a Fringe festival is that it caters for a magnitude of different tastes in entertainment," Mr Aughey said.

"Given the nature of a Fringe festival, audiences are treated to performing art that they are not likely to see anywhere else."

Fringe is a festival of performing arts. The festivals are open to all artists and any artistic concept. Due to this, Fringe festivals have become a showplace of art for art's sake. They have also become a great launching pad for careers.

"In an environment where entertainment must be commercial and have broad appeal, Fringe festivals present art with no such constraints," Mr Aughey said.

Phillip Aughey. Picture: Marina Neil

Phillip Aughey. Picture: Marina Neil

The idea for a Newcastle Fringe was conceived in 2014 when Mr Aughey took his own play, The Exchange, to the Edinburgh Fringe festival. While Mr Aughey was cooking eggs in Edinburgh one morning, one his cast members, Matt MacFarlane, said: "You know Phil, you should start up a Newcastle Fringe".

The seed was sown into Mr Aughey's mind. Three days later he ventured into an Edinburgh park, sat down on a bench and only emerged two hours later when the idea for a Newcastle Fringe was "nutted out".

Sixteen months later, in January 2016, Mr Aughey ran the first Newcastle Fringe. Since then, Newcastle Fringe has only grown. Mr Aughey said audience attendance to the 2019 festival was "well over 100 per cent greater" to the first Fringe in 2016.

Newcastle Fringe is strategically timed to follow the Perth and Adelaide Fringe festivals in order to take advantage of touring artists.

Following its tour to Adelaide Fringe, ending March 15, Grist to the Mill, a theatre company from England, will show three of its productions - Moby Dick, Gratiano and the Ballad of Mulan - in Newcastle Fringe. The award-winning production company will stage their productions at WEA Creative Arts Centre in Hamilton and the Royal Exchange.

Negah Theatre Group, from Iran, will also bring their production, called Me, a tale about the plight of women in Iran, to Newcastle Fringe.

While Newcastle Fringe attracts international touring acts, one of its strengths is providing a platform for local artists to showcase their talents.

Newcastle entertainer Hannah Indigo. Picture: Supplied

Newcastle entertainer Hannah Indigo. Picture: Supplied

One of those artists is Newcastle hula hoop artist Hannah Indigo. After hosting a successful debut production in the first Newcastle Fringe in 2016 she is back this year with an all new show, titled OMG WTF, featuring the talents of nine performers.

OMG WTF features a selection of variety acts including burlesque, sideshow, circus and drag.

"I wanted to provide a platform for variety artists to display their art that might not be seen in your average cabaret show, and to also showcase to the community some of the amazing talent we have right here in Newcastle," Ms Indigo said.

Mr MacFarlane, who planted the Newcastle Fringe idea in Mr Aughey's mind six years ago, has entered a show into the 2020 festival. The Carrington Crooner, featuring MacFarlane, his own brand of comedic sense, band and special guests, will be held at The Lock-Up on the final day of the festival.

Returning for his fifth Newcastle Fringe will be Newcastle comedian Clark Gormley. He will present the sequel to his 2018 Fringe show Re Dial N for Nerder at the Royal Exchange on March 18, 19 and 20.

Mr Aughey said one of the greatest challenges in keeping Newcastle Fringe going in the past five years was funding. He thanked Port Waratah Coal Services for its sponsorship of the past three years, and to The Lock-Up in Newcastle for its in kind support.

He also thanked his staff, many of which are volunteers.

For the full 2020 Newcastle Fringe Festival program and to purchase tickets go to newcastlefringe.com.au.

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