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Comedy and controversy at the Adelaide Fringe

Modestly comparing himself to Jack Kerouac, with a five star review from the respected broadsheet the Scotsman, we attended Alexis Dubus verses the world with some anticipation of a feast of Beat Generation wordsmithery at the relocated and buzzing Tuxedo Cat. The show consisted of half a dozen funny songs sung to prerecorded backing, some chat, a velvet suit, some gratuitous undressing, and an inflatable globe to illustrate Alexis’ adventurous trotting. Perhaps it was meant to be ironic, but I found the itinerary of Reading, Hull, a “non-stabby part of London” (his best joke), Singapore Airport and Perth a little underwhelming. My mum has travelled more (with much better stories).
However what was definitely not underwhelming was the media storm Alexis created with his criticisms of Fringe audiences, complaining that only 7 advanced booking tickets had been sold for this show; and to our faces during the show, that “Adelaide audiences don’t come back like they do in Edinburgh”. OK, that’s a bit of an insult. A double insult- we were two of the seven!  And we won’t be back (although we had been planning to attend his other show).

It’s fringe, not mainstream. It’s hit and miss- for audiences and artists alike.

Publication in both the alternative  (InDaily) and mainstream  (AdelaideNow) press turned Alexis’ complaints into a media storm, attracting statements from both the Premier and the leader of the opposition, and fuelling a debate about the future of the Fringe. Perhaps this is timely, but comparisons with Edinburgh are not necessarily that insightful. For a start Edinburgh is a major international tourist hub. Edinburgh Fringe-goers are on holiday just to do the Fringe, and about 100 million people live within two hours of the Scottish capital. Adelaide Fringe-goers have day jobs, families, as well as other contemporaneous distractions: the Adelaide Festival of the Arts, Adelaide Writers Week, Womadelaide, Clipsal 500, Cellar Door Festival, the beaches, A-league soccer, competing fringe-like commercial events- the Garden of Unearthly Delights and the Royal Croquet Club, etc., limited population and limited budgets. It’s not called mad March for nothing.

Adelaide Festival illuminations, Grace, Coopers Stadium, Glenelg beach

We have attended about a dozen shows this Fringe. Some of them were fantastic – Grace: the music of Jeff Buckley (pictured -and sold out) and the science-based  and thoroughly researched musical comedy The Element in the Room. The others had their moments- but that’s what Fringe is about. It’s fringe, not mainstream. It’s hit and miss- for audiences and artists alike. Your problem, Alexis, is that your show is just not good enough to attract the audience you think you deserve. I’m giving you negative stars. Never criticise the audience who have paid in time, money, effort and missed opportunity (to see something better) to watch you.

Better Fringe and Festival reviews:

Half Hour Hamlet

Matt Okine

Grace notes @ the Grace

The Element in the Room

First leaf falls- Adelaide Writers Week

Chocolate (cheese and Champagne) is a state of mind

Communal craziness- the return of Fringe.