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  • Liane Morris

Newcastle Fringe Festival - Affordable Fun for Everyone!

Every March since 2016 there has been a little festival in Newcastle that has been growing bigger and bigger each year. That festival is the Newcastle Fringe and this year; it’s scheduled to run from 17 to 21 March with a week of streaming on-demand following on from the live festival (#bingenewyfringe). With over one hundred events in eleven different venues and an average ticket price of $20, there is something for everyone.



A fringe festival is a series of performances that can cover all genres of performance art and is generally open access. This means that the selection of performances is not curated and is usually open to any artist that applies. Think – no censorship.

The most famous fringe festival in the world is the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which has been running since 1947. There is now a global fringe movement with 261 fringes listed in cities all around the world. In Australia, Adelaide Fringe is the largest in the country and now the second-largest fringe festival in the world.

Fringe festivals are known for being edgy, unique and diverse – very different to mainstream entertainment. They provide an opportunity for emerging artists to gain valuable experience in live performance, arts marketing, promotion and administration. Many celebrities today had their beginnings in the fringe movement. A successful fringe is a sign of a healthy arts culture.


Newcastle Fringe Festival was founded in 2016 by local writer, director, actor and pianist Phil Aughey after his time performing at the Edinburgh Fringe. In late 2019 he incorporated and established a volunteer board that all brought different skill sets to the table. The Newcastle Fringe Festival Inc. team all volunteer their time and energy to create the festival, and it’s a massive job.

“It’s exciting when you see it all come together. This year has been amazing. Clearly, there is a hunger to perform, and we’re all stoked that we have so many wonderfully talented artists in our program.

“There’s incredible diversity, and it’s wonderful to know that we are creating something that wouldn’t exist without the work we’re doing. The venues are excited too. Since COVID, there hasn’t been much in the way of live entertainment, and we feel privileged to be able to put this incredible festival together,” said Erin Cullen, board member and Operations Director of Newcastle Fringe.


Last year, before COVID hit, the festival was shaping up to be the biggest yet with ticket sales 250% up on the previous year, but two days before the launch, COVID restrictions came into place, and the festival had to be cancelled. It was one of the first arts events affected. Some artists had travelled internationally to perform, and the disappointment was intense. This year, every effort has been made to ensure that the festival is as COVID proof as it can be. For this reason, more venues have been added to the pool and vetted with COVID safety in mind. Venues include Carrington Bowling Club, The Creative Art Space, The Royal Exchange, The Base, The Grand Hotel, The Gallipoli Club, Lizottes, Adamstown Uniting Church, The Dungeon, The Station and Event Cinemas Kotara. In most instances, unless sold out in advance, tickets will be available at the door, but with restricted numbers, booking is advised.

2020 was a difficult year for artists and venues. The festival is important to everyone – the artists, the venues and the audience, as it provides five days of employment, customers and enjoyment. People are hungry to get out again, and Newcastle Fringe provides a low cost and safe option to do so. Artists are local to NSW, and without the ability to travel nationally or internationally, they need the opportunity and the work. (#supportarts)

Top: Learn to hoola hoop with Hannah Indigo Above: Children's Show "Switch Witchetty’s Almanac of Everything"


The Newcastle Fringe for 2021 has the most incredible range of variety yet. From burlesque, “Bang Bang Bandits Variety Show” and Black Starr Cabaret, to spoken word "Not for the Clutched", "Girls to the Front". There is quality theatre from the highly acclaimed Jopuka Theatre Company, local identity Steven Wilson, "Camino Man" and emerging actor, writer talent in Alex Lykos with "Jawbone". A wide range of music styles from gypsy to classical, Hunter Wind Quintet, punk rock to acclaimed guitarist Victor Martinez Parada from Argentina.

Newcastle Fringe is delighted to have children's shows including, “Switch Witchetty’s Almanac of Everything” and “Do the Hibble Hop” as well as “Circus Box”, a street theatre in the circus ring. There are several local artists represented.

Favourites such as Clark Gormley, Hannah Indigo, Andrew Wu are back, together with new shows from local artists including, "Mad Bitches Inc", "Who let the Dyke Out", two new works from emerging local artist, Eddy Rockfeller, "Fever" being presented by Sage Scott, "Day Dreamers Playhouse" from Newcastle Fire and Flow, Red Orchestra and "Piss to EME".

There are also shows from two highly acclaimed emerging stand-ups in Tom Whitcombe and Harry Jun. A highlight cabaret act is "Disenchanted" with soprano Eliane Morel, and the double bill shows at Lizotte's feature outstanding artists with the highlight being the Saturday show with “The Music of Petty & Nicks” and “The Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazelwood Experience” with well-known actress, Zoe Carides playing Nancy.




