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May 30, 2024

The Cabaret Fringe breathes new life into small venues

The Adelaide Cabaret Fringe Festival’s 2024 season is in full swing and set to give the city’s small venues some much needed TLC.

  • Words: Jade Woollacott
  • Pictures: supplied
  • Main picture: Simone Disisto by Trentino Priori

The Cabaret Fringe is an all-access Adelaide festival that has long been a beacon of opportunity for artists old and new.


Cabaret Fringe
May 24 ’til June 2


It helps emerging artists reach new audiences and generate income, provides a platform for artists to experiment with, and allows audiences to enjoy arts at accessible, affordable prices.

In its 23rd year, the Cabaret Fringe is bringing audiences to, and reactivating, small venues when they need it most. It offers 45 events across 22 small to medium venues —five of which were recipients of the government’s See It LIVE grant aimed at supporting live music venues doing it tough.

Last year this small independent festival broke records, selling over 4,000 tickets and generating over $113,000 of income for artists, and this year they are hoping to top these numbers.

Cabaret Fringe producer Simone DiSisto says activating live performance spaces has been a “huge driving force” for her first year in the role.

“There are these amazing venues in South Australia that, you know, really do cultivate creativity,” she says.

“We’re a 10-day festival, but [live performance venues are] doing this all year and it’s so important for us to showcase them and it’s so important right now that we are all part of sustaining live performance venues.

“It is so tough for them at the moment.”

Simone describes the Cab Fringe as the Adelaide Fringe Festival’s younger sibling that provides an inclusive platform for artists to “hone their craft”, and small venues are fundamental to that.

“Cabaret at its heart is about bringing creative people together and telling stories and connecting artists with audiences,” she says.

“It’s about places where people will experiment and they can have their own authentic voice, and say the things that maybe, you know, won’t be screened on a commercial network,  but those stories that can be told in those small independent venues where we celebrate every story and every voice.

“Stars don’t emerge from their bedroom ready to do a 300-seater – we have to have places where people can [start out] — you know, live performances need live opportunities.”

FRANKLY at the piano at Arthur ArtBar on opening night. This picture: supplied.

Local cabaret comedian, singer and songwriter Nicole O’Rielley performs as FRANKLY and has performed in the Cabaret Fringe since 2017.

She says she loves using the festival to try something new, like she did this year with her best of show, ‘FULL SPREAD’.

“I owe so much to this festival because it gave me like a really safe breeding ground to try something and I still use it in that way,” FRANKLY says.

“I always like to create a new work, or a work-in-progress show, for Cab Fringe cause it’s just like a wholesome melting pot.”

FRANKLY is originally from Adelaide but now lives in Melbourne, and she says every time she returns here there seems to be another venue closed.

“It is really sad that we’re losing iconic venues,” she says.

“I, on a personal note, have a huge concern about the fact that we might lose the Cranker.

“The Cranker was my first ever gig when I was 16… it was my second home throughout my twenties.

“I think, really, it’s hard because we’re all a part of an ecosystem and it’s like if we don’t have venues then where do we have artists, and I think if we don’t have the venues to facilitate the artists people aren’t gonna make art if there’s nowhere to share it and exchange it or to be inspired by other people.”

Leather Lungs at Nineteen Ten, who are hosting a number of Cabaret Fringe events. This picture: Image Construction

New Zealand-grown and now Queensland-based drag queen Leather Lungs is no stranger to an Adelaide festival.

Leather Lungs is hosting CabLive at Currie Street venue Arthur Art Bar and says the Cab Fringe is opening local eyes to iconic Adelaide venues that may have been forgotten.

“To keep Arthur’s and that going it needs the support of things like this and Cab Fringe is getting to highlight a venue like that, that maybe other people probably wouldn’t normally go to,” they say.

“I have friends here that didn’t even know it existed and it’s kind of like this Adelaide institution that’s been around for years so it’s such a great thing that this exists, and those venues get to be highlighted.”

The Cabaret Fringe is also doing its part to support venues as widely as it can this year with shows as far as Port Adelaide at Pirate Life Brewery and its first regional shows at the Victor Harbour Town Hall.

“We need to connect with other areas, you know arts doesn’t only happen in cities and artists don’t only come from city areas, so that’s an important thing for me too,” Cabaret Fringe Producer Simone says.

“I think it’s really so important for people to get out of their houses and get into those small to medium-sized venues.”

Check out the full program, including free shows to catch some Cab Fringe action before it wraps up this Sunday, June 2.

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