There’s no other time of the year when you can watch a burlesque cabaret show, a comedy routine, a theatre piece and a circus performance all in one night. For three weeks in September, though, you can see Melbourne’s independent arts scene showcased across 140 venues around the city. And with 400 events on the program this year, the 2014 Melbourne Fringe Festival is the biggest one in its 28-year history.

For those first-time Fringe-goers, festival director Jayne Lovelock has this advice: “For every show you go to that you know you’ll love, take a risk and see something completely different, because that’s the best way to explore and engage with Fringe".

So don’t be afraid to check out the unusual visual-art exhibits or the interactive theatre pieces.

Here are just a few of our picks for this year’s fringe.

PERFORMANCE
Op Shop Opera
St Kilda’s Sacred Heart Mission Op Shop is the scene of this immersive theatre piece. Actors use singing, fairytales, audience participation and objects from around the op shop to tell a story about identity and love.

Attic Erratic Presents: The City They Burned
The City They Burned is a powerful, dark adaption of the biblical tale, Lot and the fall of Sodom, set in a contemporary city. Starting off as an immersive experience before moving to a traditional stage format, the show explores the ideas of power and fear in society.

COMEDY
Escape From LA
Writer Clem Bastow tells her story of living in Los Angeles for two years and her childhood dream of writing a screenplay in a Starbucks there. Using witty, self-deprecating humour, Bastow navigates the reality of life in the U.S.

DANCE
Soma
Everyone knows that one person who is weirdly double jointed, but dancer and contortionist Amy Macpherson takes flexibility to a whole new level. SOMA is a solo contemporary dance piece set to mesmerising music that showcases Macpherson’s incredible elasticity, and sees her body move into unbelievable positions.

CIRCUS
My Life in Boxes
Using a combination of gravity-defying circus acts and traditional theatre, My Life in Boxes is performed not only in front of an audience, but also above them. The story follows a pathological hoarder who is being placed into palliative care as she unpacks her belongings and remembers the defining moments of her life.

CABARET
Glamping with Bobby and the Pins
Follow a barbershop quartet as it goes glamping (that’s glamorous camping, if you weren’t aware). Expect cheeky humour, dazzling costumes and music from the 1950s sung with stunning four-part harmonies.

LIVE ART
Kwality Chai
Performed at Flinders Street Station, this immersive live-art experience imagines a world where India is in charge of Australia. This cross-cultural art installation revolves around a golden chai-tea cart and uses animated projections, sound and live performance to interact with members of the public. There will also be traditional chai drinks for the public to taste as part of the performance. Free

MUSIC
8 First Dates
Eight Melbourne artists from the independent music scene will perform a never-before-heard song. Featuring artists Jae Laffer (The Panics), Angie Hart (Frente!), J. Walker (Machine Translations), Ainslie Wills, Charles Jenkins, Mikelangelo and James O’Brien (Darling James/The Boat People) at the North Melbourne Town Hall.

VISUAL ARTS
Fringe Furniture
In its 29th year, Fringe Furniture is the longest-running program at Fringe. This object and furniture design exhibition will be held at the Abbotsford convent and explore the theme of Living Traces, where every object in our life tells a story.

The Mebourne Fringe Festival runs from September 17–October 5. For the full program, visit: melbournefringe.com.au