A first for Newcastle Fringe Festival! The support of the Hunter Central Coast Development Corporation and The Station has enabled the festival to program a weekend of fringe fun for all the family. It comes completely free except for a small charge to participate in any of the workshops that are running such as, Kids Theatre with Bree Cunningham ($10pp age 7+), Trash Art with Trash Pixie ($6pp all ages), Newcastle Parkour in the Piazza ($10.75pp age 7+) and Beginner’s Hoolahooping with Hannah Indigo Hoops ($7pp ages 7+).

SATURDAY 9AM–2PM kicks off with the Homegrown Markets plus a Fringe Cultural Marketplace – creative arts schools showcase their children and adults' classes. There will be roving entertainment with Hannah Indigo Hoops and Newcastle Fire and Flow, a visit by the Curious Legends Wish Dragon and a selection of Fringe Teasers & Tasters – fringe performers presenting a taste of their fringe shows. Teasers & Tasters include poet Anna Forsyth, music by Red Orchestra, comedy by Lauren Budden and improv star Lou Chapman.

SUNDAY 4PM–10PM includes the Hunter Arts Network Art Bazaar, various food trucks, the Made in Newcastle Street Show Festival and a serious musical extravaganza with Newcastle’s famous Ukestra with ukuleles galore, indie-folk musician Julieanne McVey, quirky songs and laughs with Nerds & Music, UoN’s band comp winner Viragos, jazz with Breeze and retro grooves with Newcastle’s own DJ Maynard who will also MC the closing night party and awards presentation of Best in Fringe.

Above: "Wine Mums: Live. Laugh. Love"


Another first for Newcastle Fringe is the partnership with Lizottes and the presentation of double-bills. As most shows are only one hour long, the double-bills negate the need to move from venue to venue. It also opens up the Lizottes traditional audience to the Newcastle Fringe.

“Wine Mums: Live. Laugh. Love” and “Unplanned Melodies Cabaret” Thursday from 7.30pm, includes MC Maynard. “Wine Mums: Live. Laugh. Love.” is cheaper than therapy and much funnier. Empty nesters Jan and Marie have too much time on their hands – they’re here to help you with your love, sex or relationship problems. This clever and funny show will have you in stitches.

“Unplanned Melodies Cabaret” is a hilarious musical improv troupe that has enjoyed sold-out shows at the Australian Improv Festival. The audience's suggestions are used to create an entirely original musical – melodic, lyrical, silly and raucous.

“OMG. WTF” and “The Bang Bang Bandit Variety Show” Friday from 7.30pm, includes MC Maynard. This is burlesque night! “OMG. WTF” is an awkwardly arousing heady mix of burlesque, circus, drag, sideshow and magic. It’s a platform for various artists to display art that might not be seen in your average cabaret show. Expect the unexpected.

“The Bang Bang Bandit Variety Show” is heading to the Lizottes Saloon to treat audiences to a mix of burlesque, comedy, circus, drag, vaudeville and song. Yeeha! This is the hottest show in the wild-west.

“The Music of Petty & Nicks” and “The Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazelwood Experience” Saturday from 7.30pm. “The Music of Petty & Nicks” is the best of Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty by Bathurst based singer, Sophie Jones and Sydney producer Michael Carpenter with the rhythm section of Charlie Lee and Russell Crawford and covers an incredible range of hits and classics.

“The Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazelwood Experience” stars well-known actor Zoe Carides as Nancy and Scott Holmes as Lee, together with The Nancy Boys. It reimagines the Sixties through the eyes of the iconic Nancy and Lee and includes a string of hits such as “These Boots Are Made for Walking.”


This inaugural international filmmaker’s competition celebrates film as an art form. It showcases heats of the weirdest, quirkiest, fringiest short films and animations in three heats culminating in the judging and awards. Winners will receive a screenwriting workshop with Serhat Caradee, Director of Australian AACTA Award-nominated film “A Lion Returns,” which will screen at 7pm and be followed by a Q&A session with Serhat and locally born producer, Liz Burton.

“A Lion Returns”: Jamal has just returned to Australia after spending 18 months in Syria. No-one knows what he did or who he was with. He’s back in the country and wants to see his terminally ill mother, however, has to deal with his strong-minded older brother Omar, his wife Heidi and their young son, but most importantly his unforgiving father. But why has Jamal really come back? Is he a militant with a cause or an easily led pawn in a bigger global picture? A story about redemption, forgiveness and the consequences of your actions on loved ones. MA15+


“Moth” Fri–Sun, 6pm at The Dungeon; “Samson” Fri–Sun, 7.30pm at The Dungeon; and “Gaybies” Fri–Sun, 9pm at The Creative Arts Space. Tix all $20 per person.

