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  • Liane Morris

NEWCASTLE FRINGE FESTIVAL | Let's Get This Party Started!




March is Newcastle Fringe Festival month with a smorgasbord of diverse entertainment with something for everyone, including theatre, cabaret, burlesque, circus, music of every genre, a mini choir festival and even an international basketballer for the kids. This is the seventh year of Australia's biggest little Fringe and the first time that it has been extended to eight days across two weekends, featuring more than 130 shows in 10 venues across Newcastle, Hamilton and New Lambton.


A fringe festival, by definition, is performance art that's on the fringes. Historically speaking, fringe festivals were an unofficial offshoot of another more mainstream arts festival. Over time, this definition has changed to mean a festival of art that is experimental, new and emerging, most often open access and uncensored. A fringe festival is where the artist takes the risk and the majority of the ticket sales. Mainstream festivals pay artists for their work and take the door sales for the organisers. At Fringe, the more people who attend, the more the artist receives.


The organisers of the Newcastle Fringe Festival are a group of dedicated volunteers whose mission is to support emerging arts, particularly local artists and live performance. The festival is designed to enable artists to earn money from their art form and provide them with a platform to experiment and create new work. This results in an engaging, quirky festival where anything and everything can and does happen!

"Our artists are emerging and experimental. Some are professionals, and others aren't, so the fun in Fringe is going along to see what happens," said Newcastle Fringe Chairperson Brooke Twyford.

"Lots of celebrities, particularly in comedy, have had their beginnings in fringe festivals, and there are some real gems to be discovered.

"It's also super affordable – we deliberately keep ticket prices low to encourage more people to join in the fun."

Financial sustainability is always a challenge, and this year was exacerbated by the COVID situation. Sponsors were understandably gun-shy of financially supporting events-based organisations because they are vulnerable to COVID restrictions and cancellations.

The festival is supported this year by primary sponsors Port Waratah Coal Services and AGL with additional financial support from Costin Roe, a local engineering consultancy firm. The festival was successful in receiving a Create NSW grant to assist with venue costs, and media partnerships include intouch Magazine, Newcastle Live, Newywithkids and Southern Cross Austereo local brands, Hit 106.9 and Triple M.

This year's venues include the new Newcastle Comedy Club, fringe central The Rogue Scholar, the long-time fringe favourite The Royal Exchange, the Hive, the CAS, the Wesley Uniting Church and The Gallipoli Legion Club in Hamilton, fringe newbies Babylon and The Croatian Wickham Sports Club and Lizottes in New Lambton.

"We encourage everyone to give it a go," said Brooke.

"Shows are only one hour long in most instances, and it's a wonderful way to support the diversity and talent of live arts performance in our fabulous city. We're very proud of our program this year – it is brimful of talent and variety. There is so much to see, and it's totally affordable. Let's get this party started, Newcastle!"



Every year is different at Newcastle Fringe. Some years there are lots of circus or cabaret, and other years it's full of theatre. In 2022 we're spoilt for choice with a massive line-up of musical acts from internationally celebrated artists to local duos and experimental soundscapes.

Do you know who the youngest Australian to ever perform at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, USA, was? At the age of 17, our very own homegrown Newcastle gal and country talent Catherine Britt of course! You can catch her at Lizotte's with Colin Lillie. Britt is an international superstar, and she's showcasing her latest album, Home Truths, along with a whole swag of her biggest hits.

If it's a fancy lunch and a performance with a culinary theme you're after, don't miss the host of Double J's Tower of Song and frontman of the band Wagons – Henry Wagons, also playing for one performance only at Lizottes. The charismatic performer, raconteur, TV host and radio personality is synonymous with Melbourne's culture of good music, good food and good times and is accompanied by special guest Lachlan Bryan on piano (of Lachlan Bryan & The Wildes).

