Melbourne-based McGregor announced today she was cancelling her entire Adelaide Fringe season due to “the uncertainty over border restrictions”.

She was to have premiered her new show A Sweet Beginning at The Queens as part of the hub’s inaugural season, as well as presenting two performances in the Garden of Unearthly Delights:  JAZZAMATAZZ! and Late-Nite Variety-Nite Night.

In a statement, the Helpmann Award winner and former Adelaide Cabaret Festival artist director described Adelaide as her “cabaret spiritual home” and said she had been “beyond excitement” at the prospect of returning.

Ali McGregor.

“The Fringe Festival and both venues have been incredible with support and guidance, and SA Health have done a fantastic job trying to navigate the situation with the needs of arts workers in mind. But, with a touring party of five, all from Melbourne, and four with young children’s lives to navigate around, this uncertainty over border restrictions and potential financial fallout has become impossible to work around.”

The Queens – a new Fringe venue in the historic Queens Theatre – is presenting a line-up of cabaret and comedy stars that also includes Prinnie Stevens, Carlotta, Jo Lawry, Amelia Ryan and Libby O’Donovan. It said this morning there were no other cancellations.

The 2021 Adelaide Fringe officially opens today, with close to 900 events across 13 genres and 392 venues.

Earlier this week, director and CEO Heather Croall and major outdoor hubs Gluttony and The Garden of Unearthly Delights told InReview that few program changes were expected as a result of the Victorian border restrictions.

SA Health has granted more than 100 exemptions for performers and support staff from greater Melbourne to travel to Adelaide for the event.

“We feel incredibly lucky to launch our opening weekend, and very proud to deliver what will be a fun and exciting COVID-safe festival,” Croall said yesterday.

“It’s been so impressive to watch how artists and venues have adapted over this past year, coming up with new, innovative and inventive ways to present their performances safely within the rules of crowd density, social distancing and contact tracing, for everyone to enjoy.

“While our 2021 Fringe will look different to previous years, with many COVID-related initiatives in place, the magic vibe of Fringe will still be very much alive.

“We have planned for every possible scenario this year, and we continue to work closely with local government and SA Health to ensure we keep our artists, venues and audiences safe.”

Dan Acher’s art-meets-technology installation Borealis in Gluttony. 

There is an increase in outdoor performances and digital experiences this Fringe, and all venues are selling to reduced capacity – either 50 per cent or 75 per cent – with some also requiring that face masks be worn.

Croall said there had “never been a more important time to get behind the artists and creative entrepreneurs of Adelaide Fringe”.

“Our team has worked hard to ensure our terms and conditions are fair for artists and audiences. People will be able to get refunds in the case of COVID-related cancellations, but they will also have the option to attend a rescheduled date or donate some/all of their ticket back to the artists who would miss out on income.”

So far, the only other full-season cancellation is Massaoke Oz, which was to have presented 11 performances in the Garden of Unearthly Delights. The performers in this show are based in Adelaide.

Massaoke’s presenters said the cancellation was  “in line with recent South Australian Government Health and Safety regulations”: “We have worked with our stakeholders, venue partners and fantastic crew to find a way to put on our show within the latest South Australian Health & Safety Regulations, but it just wasn’t possible to do so in a way that delivered the signature  Massaoke audience experience.”

In her statement, McGregor said the past week had brought home to her “how tenuous and anxiety-inducing working in the arts really is”.

“To be honest, it is vulnerable and stressful at the best of times, but this year shone a light on the widespread financial hardships and uncertainty facing arts workers across the industry.”

The 2021 Adelaide Fringe runs until March 21. See more festival season stories and reviews on InReview, and keep an eye on our Fringe page for the latest reviews.

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