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Foundation Impact Stories: From Adelaide Cabaret Festival to London’s West End

Monday, 24 June 2024
5 min read
2024 Adelaide Cabaret Festival Artistic Director, Virginia Gay and Yve Blake

Adelaide Cabaret Festival isn't just about captivating performances; it's a breeding ground for artistic talent.

Yve Blake's smash-hit musical FANGIRLS is due to open in London’s West End in July 2024. Its journey from a back-of-the-napkin idea to a global phenomenon began with a crucial push from Adelaide Cabaret Festival's development program, fuelled by the vision of the 2018 Artistic Director, Ali McGregor. 

In 2016 Yve Blake was a young artist with an idea for a musical about the world of teenage fangirls, but she faced a daunting reality: the astronomical costs of musical production. "Musicals have bigger casts," Blake explains. "You need microphones, a space for everyone to practice the dancing, giant mirrors, so many bells and whistles." On top of that, "at this point, I'm a 23-year-old who no one knows from a piece of cheese," she adds. 

Despite the clear potential, the challenges were immense. "People were excited about the idea," Blake recalls, "but it's a tough bet." Throughout 2017, she found herself in a whirlwind of meetings with companies and artistic directors.

I'd be wined and dined, but no one was making any financial commitment.

Blake was stuck working late shifts at a bar to make ends meet, all while writing and rewriting drafts of the show with no guarantee of support.

Expand Alex Sinclair, Adelaide Festival Centre Head of Programming – Commercial and Yve Blake at the 2024 Adelaide Festival Centre Artistic Director’s Fund Long Lunch

Alex Sinclair, Adelaide Festival Centre Head of Programming – Commercial and Yve Blake at the 2024 Adelaide Festival Centre Artistic Director’s Fund Long Lunch

Enter Adelaide Festival Centre's Adelaide Cabaret Festival led by the discerning eye of Ali McGregor, the 2018 Artistic Director. Recognising the raw potential in FANGIRLS, McGregor didn't just offer a place at the table; she offered a lifeline. The festival’s in-development program provided invaluable resources and space for Blake to refine her concept. With McGregor's guidance and the festival’s support, FANGIRLS began to take shape. 

In 2018 on the Dunstan Playhouse stage at Adelaide Festival Centre, we did the first-ever full workshop development of the show.

This wasn't just a rehearsal; it was a chance for FANGIRLS to breathe life in front of a live audience. The workshop presentation proved to be a turning point. 

The showcase at Adelaide Cabaret Festival had a ripple effect beyond the stage. Industry insiders who witnessed the raw energy of FANGIRLS were captivated. "After that presentation, within a week, I had a license deal, I had a date for the season," says Blake. This newfound support propelled FANGIRLS forward, leading to a sold-out premiere, a national tour, a season at Sydney Opera House and ultimately, a coveted spot at London’s West End. 

Adelaide Festival Centre’s commitment to nurturing talent extends beyond simply showcasing established artists. By providing a platform for development and fostering new works, Adelaide Cabaret Festival plays a vital role in shaping the future of Australian theatre.  

Donors to Adelaide Festival Centre's Artistic Director's Fund recently had the chance to connect with Blake during a Q&A at their annual Artistic Director's Celebration. Blake herself acknowledges the impact, stating "It was all in an absolute arrested development until Adelaide Festival Centre and Adelaide Cabaret Festival." The festival’s support not only assisted in launching FANGIRLS but also helped launch the career of a rising star. 

“Chookas” to Yve and her team, from everyone at Adelaide Cabaret Festival and Adelaide Festival Centre for their season in London!  

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