For theater buffs and comedy fans the end of May is an important time. Fringe Festival Prague does its massive nine day run, offering a plethora of opportunities to see everything from musicians to stand-up to dancers to magicians. It can also be a bit stressful – so much good stuff, how can I fit it all in? With 36 productions from 13 countries, there’s no shortage of entertainment possibilities. Luckily each show is performed at least three times; in in many cases more like five. Stacked times in a contained quarter of Mala Straná means the intrepid can theater crawl to catch more than one on any given night.
“It's always really tricky to suggest how to get a handle on Fringe. Take a chance, jump in at the deep end,” Steve Gove, Festival Director suggested. “One way might be to stick to a venue for a night and see two, three shows there...another way might be to create a theme for yourself. There's a bunch of American acts this year as always (look out for the US Embassy logo), there are three queer shows (Prague Pride logo), music acts (United Islands logo), etc.”
One of the best intros is to check out the free show at Malostranská beseda on May 25. A variety of Fringe acts perform a one minute teaser of their show so you can spot what looks most interesting to you and buy tickets there on the spot.
Being a stand-up enthusiast, I’m looking forward to checking out Absolute Improv and Men with Coconuts, both from Scotland. The Prague Shakespeare Company, whose productions have always been quite good, have an intriguing show entitled The Murder of Gonzago. Other shows which caught my eye include the Lonely Guide, a black comedy about a Prague tour guide on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and One Man, One Plant which is basically exactly what its title suggests. Dance fans or those looking for something more thought-provoking may want to check out the Rosie Rogers Cowgirl Show, a one-woman dance theater show.
“I present a personal narrative and politicize it through the use of parody, characterizations and cultural critique,” Rosie Trump, the show’s choreographer and performer said. “Specifically, I evoke constructions of the American Old West, including cowboy iconography, the pioneer spirit and folk values. Through choreographic performance, these historical ideas are challenged by and linked to contemporary viewpoints of equality in feminism, gender and marriage.”
From America’s Old West to the 1940s, you can’t deny the eras, countries, and histories covered by the Fringe. Harlem’s Awakening is making its world premiere at the Prague Fringe. The show follows the unsettling journey of Harlem Markeson who is trying to reinvent herself in New York despite the interference from an unsavory cast of characters.
“This is a live storytelling experience,” said novelist and actor Peppur Chambers. “Each of our five performances will act out different chapters of my compelling novella, "Harlem's Awakening" so no two shows will be the same. I bring the book to life while reading from it. We want our audience to feel like they're wrapped up in their favorite blanket, in their favorite place and enjoying a new, favorite book.” The novella, which came out in January will be available at the shows.
What’s also great about Fringe is the availability of so many shows thanks to non-verbal elements.
“This show is highly visual with a lot of non-verbal material for everyone to enjoy,” Trump of the Rosie Rogers Cowgirl Show said. “This is a lighthearted show meant to seduce you with the charm of the characters. While I use American culture as a jumping off point, the show speaks to universal ideas of love, identity and social expectations.”
Gove of course has a couple acts he’s looking forward to.
“A Fringe is not a real Fringe without a few Aussie acts thrown in and this year’s Fringe is no exception. Hot off the back of playing at the Sydney Festival and now touring round Europe is Jamie MacDowell and Tom Thum,” he said. “We’re also very excited to welcome New Alliance-Theatre from Washington who have already been getting great press at home and here in Prague for their Vaclav Havel project (two shows).
The intimate atmospheres and short running times (most shows are about an hour) add to the appeal with audience and performers often mingling post-show in the bar. The ticket price too is very attractive, tickets are just 150 Kč, with a Fringe Voucher which gives you five tickets for the price of four available for 600 Kč. You can purchase tickets now on Ticketstream or the Fringe’s official ticket office in Malostranská beseda will be open daily from noon during the Fringe’s run. Bad planners can also show up at a show’s venue 30 minutes prior to show time and see if there are any tickets left.
Final tips from Gove?
“Listen to what people are saying... word of mouth really works...and start the gossip too - you might be the one to discover the hit show of this year,” he said. “Hang out at the Fringe Club at Malostranská beseda every night after the shows end - you are sure to meet new people and get to the heart of what's hot!”
Prague Fringe Festival 2014
May 23-May 31
Tickets 150 CZK
Which of this year's Fringe acts are tops on your list?