So if people now ask me... "How would do I get the most out of Fringe", here's what I'd say.
Get out of The Garden
Actually I could be more specific... go and see something that isn't a well known TV/radio comedian doing stand up (except if it happens to be Adam Hills, I make an exception for Adam Hills). But mostly this means realising that the Fringe exists in other places than just The Garden. Check out Gluttony or Holden Street Theatre or The Rhino Room, or just that shop/bar/cafe/empty building/laneway/rooftop/shipping crate that has been transformed into a venue for the month of Fringe.
Take a chance on something new
This has always been my Fringe mantra (as well as being a variation of the tagline for this year) and kind of follows along from the first rule. It got me through the door on improv comedy, it allowed me to be blindfolded and led around North Terrace, it got me the opportunity to discover so many amazing things. Although after five years it's a little harder to be surprised when returning again and again to see amazing acts that surprised me the first time I saw them. But take a chance, you never know. Sometimes they suck, but more often than not I've been really pleased.
If you loved it, tell them
You might see a show that made you cry or expanded your mind or made you make a major life change or just made you laugh your ass off, so if you get the opportunity, even if it's a week later, a month later or the following Fringe, tell the performers. I've done this three times this Fringe, and a few times before and it's always worthwhile. And if you happen to run into them in a pub or one of the many Fringe bars, maybe ask if you can shout them a beverage.
Fringe performers should live and breathe social media during the festival and many of them do (and the ones who don't, or don't have an up-to-date web presence perpetually baffle me). If the show was great, tweet it, status it, write a little review... just tell people, both online and offline. And Talk Fringe is a great tool for that too.
Go and see a circus act
If you've never seen one before, then take a chance. You don't have to love it, but if you do, see rules 3 and 4. If you have seen one before, go and see somebody new... Or ask one of the performers you do love who they love.
Ask people what they loved
This is similar to part of rule 5 and the flip side of rule 4, but ask people you know about what they've seen... everyone probably knows at least one person who goes to a bunch of stuff during Fringe. For everyone I know, I'm pretty much that person, so I get this from a lot of people because of the sheer number of shows I've seen (I'm thinking about having little score charts made up that I can hand out to people). But this even extends to people you don't know... if you happen to strike up a conversation in line for something, ask them if they've seen anything amazing.
Be a person
This is a general life rule, but in this context it means show respect for the performers and other Fringe goers. Show up on time, don't be obnoxious in the line (which includes having loud personal conversations, the rest of us don't care, especially when you've been drinking), and find a seat as quickly as is practical. And it definitely means don't talk all the way through a show (learn how to whisper if you absolutely have to talk). It also means put your damn phone away for at least 90% of the show unless it's an actual life and death emergency.
Now, on to this year's Fringe specifically.
It's been a very emotional Fringe this year in a lot of ways, I've laughed my ass off (so much so that I actually ended up with sore ribs at one point), I've cried or been close to tears on more than one occasion.
But I've also had an incredibly good time.
Once again Gluttony ended up as the prime destination, but I began and ended the Fringe in the Royal Croquet Club which is turning into a really good venue, especially since they used both sides of Victoria Square this year.
There were also a number of returning artists that merited a second (or sometimes third or fourth) visit... Sound and Fury, Gravity and Other Myths, Le Gateau Chocolat, Trash Test Dummies and Paul Dabek. We also had The Long Pigs cancel their show, and Inconceivable had the performance we booked cancelled so that it didn't clash with Clipsal's main day of racing.
And I know I say this just about every year, but it's probably more true this year than it's ever been before. The differences between essentially the first half of the shows on the list is so slight as to be not worth mentioning... and it was really, really difficult to work out where to slot things in towards the end of the Fringe... things that were genuinely great only ended up so far down the list because I couldn't bare to move other things.
Of the remaining shows, only the last two on the list were in some way disappointing. Although both of them had redeeming features, they just didn't live up to my expectations.
Bromance is also one of the most beautiful circus shows I've ever had the privilege to see, and the first one that has ever brought me to the brink of tears."
While this was the first show that I saw in the 2015 Fringe, it was also the one that I continually mentioned to people as my major highlight. And it's the only circus based show that I've had such an intense emotional reaction to.
"It's circus but it's not, it's music but it's not, it's five very unique performers bringing their very diverse skills together to make something greater than the sum of it's parts."
This is so incredibly unique, both in concept and execution, that I can only hope we see much, much more from this quintet at future Fringe's, or that it inspires a whole new way to think about circus.
