AU ABROAD

First details revealed for Perth's Fringe World Festival in January 2012.

Perth’s Fringe World Festival is set to explode in 2012, with the full program launching online, featuring over 150 shows happening over three and a half jam-packed weeks, from Australia Day, January 26- February 19.

Expanding on the success of the pilot program run in Fringe World’s Spiegeltent earlier in 2011, Perth’s first full Fringe Festival will bring the City to life in 2012 with events taking place in more than 30 traditional and non-traditional venues across the City and surrounds.

Interviewed during a photo-shoot with a range of local performers participating in the 2012 Fringe, Premier Colin Barnett said, “Perth’s coming out of being a bit isolated, perhaps an overly conservative city, and it can now indulge itself in the different art forms and some of the more extravagant and outrageous acts and different performances.

“I think the whole arts and culture scene in the state is developing quickly now and this is a little overdue. We’ve had the high-brow level, Perth International Arts Festival has grown, and now I very much encourage the Fringe. It’s appealing to people who might enjoy something that’s a bit different, a bit whacky, they expect to be entertained, maybe a bit affronted, or surprised, or shocked. It’s got real appeal.”

As part of the festival, the old Treasury Building on St Georges Terrace will open its doors to the public for the first time in over 15 years, with the space being transformed into a key performance hub for the 2012 Fringe World Festival, hosting over 50 shows over the course of the three and a half weeks.

Granted a rare one-off use of the Old Treasury Buildings by the WA State Government, Fringe World are building seven different temporary performance spaces throughout the Treasury and the neighbouring Perth Town Hall, for performances ranging from burlesque and aerial acrobatics to cabaret, comedy, music and theatre productions.

On the opening up of the heritage listed building to Fringe World, Premier Colin Barnett has spoken of his anticipation in seeing the transformed venue.

“This is probably the last time a group like this will be able to hold performances in this building in its semi-dilapidated state and that makes for a really interesting theatre space and performance area, which will really appeal to people to come in here. In a few years it will all be redeveloped and it will look magnificent, but it’s great to see the building get used in the meantime.”

Over the period following Fringe World, the Old Treasury Buildings are set for a world-class redevelopment by FJM Property and Mirvac that is part of a transformation of the wider central city precinct, a development that Premier Colin Barnett is looking forward to.

“This has been a project that successive governments have worked on for years, to try and see the redevelopment of the Treasury building, and at last it’s finally happening. It’s a beautiful piece of architecture, one of our most important buildings, this is a good way to draw attention to its new life.”

Part of the new life that Fringe World will be breathing into this important example of WA architectural history is The Treasure Chest, a huge free outdoor performance space, built into the vacant lot between the Treasury and Perth Town Hall. It will form the central entrance point to the Fringe World Treasury hub, from where punters will be able to explore the different spaces and performances on offer.

Other major hubs (besides the Fringe World Treasury) include the City of Perth Comedy Central hub in Northbridge and the Perth Cultural Centre. The Perth Cultural Centre hub will see both the return of the famous Spiegeltent in the Urban Orchard outside the Art Gallery of Western Australia, and for the first time ever, a show performed in the courtyard of the new State Theatre Centre. Premier Colin Barnett described the investment by the government in Fringe as being a part of the broader growth of culture across the state.

“The total government contribution to this Fringe is $387,000 from the Department of Culture and the Arts and $700,000 from Lotterywest. The advancement of the arts in Perth has been very strong. The redevelopment of the Perth Cultural Centre and the opening of the new State Theatre Centre has been important, and the festivals themselves. The state is investing heavily in promoting these events both in the city, and right across Western Australia”

Program highlights of the 2012 Fringe include return acts The Wau Wau Sisters (USA), Barry Morgan (AUS) and The Freak and the Showgirl (US/UK), who are each returning with new shows because they loved Perth audiences so much.

Smash hit shows from Fringes around the globe will make their way to Perth including The Table (Poland), The Year of Magical W**king (Ireland), …miskien (South Africa), Die Roten Punkte (Germany) and Wacht! (Netherlands). Fringe festival favourite Meow Meow (USA) will also be stopping off at Perth Fringe World, hot on the heels of her already sold out Sydney Festival season.

A strong line up of local and national performers rounds out the program including Brisbane’s Briefs, Melbourne-based up-and-coming musical comedian Josh Earl with Josh Earl vs The Australian Women's Weekly Children's Birthday Cake Book and Perth’s own Tim Watts (The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik) with his new show Pollyanna. STRUT dance will bring STRUTathon, a ten hour dance marathon, and 2008 Blue Room Award winning production Hope is the Saddest will be performed as part of The Blue Room Theatre’s Summer Nights program.

Children and families have not been forgotten in the mix with a stack of free and affordable family friendly shows on offer including award-winning shadow puppetry master Mr Bunk in Sticks, Stones, Broken Bones (Canada) and Glee Club-esque a cappella group Hong Kong Melody Makers (Hong Kong) putting a quirky twist on pop hits.

Fringe World director Marcus Canning can’t wait to open the doors to the festival in on January 26. “With The Treasury and Perth Town Hall in the middle of the City as one Fringe hub, our Spiegeltent in the Cultural Centre as another, and all the other venues through the city hosting Fringe shows, we’ve got the most novel and exciting festival experiences on offer this summer and people are going to love it.”

The Fringe kicks off on Australia Day 26 January with ‘4 Day Weekend’ featuring special free programs and pop-up treats across the Fringe World hubs and beyond. The festival runs over three and a half jam-packed weeks, with entertainment choices to amuse, bemuse, confound and inspire until 19 February. Tickets are on sale now and range from $5 - $40. Punters are encouraged to get in quick as some shows will sell out fast. The full program and tickets for all shows can be found at www.fringeworld.com.au.