You needn’t wait till November (yes, it is still happening!) for your annual dose of the Melbourne Fringe. This weekend the Melbourne Fringe Festival brings to you its inaugural digital edition very aptly titled the VCR Fest or the Virtual Common Rooms Festival from July 31-Aug 2.

From digital comedy to dance anthems aiming to heat up the battle against the dreaded coronavirus, the organisers say the objective is to give audiences the experience of a live performance from the safety of their socially-distanced couches. And, just because the festival is digital does not mean it will be restricted in its choice of venues – from the Fringe Common Rooms and a Melbourne hotel,  all the way to a New York basement piano bar.

Simon Abrahams, CEO and Creative Director of Melbourne Fringe – VCR Fest told Star Observer that he had the idea for a digital festival very early into the first lockdown.

“I know we wanted to create a program that meant the brilliant work of independent artists could still happen, even if that meant broadcasting into people’s living rooms. We set about talking to donors, funders, sponsors and most importantly artists and it has all come together very quickly.”

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 Organising a festival in the midst of  pandemic had its fair share of challenges.

“The challenges are endless. First and foremost, we need to ensure the safety of our artists who are coming together to make their work. Then, we’ve built a whole new platform to broadcast the festival, which has an interactive digital foyer (including a bar!). We’ve done it all without seeing each other, creating a new festival collaboratively from our respective bedrooms, which is the opposite of how we would normally make a festival – it’s usually all in a room imagining something together. Our creative juices have been flowing, and I’m very excited for the end result.”

The lineup of talent at VCR Fest includes comedian Zoë Coombs Marr with her new show Born Slippy, which she describes as “a little bit lecture, a little bit comedy, drizzled with stream of consciousness, and with a complex mouthfeel.” First nations artist Joel Bray will present his show Biladurang 2.0, based on a Wiradjuri story of the platypus, live from a Melbourne hotel. Adam Michael Tilford and Kenney M. Green will present their sing-a-long of popular musical theatre numbers live from the iconic New York underground bar Marie’s Crisis.

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 The queer quotient is strong as usual at the Fringe with “noise-pop” musicians Cry Club, breakdancing drag kings Dazza and Keif and disabled queer performer and podcast producer Erin Kyan on a panel discussion.

Cry Club by Pippa Samaya

Cry Club has promised dance anthems that will make you cry and dance. Heather Riley, one half of the post-punk pop duo (the other half being Jono Tooke), explains the reason: “Catharsis! We think everyone needs a space to be both emotional and let loose to have fun! Our music is about embracing the things that make you sad, so you can move forward and move through it with this community of people who also feel the same way. We love to mix those opposing themes in the music- the big punk guitars and pop melodies, the fusion of these two opposing forces to create something new and beautiful is what really drives us,” says Riley.

“Expect the full level of theatrics, punk attitude and drama that we usually bring to any live show. If you’re not dancing along in your living room, we’re not working hard enough!” adds Riley.

Dazza and Keif, on the other hand, have set their sights on a new nemesis – the coronavirus. They hope to vanquish the virus with a drag dance marathon. The drag kings spelled out their mission in their own words to Star Observer: “Dazza and Keif have heard that COVID-19 hates heat, so they are trying to smash out as many smokin hot dance routines as possible to get rid of the virus! Are their dance moves lit enough to burn up Covid-19? Can the passionate heat of their bromance save 2020 from itself? How long is it medically safe to have a rona boner? These questions and much more than you asked for will be answered in this high energy, low brow, dance drag extravaganza.”

The drag king duo are looking forward to catching the performances and chat up up other artists and the audience in the digital foyer.

Register for VCR Fest here.

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