You know, just like in real life.

There will be a live singalong from a famous New York piano bar. An improvised 24-hour news channel. A comedy cabaret quiz. A virtual dance party.

The Fringe Common Rooms at Trades Hall, a new venue that's hosting a digital festival.

The Fringe Common Rooms at Trades Hall, a new venue that’s hosting a digital festival.Credit:Duncan Jacob

Abrahams is inordinately proud of the innovative digital platform that the Fringe has cooked up with a “brilliant team of nerds”.

And, he admits, it’s a proof-of-concept for one version of the Fringe proper, currently scheduled for November, which could end up as a largely online event if the coronavirus lingers.

“We want to give a sense of the spirit of the Fringe,” Abrahams says. “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.”

One of the most important innovations, he says, is the way artists will get paid. There will be no upfront fee but after the performance audience members will be invited to select from a series of suggested ticket prices, “none of which are zero”.

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“I believe artists should be paid for their work,” Abrahams says. “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.

“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.”

The headline act is Australian comedian Zoe Coombs Marr – “a genius”, says Abrahams, who has created a new show for VCR. Abrahams says he chose all the acts looking for performers “who understand how to use a screen in the cleverest way”, such as Game Boys Comedy and Joel Bray performing a digital version of his Fringe hit Biladurang, live from a hotel room. And he wanted a spread of the social elements (i.e. parties) that give the Fringe its sense of community.

Most acts will perform from the new Fringe Common Rooms at Trades Hall, a room “known for these big parties”, says Abrahams.

But is he worried people are fed up with streamed performance, in this second-wave city?

“If it’s quality content, people will want to watch it. I think our audience is truthfully desperate for independent art, and they’re not getting that on Netflix.”

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