Fringe CEO and director Heather Croall told InReview that no Fringe shows have been cancelled as a result of the latest snap border closure and quarantine requirements for people coming to South Australia from Victoria.

While some Victorian artists brought forward their travel plans to arrive before the cut-off time last week, others are flying in direct from the Perth Fringe.

“We’re lucky to be doing a festival and grateful that Adelaide is in the state it’s in,” Croall says.

“We’re one of the only festivals in the world that is able to do a 2021 cycle as well as 2020… there are over 6000 artists in the Fringe and there are a hundred or so that haven’t arrived yet.”

Last year’s Adelaide Fringe ended just before the first wave of pandemic restrictions. The open-access festival has introduced changes to ensure a COVID-safe event this year ­– including more open-air performances, multiple entry points to large hubs and a watch-from-home option for shows.

“There will be a lot of outdoor performances,” Croall says.

“Fringe happens come rain, hail or shine – it’s a different year and after the year we’ve had of not being able to see performances, we should be in that headspace that we are grateful to get out and see shows even if it is a bit chilly at night.”

Around 120,000 Fringe tickets have been sold so far. That is fewer than at the same time in 2020, likely due to the program being released later than usual, but Croall says daily ticket sales of 4000 to 8000 are on par with previous years.

The Garden of Unearthly Delights and Gluttony, both of which have redesigned their sites for 2021, say the Victorian border closure will have minimal impact on their programs.

“We are excited to be opening the vast majority of 2021 Garden shows this Friday as planned,” says GOUD co-director Michelle Buxton.

“We are still working with a handful of artists regarding short delays to their travel plans. There will be some minor changes to our program due to some travel restrictions. Please keep an eye on our website for the latest show dates and times.”

At Gluttony, which will present 106 shows across an 8500-capacity site in Rymill Park, owner-operator Daniel Michael says most of its artists from Victoria arrived before the latest restrictions, with a few currently in quarantine in SA.

“What I’m expecting with our shows is that they’ll all perform but we’ll just have to have strict conditions backstage… at the very worst there might be shows that miss the opening weekend.

“We’re looking forward to a really good season. We’ve got great spaces – including really big spread-out outdoor venues and a 900-seat tent to seat 450 people indoors [at reduced COVID capacity].”

Michael says Gluttony ticket sales are currently tracking well ­– around 2019 numbers – with several shows, including circus show Rouge, close to selling out their opening-weekend performances. People who leave it till the last minute to book popular shows may face disappointment given venues are selling at 75 per cent capacity.

“A really great side-effect of those premium shows selling out, though, is that people are going to end up buying tickets to something weird and wonderful that they wouldn’t normally have seen.”

Socially distanced seating outside one of the Gluttony venues. Photo: Helen Page Photography

Adelaide Fringe has advice on its website regarding the COVID-safe practices being followed this year, and SA Health also issued a statement yesterday regarding the festival season.

“There will be COVID Safe Check-In points across all venues to make it as easy as possible for patrons to check-in, and audience sizes will be smaller to allow for physical distancing,” says the Department for Health and Wellbeing’s deputy chief public health officer, Dr Emily Kirkpatrick.

“While there may be less audience participation this year due to physical distancing requirements, we’ve worked hard to ensure all performers and events can entertain the crowd in a COVID-safe way. Patrons should read their tickets carefully to know which entrance to use at a venue, and make sure they hold onto it after the show as there will also be designated exits.

“While it may feel a little different this year, we should all feel incredibly proud that the festival is striving ahead despite the pandemic.”

Adelaide Festival and Writers’ Week

The Adelaide Festival, which opens on February 26, says it is still working through the list of shows that include artists and crew from Melbourne to ascertain the impact of the Victorian border closure.

“For many shows, artists and crew are from more than one state so we’re just methodically working out the impact and what can be done so that the show can proceed,” says Festival executive director Elaine Chia.

The border closure has forced a number of changes to the Adelaide Writers’ Week program, with some authors withdrawing – including Garry Disher and Alex Miller – while other sessions have been converted to live-streamed events or had schedule changes.

“Planning a Festival in the middle of a pandemic while the snap closure of borders remains a key tool for State Governments is not fun,” says Writers’ Week director Jo Dyer.

“We’ve had a lot of reluctant withdrawals from authors and chairs as a result of the recent Victorian border closures but we are confident that, despite the ongoing fluidity of the program, we’re still on track to deliver a great event for authors and audiences alike.”

A number of new guests and sessions have also been added to the Writers’ Week program, with details in the “latest news” section of the Adelaide Festival website.

The COVID-19 outbreaks in Sydney at the start of this year forced the early cancellation of the Adelaide Festival season of Set Piece, a theatre work involving a multi-state cast and creative team.

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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.