Survivor’s guide to the 2015 Adelaide Cabaret Festival

Barry Humphries is the Artistic Director of Ad Cab Fest 2015
Barry Humphries is the Artistic Director of Ad Cab Fest 2015. Image by Claudio Raschella

The times they are a-changing… But change is good. In fact, change is great! The Adelaide Cabaret Festival has a new team and a new drive, keeping some of the classics and bringing in some new flavours in the well-loved Festival that is now well into its second decade.

Barry Humphries is a crowd favourite in Adelaide as well as being a national treasure and as the new Artistic Director of the festival (along with John Glenn, EP taking over the reigns from Torben Brookman) promises a sexy temptation in every show. Whether it lives up to the advertising is yet to be explored… but there are definitely gems to be found in the broad programming that includes acts from South Australia, nationally and internationally.

The notable lack of “headliner” at this year’s festival has both its pro’s and cons. With the fewest imports from New York that we’ve seen for a while, it’s a joy to see some of the amazing local talents like Stephen Sheehan, Michaela Burger and David Gauci receiving a guernsey this time round. It’s also the first Cabaret Festival since Julia Holt’s reign to see a new musical “tested” on Cabaret Festival audiences with The Front receiving a performance at the Dunstan Playhouse.


Adelaide Festival Centre
Adelaide Festival Centre. Image: supplied

As always, the Cabaret Festival is completely held within the Adelaide Festival Centre (AFC) complex. There’s no need to hop in the car or look at a map to find out where your next show is and the most time you need to allow between shows depends on how quickly you can run across the Centre (in heels, carrying a wine and chatting with friends… it’s the obstacle course of the festival-goer like no other). The AFC tend to ramp up the signage during June which makes it a bit easier to find things, but if you can remember that the Space, Artspace and Dunstan Playhouse are west (at the railway station end) and the Banquet Room, Festival Theatre and indeed the Festival Stage are east (King William Street end), you’re set to go.


Other than the shows themselves, the food and drinks at the Cabaret Festival are one of the most important parts of the experience. There is never enough time to stray between shows but always time for a chat and a catch up with other festival-goers. The Winter Garden is my favourite spot for a quick drink and bite to eat with a range of food trucks to choose from and a full bar. It’s the central hub for meeting up and discussing the shows you’ve seen or the show’s you’re about to see. Hopefully this year there is a bit more choice as last year’s was a more limited offering, but the wine is always flowing which is the first priority!

Don’t forget the more formal bistro dining available in the Piano Bar (this year themed as “The Black Forest”) with german favourites, platters in the various foyers, and meals at places like the Bistro by foodbusiness (in the Dunstan Playhouse foyer), Parlamento’s and Jamie’s Italian (on North Tce) and Regatta’s at the Convention Centre (providing free parking to diners and a quick meal if you let them know you’re off to the theatre).  The choices are endless!

Getting there and parking

Be prepared. There are renovations going on in the Riverbank Carpark (attached to the Adelaide Convention Centre) which is one of the more readily available parking stations, convenient to the Space and Dunstan Playhouse venues. At the time of writing, no restrictions are in place with regards to this carpark, however based on experience this year, there are less places available and bigger queues to get in.

If you want to be super organised, you can pre-book your carpark in the AFC by going to BASS ( but you need to get in early as these sell out fast – plus be aware of the new booking fee hike that adds to this cost: Book all your dates at once to save on transaction fees. This lets you just ride on in to the carpark a few minutes before your show without a care in the world, often worth the cost alone.

Of course, if you’re really adventurous, you can take a chance on Adelaide’s not so reliable public transport, which drops off just a few metres away on King William Street, North Terrace or in the railway station, which is just across the road. Plus the new bridge across to Memorial Drive is helpful for those willing to walk a little to their car… just be prepared on Football nights to fight for a space no matter where you go.

Finding the gems and seeing as much as possible

Barry Humphries. Image by Claudio Raschella
Barry Humphries. Image by Claudio Raschella

So you’ve found a park, you’ve had dinner and you know where your next show is… but you’ve still got an hour to kill? Why not get a last minute ticket to something you’ve never heard of.

I call this Cabaret Russian Roulette.

Look at the rush tickets board (often there are one or two shows with $10 – $15 tickets for that night) and choose one that fits your timetable. It’s less of a risk if you don’t love the show (which looking at this year’s lineup is unlikely) because you haven’t shelled out exorbitant amounts of money, and if you DO enjoy it, then you’ve discovered a gem of the festival!

Talk to your fellow festival goers. Many of the shows you have to sit at a cabaret table shared with a group of strangers in close quarters. You provide the cursory “hello” and adjust your chair so you have the best view of the stage. It’s intimate and it’s all part of the Cabaret Festival. But here’s my tip – when you say hello to your fellow table dwellers, why not ask them what they’ve enjoyed so far? There’s always one or two shows each year that become the hot ticket as the show you HAVE to see. Word of mouth is your best chance of catching that show before it sells out and it’s the one you regret missing (trust me, missing Smoke and Mirrors in the 2010 CabFest is my biggest regret it to this day).

Enjoy it for what it is… a celebration of art

Defining Cabaret is near on impossible with such a huge range to choose from. This year’s festival demonstrates that from stand-up comedy (Adam Hills) to nostalgic music retrospectives (the 27 Club) and some of the favourites returning like Storm Large and Frisky & Mannish. Don’t worry about the rules, just enjoy the entertainment and you’re bound to get the most out of the 2015 Adelaide Cabaret Festival. 

Remember! Keep your eye out for the classic Cabaret Festival moment and absorb it as it happens… you can tweet about it later.

Get involved in the discussion by following Adelaide Cabaret Festival on Twitter: @adeaidecabaret

Hayley Horton

Hayley was an arts worker in South Australia for twelve years working freelance for small to medium clients as well as for companies such as the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, State Theatre Company SA, Urban Myth Theatre of Youth and the Australia Business Arts Foundation. As part of her freelance work, Hayley founded the ATG Curtain Call Awards (which is now an annual gala event), co-produced three 24 Hour Show charity fundraiser events, has judged for the Adelaide Fringe Festival and reviewed for Aussie Theatre and the Adelaide Theatre Guide. Hayley now runs a boutique events and arts management business, Footlight Events and in her spare time, is involved with Adelaide’s amateur theatre community as a producer, performer and director.

Hayley Horton

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