Summer Festival Fever

Prepare for fun and entertaining times at Perth's summer festivals.

A creative collision happens in Perth each summer, and it’s unlike anything found in any other Australian city. On one front, there’s the arrival of Fringe World, a raucous festival that sees the city dress up in drag and take on a flamboyant alter ego. Then, Perth Festival slides in, continuing its reign as Australia’s longest running cultural festival. It’s a higher-brow series of theatre shows, installations, exhibitions and events that seem to lean ever closer to the zaniness of Fringe as each year passes. Together, the festivals deliver eight straight weeks of inspiring creativity to the capital of Western Australia.

As a lover of the spotlight, the month-long Fringe kicks off first (Jan 18 to Feb 17, 2019), bringing 700 diverse shows to various festive zones that pop up right across Perth. The Woodside Pleasure Garden, in central Northbridge’s Russell Square is a fairground of fun, with roving entertainers milling between live mermaids, a weathered boat that doubles as a dining room, a silent disco gazebo and the mirrored cavern of a hand crafted Spiegeltent. There are also food stalls where meats are roasted on coals and crepes spread on hotplates, micro greens for mini-golf and stages large and small. Even without a show ticket, the people-watching is fantastic. Only a 10-minute walk away is Fringe Central, sprawling across the Perth Cultural Centre’s grassed Urban Orchard. The free-entry extravaganza is a collection of more tents, more food stalls, a nightly long-table dinner event, a water fountain bar and live music. It points to a tree-lined lane that hosts a row of eclectic performance venues, often cobbled together from wood planks and pallets.

Fringe World
Photo: Court McAllister

There are other hubs, too, including The Ice Cream Factory, a corner site with an open-air bar that neighbours one of the Fringe’s largest cabaret halls, and across Fremantle, at 11 venues around Perth’s bohemian port-side neighbour.

Rather than fatigue the audience, Fringe World seems only to invigorate it, so when Perth Festival joins in the fun – offering a contrast from the comedy, the burlesque and the cabaret – punters are more than ready. It runs for three weeks (Feb 8 to Mar 3, 2019), crossing over with Fringe for 10 jam-packed days where the entire city seems to be out and about, soaking up the artsy energy in Perth’s balmy summer air.

Fringe World, Ice Cream Factory
Photo: John Leonard

The opening night event is a moving, wonder-filled outdoor performance that’s free to view. The Boorna Waanginy sound and light installation, projected on the slender white trunks of Kings Park’s gum trees along a 1.5km stretch, made such an impact when it showed in 2017, it returns for four nights of Noongar-infused culture. The projections of animals, flowers, birds and weather events move up and down the trees and into the canopy, fading into the sky as stories about the forming of the WA landscape are told. Meanwhile, Vietnamese village life is enacted through circus in Lang Toi. Contortionists, jugglers and acrobats defy gravity as a village is constructed by bamboo poles and string, all while musicians play. Both live music and light projections combine in the Australian premiere of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Film animations interact with performers, who evoke the style of 1920s silent movies with a touch of Weimar cabaret.

Perth Festival, Orbital
Photo: Rachael Barrett

The festival’s outdoor dance floor, Chevron Gardens, creates a magnetic appeal as it pumps out loud, live music nearly every night from its corner position on Elizabeth Quay. The gardens are free to mill around while the main stage hosts bands, solo performers and DJs in a rolling suite of live concerts; electronic music masters Orbital are just one of the big names filling the air with beats. Even if your dream gig is sold out – and they sell out fast – you can do the next best thing by grabbing eats outside the stage (boxed meals are made by neighbourhood restaurants) and a local wine or craft beer, then simply tune in.

For more information on Perth festival season, visit westernaustralia.com/febfever

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