Festival opens with a tropical theme Reply

Director of the Sydney Fringe Festival, Kris Stewart

by Rebecca Cleaver

Freaky Tiki and the Sydney Ukulele Orchestra serenaded guests including the Lord Mayor, Cr Clover Moore, at the official opening of the Sydney Fringe Festival.

“There are a surprising amount of ukulele orchestras popping up, but people tend to like us because of the songs we choose and the effort we put into arranging them,” says Ian Lawson, orchestra member.

The Orchestra chose to perform a set of island-themed songs, such as Harry Belefonte’s Banana Boat Song, and combined them with rock ‘n’ roll classics by artists including Elvis and the Kinks.

The Orchestra was followed by the Voodoo King of the Inner West, who continued the tiki theme with a Jamaican-inspired set.

“He heard us doing the Banana Boat Song and offered to teach us how to pronounce it properly. Opinions are divided as to whether a bunch of white kids singing the song with phoney accents would be a good thing,” Ian Lawson joked.

Despite the Ukulele Orchestra’s increasing success, Ian insists he’s not in it for fame or fortune. ”I just like going through the motions of being a musician without having to put in too much time or effort,” he said.

After the musical performances, Ms Moore delivered a rousing speech in which she described her excitement at being involved in this year’s Fringe Festival. It was an admirable effort considering she was at polling booths early the next morning campaigning in the local government elections.

Kris Stewart, Director of the Fringe Festival, officially welcomed the audience to this year’s event. He praised the creative merits of the Fringe Festival, but was also quick to point out its economic benefits for the community. “Festivals such as this bring large amounts of money to local businesses,” he said.

In 2010, Mr Stewart was the inaugural Artistic Director of the Festival, NSW’s key major event for the alternative and independent arts sector. Then it included 76 theatre works, 59 music acts, 30 musicals, 25 visual arts exhibitions, 16 full length comedies, 13 digital arts pieces, 11 pieces of burlesque or circus, eight dance productions, four children’s theatre companies, two film festivals, as well as underground artspace tours, street festivals, alternative fashion parades, masquerade balls and street theatre.

This year, the Festival featured over 250 events across more than 70 venues in Leichhardt, Parramatta, Oxford Street and the City. Fringe Central covers the Inner West, Inner East and CBD and includes the Newtown/Marrickville/Enmore area, which has the highest concentration of independent theatres and live performance spaces in Sydney and the largest artist population in Australia.

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