Castlemaine: Tucked away in a valley, this picturesque little town 90 minutes from Melbourne has seen riches pulled straight out of the ground, fought battles for human rights, boasts the longest continually-running theatre in Australia, and was even on the short list for capital of Australia at one point (true story). And since the seventies, the seed of an arts scene was planted that has been sprouting and blossoming to become the thriving arts community that it is today.
In 1992 the Castlemaine Fringe festival was created, devoted to supporting, promoting and exhibiting the golden wealth of its local talent. Visual arts, music, theatre, performance art, cinema – every conceivable (and even the undefinable) style and genre artistic expression has been on offer over the 10 magical days that is the Castlemaine Fringe.
In 2016 the theme is Breakout, with the festival breaking out of its biennial structure, splitting into two streams: performance one year and visual arts the next. The inaugural performance stream festival begins in Castlemaine on Friday 11th March, until the 20th, in partnership with Arts Open, the visual artists open studio festival.
There’s heaps of music of course, with the gallery stage outside the hub at the Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum. Twenty artists and groups perform over the two weekends (including the long one) – traditional, folk, jazz, blues, electronic, improv… Plus afternoon and evening events over the 10 days at the Railway and Bridge hotels, Theatre Royal and the Collectorz Café, double plus the live to air broadcast of MAIN fm 94.9’s Guildford Connection and Local and Live direct from the Guildford Hotel.
Theatre and performance art ranges from the slightly black comedy of Hobo Playhouse’s Come back for light refreshments after the service – set in a kitchen in Melbourne in the 1980s, the play follows four women as they prepare traditional food for a wake – to re-interpretations and adaptions of local sites and stories in Company On Foot’s Promenade Locale #3 – to the avant-garde spoken-word performance of town-crier Araignee Chaine’s Revelations.
You can even experience the healing power of sound meditation with Denise Davis, learn algorithmic computer music composition with Nick Davis, or share your poetry in an intimate setting with Danni Ryles.
And hark back to the good ol’ Fringe days with the Jail House Rock Opera, the colonial gaol-themed musical variety show packed to the bars with fun. Whether it’s Chain, Kurt Weill, Elvis, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin – or original interpretations – it’s three hours of music and theatre over two stages in the brand new performance space at the historic Old Castlemaine Gaol. With a troupe of Castlemaine music’s finest: Rex Watts, Simon Elvins, Kestral, Meaghan NightJar, Tom Baxter, Ange Lawson, Jude Russell, Moira Oviedo, Tony and Chris Ryan, Matt Arrowsmith and Orryelle Defenestrate.
Check out the whole programme at www.castlemainefringe.org.au. 11 – 20 March. Castlemaine Fringe festival 2016 – Breakout.