The final preparations for the opening of the 2021 Adelaide Fringe Festival are underway as the city prepares to shake off a tumultuous 12 months.

Key points:

  • The 2021 Adelaide Fringe Festival begins on Friday night across 392 venues
  • Many tents have been converted into open amphitheatres due to pandemic restrictions
  • Melbourne ticketholders for early season shows are unable to attend due to travel bans

Last year’s event finished on the eve of nationwide restrictions and was the last time some artists performed since the pandemic hit, according to chief executive Heather Croall.

“You can feel the excitement, the anticipation across the city,” she said.

“Many artists haven’t even performed since Adelaide Fringe 2020 and this is their first time back on stage, so we’re really excited to see it.”

This year’s festival will utilise more outdoor space for performances and audiences.(Instagram: Adelaide Fringe/Meaghan Coles)

COVID-19 ‘pivot’

Premier Steven Marshall said at the event’s media launch today that it had been a testing time for arts administrations around the world.

“They’ve got to pivot, they’ve got to turn, they’ve got to do a backflip every now and again,” he said.


Mr Marshall added that last year’s Fringe ended up being the biggest arts festival in the world because of the cancellation of events like the Edinburgh Fringe.

“I think it’s going to be the largest arts festival in the world again this year,” he said.

This year’s event will include nearly 900 events and 21,000 individual performances at 392 venues in the city, suburbs and regions.

About $140,000 worth of tickets have already been sold — or about 8,000 a day, on average.

“That’s about the same as last year, which is pretty unbelievable given the year we’ve had,” Ms Croall said.

Steven Marshall praised Heather Croall for adapting the festival.(ABC Radio Adelaide: Malcolm Sutton)

Melburnians caught out

But about 800 of those tickets were sold to Victorians and a travel ban remains in place for people living in the Greater Melbourne area.

Ms Croall said the ban, which included all of Victoria up until yesterday, had resulted in several shows being cancelled.

She said they were hoping that restriction would be eased by Thursday next week.

“It’s more a case of rescheduling to be a bit later, whether it’s customers or artists,” Ms Croall said.

“But most people seem to be able to be flexible on that.

Ms Croall said many Victorian performers, including comedian and 2021 Fringe Ambassador Ross Noble, had arrived in Adelaide well before Victoria’s most recent snap lockdown.

Fringe Ambassador Ross Noble arrived in Adelaide two weeks ago.(Facebook: Ross Noble)

Open air changes

Despite Australia having relatively few COVID-19 cases compared to the rest of the world, Fringe hubs this year will have some notable changes.

“Some of the big indoor tents have turned into outdoor amphitheatres and arenas, and that’s just a much safter way,” Ms Croall said.

“We’ve got lots of outdoor theatres, promenade theatres, projections outside.

The Garden of Unearthly Delights venue hub will open Thursday night.(Supplied: Andre Castellucci)

She said masks would be mandatory at venues running at 75 per cent capacity.

One of the big East End outdoor hubs, Gluttony, has changed its layout to include more entry and exit points.

Its floor space will be divided into two different sections during the weekend peak to allow as many as 5,000 people inside both areas at once.

“A lot of the innovation that’s come out of the Fringe this year has come out of the necessity of COVID restrictions and regulations,” Ms Croall said.

The Queens curators Amelia Ryan and Zac Tyler with producers Torben and Richelle Brookman.(Supplied: Morgan Sette)

Regular cleaning

The other big East End hub, The Garden of Unearthly Delights, has been redesigned to be more spacious and include additional distanced seating areas.

Co-director Michelle Buxton said the garden would be cleaned regularly by a dedicated team, but audiences were also expected to maintain “well accepted COVID-safe practices of social distancing and good hygiene”.

Also new this year is a venue entitled The Queens in the West End.

It will be located in the oldest operational theatre on mainland Australia, The Queen’s Theatre, and offer a late night after party every Friday and Saturday night.

Built in 1840, the theatre – which is usually used for theatre and live music performances – will have an emphasis on cabaret, although it will also host some comedy and other musical acts.