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February 9, 2023

Look out, here comes trouble

There’s a new hub of fabulosity at this year’s Fringe – a Fool’s Paradise for young and old.

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  • This article was produced in collaboration with Fool's Paradise.

At this moment in time, Max Mason is an impresario. He’s also a bit of a “mischief-eer”, a portmanteau he proudly assigns to himself.

“In Oxford, where I had restaurants and lived for 12 years, I built beaches, I created snow factories and jazz festivals,” Max says. “And I’ve not really done much mischief-making here.”


Fool’s Paradise Victoria Square/Tarntanyangga February 17 – March 19

Purchase tickets for shows at The Pyramid and The Vault

Max’s English accent stokes an image of Bryan Ferry in CityMag’s head. Suave man about town.

His very real finger on the pulse led to him being involved in this year’s Fringe, which kicks off on February 17.

“When somebody approached me last October to have a Fringe venue, I said ‘Yes, but it will have to be pretty awesome’,” he recalls.

“So, we set about creating The Pyramid venues in the middle of Victoria Square, along with The Vault, which all form part of Fool’s Paradise.”

In curating the program for The Pyramid, Max’s criteria were to deliver shows that “a post-COVID audience” would find intriguing and to spotlight “brilliant” local artists.

“It’s a bit of incredible tribute acts, it’s a bit of circus, it’s a bit of burlesque, it’s some international acts. But, generally, a lot of it is tapped from the greatest talent in South Australia,” he says.

Wonderful! A celebration of Stevie Wonder by Chloe Castledine and The Cast and BIG BEATS by Adam Page both fall under the local banner. So too does Sunset with Alive, an eclectic and moving showing of dance from Alive Ballet Company and Alive Contemporary Dance Company.

While there is plenty in The Pyramid’s program that is family-friendly, those looking for alternative, grownup thrills won’t be disappointed.

Leading figures in South Australia’s aerial, cabaret, burlesque and sideshow communities take to the air in enSomnia, an aerial exploration of narcolepsy that moves from fantasy to nightmare.

Max has also snared New York’s legendary underground performance artist and playwright Penny Arcade, who is returning to Fringe with The Art of Becoming Episode 3: “Superstar Interrupted”.

Thomas Gorham, the director of Fool’s Paradise, said he was looking for a site for his show, GODZ and received the licence for Victoria Square.

“We were approached by the team running The Pyramid, and once we had the venue, we decided to include bars and food trucks to make it more of a park thing,” Thomas says.

Fool’s Paradise is a “festival precinct”, according to Thomas.

“It’s meant to be a hub with a heavy lean towards circus and physical theatre… [and] a hub for Adelaide Fringe artists to present their works,” he says.

“We went straight to the big hitters because we had to venues to fill with very high-quality works. We just want people at Fool’s Paradise to see the best of the best shows and have a really good time.

“There’s also a bunch of international and state acts.”

International Illusionist Paul Dabek is bringing his Cabaret show, London Calling to Fool’s Paradise.

“He’s planning on taking the show to Vegas and he’s testing grounds is going to be Fool’s Paradise,” Thomas says.

Unlike other locations for the Fringe, Thomas says Fool’s Paradise venues are made for circus with high roofs with re-engineered structures to create multiple aerial points.

“So, there is a big lean into spectacle rather than just making do with tents,” he says.

This is also a focus for Max.

Max says he and his team were keen to take a fresh look at how the Fringe experience is delivered to audiences.

They commissioned local firm Pernix to develop an app for The Pyramid, enabling visitors to Fool’s Paradise to easily find the next shows, book tickets and also enquire about corporate hospitality.

And, like good entrepreneurs, they added a bonus.

“One hundred people that download the app will actually be gifted a newly minted NFT, which is obviously one of those incredibly modernist things,” he says.

“I don’t even know what it means, but it’s an exciting way to embrace technology.”

It’s hard to know if he’s self-deprecating or deadpanning, but he quickly moves on to discuss the 15-metre-high pyramid, which was custom built for this year’s Fringe.

“It will be in tandem with another venue, which allows us the full height and the full capacity to host the shows we need.

“When it’s in its purest element, it literally is a pyramid shaped, fabulous structure that we can transport and have for events anywhere around the world.”

Between The Pyramid and the packed program at The Vault, Fool’s Paradise will be home to more than two dozen new shows.

Max expects the new precinct in Tarntanyangga Victoria Square to provide an exciting alternative to The Garden and Gluttony.

Thomas also hopes that the pre-show entertainment, including outdoor trapeze and mini golf in addition to the food trucks, will provide a “quality experience for attendees”.

With its lineup of never-before-seen shows, free entertainment, roving acrobats and live music, and a fine selection of local food and drink, it is sure to be a huge hit of the Fringe.

Only a fool could resist such an arts and culture paradise.

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