The 2020 Fringe took place against the looming inevitability of a worldwide pandemic, and the arts sector has faced existential challenges in the year since. So there’s never been a better time to support independent artists creating original work. Here are five of the best shows to check out at this year’s Fringe.

Fringeland
Nowhere is the spirit of the Fringe more alive than at Arthur Art Bar, the anarchic space that hosts events like a gardening-themed pop-up restaurant and Jason Donovan-themed quiz nights throughout the year. And during Fringe, it ramps up to peak DIY weirdness with Fringeland. This year there’ll be live music in the bar, while the barely organised chaos upstairs will include immersive art installations and the Fringe’s answer to Chatroulette: constantly rotating 10-minute shows that could be anything from a comedy or burlesque set to someone doing crochet or talking about string theory. And if you’ve always wanted to get up on stage, Arthur is staying true to its mission of democratising the Fringe – there are still slots available for budding performers.

Fringeland runs from February 19 to March 21 at Arthur Art Bar.

[Mis]conceive
A great strength of Australian (and global) First Nations cultures is their multiplicity of views and traditions. But too often mass culture presents Aboriginality as a homogenous, or fixed, identity. This is the starting point for Bundjalung-Yugambeh, Wiradjuri and Ni-Vanuatu man Thomas ES Kelly’s acclaimed dance work [Mis]conceive. Challenging the stereotypes of what it means to be an Aboriginal person in modern Australia, the show combines humour, compassion and high-energy dance, intertwining traditional First Nations dance forms with contemporary movement to deliver a joyful expression of individuality.

[Mis]conceive runs from March 25 to 27 at Ngunyawayiti Theatre at Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute.

Dirt
Set against the backdrop of the ongoing anti-gay purges in Chechnya and a world where it’s increasingly difficult to parse fact from fabrication, this brand new thriller tells the story of an Australian who hooks up with a local while travelling in Russia. Both characters (played by real life partners Patrick Livesey and Wil King) are harbouring dark secrets, which emerge over the course of one night in Moscow. The play explores the differences and the parallels between the persecution experienced by each in their home countries.

Dirt runs from February 16 to March 21 at at Holden Street Theatres.

Club Queens
The historic Queen’s Theatre is being transformed into a cabaret hub this Fringe – but the real fun starts once the scheduled shows finish. Every Friday and Saturday night from 11.15, performers including Carla Lippis, Libby O’Donovan, Paul McDermott and Catherine Alcorn will oversee a rotating line-up of cabaret, comedy and live music performances at this after-hours club. Each night, the host will be joined by four guests for an adults-only show that allows them to embrace their wilder side. Then DJs take over, keeping the party going until well into the night. The debauchery will be fuelled by a pop-up cellar door featuring a dozen Clare Valley wineries.

Club Queens runs from February 19 to March 20 at Queen's Theatre.

Egg
It started with an ad in 32-year-old Erin Fowler’s Facebook feed asking if she’d considered freezing her “dying” eggs. Sick of fielding intimate questions laced heavily with guilt, the award-winning artist and dancer decided to respond the only way she knew how: by creating a clown show. Combining physical theatre, dance and clowning with a banging ’80s soundtrack, Egg explores Fowler’s fantasies, desires and fears as she investigates her own fertility and why it’s considered socially acceptable to discuss it publicly. She’ll also launch an accompanying podcast (The Waiting Womb) where she’ll conduct free-ranging discussions with other Fringe artists.

Egg runs from February 19 to March 21 at Black Box Theatre at the Adelaide Botanic Garden.

Adelaide Fringe runs from February 19 to March 21. Tickets are available online