WTF? (What the Fringe) We Were in Sydney

New Zealand was represented well in Sydney with House of Sand’s Pedal and Castles, The Offensive Nipple Show, Jamaine Ross, Pax Assadi and Rhys Matthewson performed in Breakout Kiwi Edition and I presented Coriander’s Yoga(ish) Show.

screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-5-32-43-pm It took me 2 weeks to see the "get our art on" ... obviously only got party on the brain.

It all started for me when I turned up to the airport at twelve minutes past three in the morning to discover the Wellington airport doesn’t open until 3.30AM. It’s like you try so hard to be a good, functioning human and life just knocks you back. I must radiate knowledge because all through the airport people stopped to ask me questions. Little did they know that I’m the person who lost her debit card at the Brisbane airport once and searched through every rubbish bin in the whole airport to find it, so I possibly wasn’t the most qualified traveller to help them with their passport issues. I was then confronted with two children in front of me farting the whole way to Australia and after an issue with engine number one in Brisbane I finally made it to Sydney ready to tackle the beast that is The Sydney Fringe Festival. Ever since graduating drama school performing in Australia had been on the short-term goal list so it felt pretty rad to be there performing my show!

Being honest, Sydney was tough. I know I run the risk of sounding like a total diva talking about this when there are some monster Fringe festivals like Edinburgh (we’ll get to that one on this blog soon) and Adelaide to compare it to, but Sydney is huge. As Sarah Tuck said to me you can’t go to three shows a night and land in your local for a debrief and a dance with every other theatre practitioner in Fringe like you do in Wellington. It’s a corporate city and your classic flyering doesn’t exist as your casual passerby is not used to artists stopping them to chat about an upcoming show. Everyone behind the scenes at The Sydney Fringe and the artists I saw were working extremely hard and I quickly realised I would have to up my game and work even harder than ever.


screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-5-28-34-pm Now I'm not endorsing alcohol dependency but sometimes a cider and a big bowl of chips is the only thing that'll help

I’ve gathered some information that I think could be quite useful if anyone was considering doing the Sydney Fringe Festival in the future from the kiwis who tackled it this year.


Spoiler Alert: The Offensive Nipple Show won Best Theatre at The Sydney Fringe!!


“We took a connected approach based on when Jess Holly-Bates did her show in Edinburgh which was to make 6 friends a day. Show them we are funny and quality humans and nonchalantly tell them we’re doing a show. Works every time.” – Sarah Tuck, Offensive Nipple Show

“Know your target audience and don’t be afraid to approach them. I went and offered comps to everyone who worked at the Lululemon stores in Sydney to try and get them all talking about it.” - Me (Jess Brien), Coriander’s Yoga(ish) Show

“Another tactic: tinder. You write a bio that declares what you’re looking for so you don’t mislead anyone… Easy. Then you swipe right on everyone that isn’t pouting and strike up a convo with all of your matches. We had a really good success rate!” - Sarah

There were a lot of similarities, like the core team behind the scenes being awesome, the vibe of bringing the independent arts sector to life and the work presented being rad, but these were the main differences between New Zealand Fringe and Sydney Fringe:

14568927_10153802454300812_1282059213_n Introducing Adelaide Fringe, NZ Fringe, Darwin Fringe... and me

“Sydney Fringe will curate your venue for you as opposed to you sorting it out before you register like in New Zealand.” – Jess

“[That] made it very easy – they want your show to win!” – Sarah

“There was never a shortage of artists to get a beer with at the end of the night in Wellington, whereas in Sydney my artist card was number 510 and I only met a couple of artists.” – Jess

“Sydney Fringe doesn’t have ‘a fringe audience’ or a massive sense of theatre community. Rather, community is formed around each show. Because of this, our audiences weren’t so quick to rush off – we got a lot of post show engagement and discussion. A nice vibe each night.” – Sarah

“I definitely agree with that one, people got a lot of photos with me after the show which didn’t happen in Wellington.” – Jess

“I really like how people wait around to congratulate you and wait to show you their nipple neck pillow they bought for solidarity. It’s a really nice feeling.” – Sarah


14569863_10153802454290812_1856725636_n Our fab festival director Hannah Clarke being in awe of Sydney

Overall, performing in Sydney felt really bloody cool so here are some of the best parts about performing in Sydney:

“The venue (Factory Theatre) that we performed at was amazing. It was 7 performances spaces at one venue so it was a hub… It had comedians from across the spectrum there, from newbie comics who had only been performing for about to year to seasoned Australian television regulars.” – Jamaine Ross Breakout Kiwi Edition

“Testing jokes on Australian audiences so exploring what works and what doesn’t work in another country. And of course eating like a freaking Queen throughout the city.” – Jess

“Sharing the venue with such a rad fellow kiwi artist!” – Laura Beanland-Stephens, Pedal and Castles. (Please note she did share the venue with me and no bribery was exchanged in order for her to say that.)

“We were in Newtown which is a pretty dope part of Sydney! Our accommodation was so close to the theatre, which made everything easier. The woman who owned it was from Wellington so an instant allie!” - Sarah

Like every festival the highs were high and the lows were low. It made me appreciate what I love about NZ Fringe and made me inspired to bring some elements back to Wellington. For example this cool chain play that was written in a hotel room over 4 days with 4 playwrights and then presented as a reading at the hotel with free (!!) wine and nibbles (anyone want to get on board that idea with me let me know!)

My final two pieces of advice I would like to leave you with from my time in Sydney for The Sydney Fringe Festival and you can apply it to any venture you may embark on with your lives would be 1. It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission and 2. Never lose sight of the awesomeness of what you’re actually doing. You’re doing a show! That’s pretty cool!

Jess Brien is a clown, performer, writer and yoga teacher.  In her spare time she drinks cider and eats breakfast foods. She loves connecting with people so find her on all the social medias at @jessssbrien or send an email to