Fringe, Catholicism, diversity

Fringe, Catholicism, diversity

“PLAY UP!” is the rallying cheer for this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival.

Welcoming all Victorians and drawing performers and crowds from across the world, the Melbourne Fringe Festival is back. Melbourne Fringe creative director and CEO Simon Abrahams describes this year’s festival as an opportunity for show-goers to open themselves up to new experiences.

“Melbourne Fringe is quite unique, actually,” Simon Abrahams told Inner City News. “Globally, in the world of Fringe festivals, we’re not a giant. We are a place for incredible art making.”

The hub of Melbourne Fringe is Carlton’s Trades Hall, with events scattered throughout the surrounding suburbs and city. Rhys Ryan, a lawyer-turned choreographer, is presenting a new dance work, SERMON, at Dancehouse in Carlton North.

The show presents an artistic vision of reimagined Catholicism and grapples with the enduring jurisdiction of God and faith.

Ryan, who was baptised Catholic, explained to Inner City News that “even by not practicing Catholicism I’m arguably acting against what the church wants me to do or I’m not fulfilling what the church has asked me to do.”

“That sort of tension is there no matter how far you try to step away. It’s a really complicated dynamic.”

Ryan, whose breakout work, Bodylex, was nominated for Best Choreography at the 2022 Green Room Awards, also aims to take the audience on a journey and “examine how we arrange our bodies in service to ghostly figures” during liturgical rites.

The score is arranged by Robert Downie, who Ryan described to Inner City News as “a fast and rising star in Melbourne’s independent music scene.” Downie is restricting himself to using only live pipe organs and the voice to recreate the epic marriage of sound and silence in Catholic Mass services.

Mr Abrahams told Inner City News, “what makes Melbourne Fringe unique is [that] we’ve got artists at the absolute top of their game, making extraordinary work alongside fresh artists trying new things, all on the one bill together.”

The festival, of which more than 80 per cent of events are homegrown in Victoria and made up of 55 per cent LGBTQIA+ artists, celebrates diversity and the vibrancy of being different.

Melbourne Fringe runs throughout October and multiple locations in the city.

SERMON runs at Dancehouse from October 11 to 14. •

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