“Moth” Sebastian is a terminally unpopular fifteen-year-old suburban kid, with an overactive imagination and an obsession with anime and death. His only friend, Claryssa, is an emo Wiccan art-freak barely one rung higher than Sebastian on the social ladder. What starts as just another night drinking down at the cricket nets soon gives way to an ecstatic vision that leaves Sebastian unconscious, their friendship left in ruin. Written by Declan Green and presented as part of Jopuka’s Rocket Fuel Program “Samson” Essie, Beth, Sid and Rabbit are growing up at the arse end of the world. Boredom, decay and violence plague their lives. The accidental death of a friend has torn apart all their assumptions about loyalty, love and life. And when a new kid comes to town with his own secrets and baggage, their fragile equilibrium faces a fresh test. “Samson” fizzes with truth; it is brutal yet gentle, funny yet sad, young yet old. Julia-Rose Lewis’s

“Samson” is a big-hearted and darkly beautiful play which offers a window into the world of young Australians today—presented as part of Jopuka’s Rocket Fuel Program.

“Gaybies” Hotly political and deeply personal, Dean Bryant’s “Gaybies” is a funny and moving piece of verbatim theatre that tells the story of children who have grown up with gay parents. Drawn straight from interviews with children aged four to forty, these are authentic accounts of family life told with humour, honesty and wisdom. Presented as a semi-staged reading by Jopuka Productions and Directed by Joshua Maxwell with Music by Quinn Carter.


Cabaret is a staple of fringe festivals the world over and Newcastle is no exception. If you love cabaret, don’t miss these highlights of the festival.

“Zlatko’s Balkan Cabaret” – Sat 6pm, Sun 4.30pm. The Base, tix $15–$20 Free your Inner Gypsy! Fiery, powerful, gentle, romantic… “Zlatko’s Balkan Cabaret” brings you all the captivating music of the Romany gypsies and Balkan folk songs. This ensemble of talented and vibrant musicians from the Illawarra entrances audiences with the spirit and mystery of this ancient culture, from poignant love songs to irresistible dance music. As they share their love of their Romany roots, the vibrant intensity of true gypsy blood flows through their music to transform audiences into a passionate gypsy troupe.

“Disenchanted: A Cabaret of Twisted Fairytales” – Fri–Sunday 7.30pm, The Base. Tix $30 Why was the wolf in Grandma’s bed? Were Goldilocks and Cinderella really that innocent? How were the three pigs involved in the building industry? Find out in this cabaret of fairy tales for adults. Fresh from the Sydney Fringe Festival, a Far South Coast tour and season at Bondi Pavilion, soprano Eliane Morel transports you to a 17th Century Parisian salon where you will meet characters who amaze, delight and make you laugh out loud. Audiences have said it’s: ‘Sexy, subversive and audacious’, ‘Mesmerising’, ‘Spectacularly good’ and ‘Full of life, laughs, surprises and heartbreaking reality.’

“Black Starr Cabaret” – Fri + Sat 7.30pm, The Gallipoli Club; Sun 9pm, The Royal Exchange. Tix $25 At night the misfits come! Welcome to temptation at “Black Starr Cabaret”, a modern-day vaudeville, in which audiences will be thrilled with cabaret, burlesque, circus and a lashing of magic. After a quiet 2020, the misfits are itching to take the stage once again to mesmerise and beguile you. You’ll be teased, tantalised and left wanting more.

“Mad Bitches Inc.” – Wed + Fri 9pm; Sun 7.30pm, The Royal Exchange. Tix $30 “Mad Bitches Inc”. is an all-female cabaret show with a generous helping of wild performance poetry and cutting-edge theatre. Curated by Helen Hopcroft, who once spent a year dressed as Marie Antoinette, “Mad Bitches Inc.” stars some of the most talented bunny boilers around. Cabaret artist Sophie Cook, actor Lou Chapman, bellydancer Tahira, Christina Robberds, Simona Graham, Sally Denmead, Camille Adams, Nina Katzmarski, Brooke King and poet Pip Sheehan Lowther, with Dusseldorf-based playwright and director Fiona Leonard. Audiences will leave wanting to start a revolution!


From 12.01am on Monday 22 March until 11.59pm on Sunday 28 March, five selected shows from the Newcastle Fringe Festival, two international shows and one from Melbourne will be available for streaming on-demand. Don’t miss the virtual reality format of “Dalloway” by Dyad Productions, UK or the award-winning “Safe” by Federico Maria Giansanti, FMG Productions, Italy. And finally, streaming in with her sold-out Edinburgh Fringe 2018 show Bad Ass, Tash York is hailed as one of the best cabaret artists in the business. Six show pass $55 or individual shows $10–$18.


The full program is extensive and takes some time to study. Settle in, grab a drink and some nibbles, call your friends and plan your fringe experience. You can find the complete program at or to purchase tickets for all shows except the double-bills at Lizotte’s, go to To purchase tickets for the Lizottes double-bills visit

Streaming tickets won’t be available until the final weekend of the festival and can also be purchased from Sticky Tickets.


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