If country music is not your thing, don't despair. Release your inner gypsy with Zlatko's Balkan Cabaret or listen to the recorder played as you've never heard it before with Alana Blackburn's ReGrowth. For toe-tapping amazingness, you can't go past the Australian Ukelele Orchestra playing Handel to Fleetwood Mac or the retro and eargasmic sounds of the Kahibah Brass Kills the Radio Star.

Local musical acts are too many to list here but include Georgina Winchester in Piano From Gresford with an undulating original piano composition and multi-disciplinary performance, the rich melodies of Johnny Bakerlite & The Subterraneans, the sheer nerdy brilliance and humour of Nerds & Music Do the Fringe and the eerie melodies of Mitchell Elliott in Kurosawa Daydream.

For a more international flavour, don't miss acclaimed sassy British singer Li Laurent, known for her powerful vocals and unique writing style, which have been regularly featured on radio, TV and festival stages in England, America and Sweden.


Comedy is a big drawcard at fringe festivals worldwide, and Newcastle is no exception. A great many comics got their start at fringe festivals. This year Newcastle Fringe is welcoming three of the best comedians in the country, with over 100 years combined experience, Darren Sanders, Tommy Dean and Peter Berner, on stage together for one night only at Lizottes. Other big names include Marty Bright in Jokin'n Spoken, who has performed at The Comedy Store in LA, Melbourne and Sydney Comedy Festivals and the Adelaide and Sydney Fringes. Also appearing is The Happy Pom with British comedian Christian Elderfield, as seen on Just For Laughs at the Sydney Opera House Channel 10, Britain's Got Talent and who has won multiple comedy awards.

Comedy is not just for the men, though, and there is some exceptional female talent this year, including local Eddy Rockefeller in Wisdom Teeth, who is returning from last year's sold-out run at Newcastle Fringe 2021. Robyn Reynolds (UK) in Mermaid presents a hilarious 'fish out of water' show previously nominated in Best Comedy at Sydney Fringe in 2019, and Vanessa 'Larry' Mitchell, who is taking a break from her literary project, 50 First Dates, will hit us with Teardrops on my Dildo, all about parenting, dating and all things female. Speaking of dating, don't miss the one-woman show Tinder Cindy, a funny dancing-storytelling bundle of dating reality with a definite Greek flavour.


Fringe is one of the best places to see emerging burlesque, cabaret and circus shows, and many local artists are developing their art form in this category, which is one of the most popular genres. Newcastle likes it just a little bit naughty, as local artist, producer and performer Hannah Indigo can attest to, with the success of her sell-out show OMGWTF.

Hannah appeared in the very first Newcastle Fringe in 2016 and is now selling out shows everywhere with her dynamite, late-night romp of burlesque, circus, drag, sideshow and magic that lights up the stage with delightfully devilish displays of debauchery the likes of which you'll never be able to unsee. For those that like this style of show, OMGWTF is doing a doubleheader with Candyland at Babylon, and tickets are selling very fast.

Candyland is billed as a tasty swirl of naughty circus cabaret fun in a world with a little bit of sugar, spice, and all things nice… and maybe a touch of sour to tickle your taste buds! Both shows can be seen separately as well. In addition to OMGWTF, Hannah Indigo has also produced a new show called Wild Side which features the finest burlesque, circus and sideshow to a rock and roll soundtrack - clothing, rules, and manners are out the door.

Other shows in this genre include Bad Girls Club, BlackStarr Cabaret & Burlesque and Doll Haus Cabaret and Burlesque.


No fringe festival would ever feel complete without a solid offering of theatre. Newcastle is very well represented by a large number of local theatre companies and theatre producers, so we're fortunate to have some extremely talented locals to grace our stages. Louise Chapman, regional finalist of the World Monologue Games, premieres her new show, The Lou Chapman Show. In a celebration of local and international playwrights and directors, Lou brings to the stage new original works by Newcastle's Vanessa Bates and Larissa Jarman, from Dusseldorf Germany, Fiona Leonard, Byron's Ana Louisa Davis, and from Florida, United States, Sinda Nichols.

