ACES AT THE MAJ Winning hand

Presenting music, cabaret, theatre, circus acts and more in 2022, Aces at The Maj returns to Fringe World this summer from Saturday, January 15, to Saturday, February 12. The program offers a weekly-changing smorgasbord of award-winning and captivating nightly shows delivered in luxurious air-conditioned comfort. KWANWOO HAN caught up with Neville Sice, Co-Producer of Aces at The Maj, to find out about the acts making up their carefully-selected program.

Aces at The Maj has been part of Fringe for several years. To those who don’t know, what is it?

Aces is an abbreviation of Australian Cabaret Enterprises, which is a touring and production company involved in a number of Australian festivals and live performance events. It has been producing performances, first in its own venue, then around the country, for over 20 years. We have been coming to Perth Fringe World for more than 10 years.

Aces at The Maj premiered several years ago and was obviously a success. What started it all?

Our initial Fringe World performances were first in Fringe managed venues where we were incredibly well supported and welcomed by the festival organisers and where we developed our deep respect for this outstanding event. However, we were keen to put our brand on our own venue and, with the encouragement of festival management, began partnering with His Maj seven years ago.

This allowed us to occupy more of the Fringe calendar and schedule many more performances, particularly from the vast pool of incredibly talented WA performers. This partnership, now more like an annual homecoming for us, has also created a unique Fringe niche, where we offer a different level of audience experience – with features like air conditioning, comfortable table seating, disability access, on site bar service and upmarket restaurant – to create an appeal to perhaps less traditional Fringe audiences. We see this appeal working year on year, with our sales over the past two years averaging over 90% of capacity compared to an average of 60% plus recorded more generally across the festival.

Many can apply to perform with you, but only a few are chosen. What do you look for when choosing applicants?

We have a good understanding of Perth audiences. Every state and territory audiences differ in their preferred types of performance. We look for shows that we predict will appeal to WA audiences, while bringing a diversity ranging from theatre to magic, cabaret and comedy and to sustain a weekly dynamic and regularly changing program that will keep our loyal audiences coming back. And we have our ‘regular’ WA performers who we have worked with in previous years and who we trust to annually bring us new shows of quality and high production values.

There have been many performances in the past that have headlined Aces at The Maj. Was there a particular one that comes to mind for you?

Hey, ask me to nominate my favourite child, why don’t you ?

I guess it would be Twists & Turns, starring olympic gold medal diver Matthew Mitcham. We created this show, based around his autobiography of the same name, and appointed the very best Director, Musical Director and co-star to support the talent which we knew Matt had in spades. The show toured around Australia twice, including Perth Fringe World twice, won many awards – including 2014 Fringe World Best Cabaret award – and thrilled audiences with a deeply personal story that was as inspiring as it was challenging. And, boy, can that guy sing!

And a special shout out to what we believe to be Perth Fringe World’s longest running show – Comma Sutra. Louisa has been tutoring in correct grammar usage now for six years as part of our program, consistently selling out this hilarious, highly musical and superbly crafted cabaret.

With so many acts this year, are there any performers who stood out? Specifically as a person rather than an act.

We would have to nominate Bloom for this one. A Perth performer, she has been unable to return from an eastern states tour to perform her Adele and Amy Songbook Fringe show due to border closures. She has been dogged in her determination not to let down the hundreds of loyal WA fans who had already bought tickets, trying unsuccessfully to line up a Perth venue soon to host a postponed show. In a bold move, never experienced by us, she has asked us to program the show in our 2023 Aces at The Maj program in January next year, allowing all current ticket holders to transfer or re-book their tickets to those dates. That show is now on sale through His Majesty’s Theatre website. We salute that kind of fan base loyalty!

Aces at The Maj has become a bigger part of Fringe over the years. What do you hope to see or achieve in the coming future?

We love WA and its audiences and, while we can never see ourselves not basing our hub at our beloved Maj, we would like to explore additional WA venues – maybe looking to the outer Perth suburbs or for regional touring opportunities for our Fringe shows. We are dedicated to building on the audience experiences we offer at The Maj. The newly renovated Crew & King restaurant, exquisite Dress Circle Bar and Downstairs Museum Lounge foyer have added greatly to the comfort and ambience at the theatre in recent years.

When opened early this year, the new exterior balconies will reproduce those of the original building, adding attractive new public spaces for patrons. Maybe hosting Aces Sunday DJ balcony sessions during Fringe, or an early evening cocktail catch up with some of our favourite Freo buskers?

We are proud of our new relationship with DoubleTree by Hilton Perth Northbridge, who have joined us to offer restaurant and accommodation discounts to Aces ticket holders. We hope that this continues and builds into the future.

For future years? We would like to take cabaret afloat on The Swan, limber up with a musical dawn yoga on the beach and have some pop-up performances in unexpected places. Why not?

Say you have been asked to perform for children at the park. What is your act and why?

Well we haven’t. But, if we had, we would feature the indefatigable Zalia Joi. She is a polished Perth children’s performer, a Santa elf, a sometimes uke playing busker and a bundle of sunshine, positivity and enthusiasm.

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