- Boris and Sergey's Vaudevillian Adventure
"Without giving too much away, there's puppet acrobatics, cross dressing, explosions, flashbacks, poker, audience participation and a finale that was both moving but also flat out incredible."
This is definitely one I will be recommending to people next year, and I will be eager eagerly searching future Fringe guides to see what other things the puppet duo get up to.
- A Simple Space
"Circus rarely gets much better than this, so any time you get the chance, make sure you go and see them."
Having seen them develop over the last few years into this world-class acrobatic troupe, they just go from strength to strength (no pun intended) and this year felt like a very polished piece of physical theatre.
- Le Gateau Chocolat - Icons
"The show may be inspired by Le Gateau's Icons, but it proves that this glorious Chocolat diva is an icon himself. And as I've said after both of the other shows, that brief hour we get to spend with him is never, ever enough."
This was a brilliant return from everybody's favourite diva and one that definitely moved me.
- Briefs: The Second Coming
"It's guys, but it's burlesque. It's feathers and frocks and sequins and glitter, but it's hard male bodies, hairy chests, beards and strength. It's light and fluffy, but it's raunchy and occasionally incredibly crass and filthy."
Briefs has heart and balls in equal measure, not to mention some great asses.
- Sound and Fury's Hamlet and Juliet
"One of the things I really love about Sound and Fury is that they go out of their way to make a connection with the audience... whether that's chatting with people before the show, making everything feel really informal once you go inside the venue, or just the fact that they always seem to be willing to go that extra mile to get a laugh."
There's always a permanent spot on my Fringe list reserved for whatever Sound and Fury return with, and even with a local temporary replacement they were still as great as ever.
- Death Comes at the End
"The cast was all brilliant, and I'm just sad that this was the last night, because I cannot recommend this highly enough."
There's just something about the general insanity of improv comedy with really sharp performers that just works for me, and this cast had it in spades.
- Trash Test Dummies
"If I had to chose one word for Trash Test, it's energy... high energy specifically (but that's two words)."
Speaking of insanity... the Dummies are the best kind of crazy, and as I keep telling everyone, they also have one of the best uses of music in any Fringe show I've seen.
- Paul Dabek - Mischief!
"But it's honestly not about the magic itself, while some of the tricks are brilliant (like the card trick... even if it is a union requirement), it's honestly Dabek himself and his cheeky personality and quick wit that really makes the show what it is."
Dabek was the other half of the pair, along with Sound and Fury, that had me laughing until I literally hurt my ribs.
- A Butterfly Effect
"As a result the whole thing felt incredibly natural and almost totally unscripted. Which I guess is how improv theatre should feel."
Having seen other reviews for this show, I now know that what I saw was a totally unique story from top to bottom and I've even gladder that I got the opportunity to see it.
- Great Detectives of Old Time Radio Live
"Preachrs Podcast OnStage chose the perfect venue for Great Detectives of Old Time Radio LIVE... like the three radio plays (Dragnet, Candy Matson and Yours Truly Johnny Dollar) that made up the show, the Capri Theatre was built in the 1940's, so it just felt right."
This was decidedly good fun, and like Death Comes At The End above, this has given me a new name to watch out for in future years, Eden Trebilco.
"It wasn't always the most polished of productions, but it was clearly done with great affection for the original material and that definitely counts for a lot."
This was a very smart idea and they managed to pull it off really well given the limitations of the venue.
"I do enjoy a show where they turn the usual "no flash photography" announcement on it's head by following it up with "these bodies are too nice to hide away" (or something similar) and then having everyone take out their phones and the performers pose."
Without being rude, I feel like these guys could learn a lot about putting together a show and an experience from the top three circus acts on my list, but they were very talented.
- The Naked Magicians
"I'll be honest, it took a fair while for me to warm up to both them and the show in general once I realised that we weren't in for a night of full frontal male nudity. But they're sweet and they're funny and, the nudity thing aside, they're good at what they do. And I did get into the swing of the show by about the half way mark."
I still maintain that there's an issue with having the word "naked" in your show title and then only being naked for a small portion of that show... having said that, they are excellent magicians and showmen.
- A Midsummer Knight's dream... What?!
"Which isn't to say that it's a bad story, it's just not what I was expecting and it's also... well, the best phrase I can really think of to describe it is a little bit awkward. And it was made a little worse because there were only about ten people in the audience."
I can't fault the energy of the performer, but like the previous show, this just wasn't what I thought it was going to be, and didn't really work for me.
So if you'll excuse me, I'll just go and lament the fact that Fringe is over and that we have to wait another eleven months for it all to start again.