Another local and last year's Newcastle Fringe award-winner for Best Premier Show with Camino Man, Steve Wilson, presents Don't Touch Me! A Tale of Cats and Hugs is another solo performance about a single, middle-aged man navigating the perils of housesitting and relationships.

And what would theatre be without Shakespeare? When Shakespeare Met Shakespeare pits four Shakespeare conspiracies against one another in a hapless but hilarious bid to find the truth. If it's theatre of the experimental kind you're after, try Belly of the Beast presented by Vexel Creations – a cross-disciplinary study of personal responsibility and social justice through movement and sound. Artists Monique Humphreys and Mitchell Elliott push the boundaries of their respective mediums to portray a woman's battle for sanity within a corrupted reality. Other experimental theatre pieces include Psychotic Sideshow with a mix of circus, Sweet Fleshed, Loose Skinned & Highly Perfumed with a dash of dance and WCB – Sigil – Artistic Merit nominee from Newcastle Fringe 2021.


In pure celebration of the fact that we can finally sing and that choirs have had to be virtual for the past two years, Newcastle Fringe took the risk to put the call out to choirs to create a mini choir festival. The call was answered, and some

of Australia's finest choirs will be performing at the festival. There won't be a dry eye in the house as the rafters are lifted with the glorious, spine-tingling sound of many voices raised in song together at last.

Fast on the way to being a sell-out already, The Spooky Men's Chorale is a vast, rumbling, steam-powered and black-clad

behemoth of a choir, seemingly accidentally capable of rendering audiences moist eyed with mute appreciation or haplessly gurgling with merriment – or so says the blurb. Also appearing is the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Choir, whose performers are united by a love of singing together and striving for performance excellence. A powerful symbol of

diversity, inclusion and harmony, the choir has maintained a vital and visible presence in the history of Sydney's LGBTQI community.

Local choirs also answered the call with both the Newcastle Chamber Choir and The Song Sisters performing.

The Spooky Men's Chorale

Two of this year's shows are donating proceeds of their sales to causes close to their hearts. The Whole "She" Bang showcases the best established and emerging women comedians in NSW. Join Robyn Reynolds, Eddy Rockefeller,

Maddie Southall, Laura Coleman and Sarah Gaul for an amazing night of femme forward comedy. 50% of all profits will be donated to Jenny's Place, a non-profit organisation helping women in crisis.

With carefully crafted lyrics and a rich, powerful bass voice accompanied by acoustic guitar, Luke Robinson & Friends – Songs of Country & Conscience delivers rousing anthems and contemplative ballads that range from our First Peoples to refugees, fracking and climate change balanced with comical reflections on Australian life. Profits will be donated to the

From The Heart campaign for an Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament that is enshrined in the Constitution.


Many of the shows presented are all-ages, but there's only one created especially for kids, and it deserves a special mention. Basketball Man Can Fly is part circus, part basketball freestyling, and it will appeal to kids of all ages. For years Basketball Man has been a world-renowned Basketball Freestyler, but now he's out to prove he's a real superhero. Witness the best basketball tricks you've never seen as Basketball Man spins, dribbles, juggles, and performs stunts in this crime-fighting, family-friendly circus show.

Printed programs are distributed in cafes around the city or study the program and purchase tickets and merchandise on the website at


  • BUY TIX! The complete program is available online at

  • Search by genre or the daily schedule and follow the links to Sticky Tix or Lizottes

  • Printed programs can be picked up at cafes around Newcastle

  • Newcastle Fringe branded merchandise can be purchased from the website on the Merch tab

  • After the festival, selected shows will be available to stream. Check the website or socials for details

  • Newcastle Fringe Festival Inc. is a registered not-for-profit with DGR status and accepts donations from NSW residents. Follow the links on the website under Support Us

  • Follow Newcastle Fringe on Facebook and Instagram @newcastlefringe


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