Melbourne’s virtual VCR Fest ‘more than a series of YouTube links’

The Melbourne Fringe is putting together another virtual festival following the increased restrictions caused by the latest spike in coronavirus cases in Melbourne.

The festival organiser told The Sydney Morning Herald its VCR (Virtual Commons Room) Fest, running from July 31 to August 2 will act as a test run for ideas for the Melbourne Fringe planned for November.

“It’s more than a series of YouTube links,” said Melbourne Fringe creative director and CEO Simon Abrahams.

The VCR Fest will feature a “digital foyer” for artists and viewers to meet online with a chatbot to help break the ice. There is even a virtual bar to deliver beer to your home.

An improvised 24-hour news channel, a comedy cabaret quiz and a virtual dance party are also on the cards.

“We want to give a sense of the spirit of the Fringe,” Abrahams said. “We have 18 days of events in November and this is a great way for us to test some of the ideas, see how things roll out and what audience takeup is and how it works, before we do the big shebang.”

Ticket prices will also be flexible, with patrons given the option from a number of suggested ticket prices, “none of which are zero”.

“We felt that to completely pre-ticket all experiences might be a barrier to entry, when there’s so much free content around at the moment. But at the same time saying ‘please make a donation’ isn’t strong enough,” he said.

“This gives the lowest barrier to entry for audiences, if people perhaps worry about the quality of what they might experience online. And they get a feeling of value for money, of being able to pay what they feel – and I am confident they will have a great time and will want to support the artists.”