Fringe Fest 2011 Wrapup

Ah, how we laughed! A look back at the Prague Fringe Festival 2011

Helen Ford

Written by Helen Ford Published on 09.06.2011 14:16:24 (updated on 09.06.2011) Reading time: 4 minutes

Last Saturday evening, the tenth annual Prague Fringe Festival drew to a close. got to a fair few of the 39 acts (totalling 246 shows in all and hailing performers from 15 countries) and happily, only had gripes with two of them.

Fringe director Steve Gove told me pre-Fringe 2011 that, even though this year´s Fringe was the biggest to date (with new venues and extra special events such as Fringe Sunday), he hoped the event remains intimate for the foreseeable future. “There is a real ‘family feel´ to the Fringe by the end” he told me. “The festival belongs to everybody – performers, volunteers and the audiences”.

That really felt true of this year´s event. Part of the charm of Prague as the host city is its size: wander around Malá strana during the Fringe and you can´t help but bump into one or two of the performers you´d seen on stage the night before, or one of the ever-cheery volunteers. There appeared to be a wonderfully collegiate atmosphere between performers too. At Fringe Sunday I sat next to the lovely Wyndham Grayling of Stealing Buckingham Palace, who told me that as well as trying to learn his lines, he tries to see and support as many shows as possible. And, whilst I wasn´t wild about their show, the cast of Sunnyville seemed to be lovely guys, and were often to be found at the bar at Malostranské Beseda (Malostranské náměstí 21, Malá strana) talking to other performers. From their Twitter feeds and Facebook updates, it is also clear that most performers really relish the opportunity to spend time in the Czech capital.

Some particular personal highlights include:

Best for a Giggle: I loved Merri May Gill (and Janice). Gill´s performance, which this year was essentially a comedy double-act, had the audience in stiches throughout and was a real triumph. Fingers crossed they both come back next year with another update on Down-Under. I foresee great things for them as a duo – an Aussie Flight of the Conchords perhaps?

Favourite venue: Proving that the best things do indeed come in small packages, the very tiny but perfectly formed Kavárna 3+1 felt very Fringe-esque. I crowded in here along with about fifteen others to see a performance, and it was pretty “friendly”. The bar area also offers good wine and fairly average yet speedy (which is useful if you´re nightmarishly hungry just before a performance), paninis and mini quiches.

Best for Busy Bees:  I was disappointed I couldn´t get to more shows over the Fringe period, but Prague Fringe and Belushi´s Pop-Up Fringe (Odborů 4) were both innovative events new to the Prague Fringe Festival this year. Pop-Up Fringe gave performers an opportunity to showcase their acts and drum up some much needed support – audiences generally seemed a little empty, especially in the first few days. Fringe Sunday gave busy audiences a chance to see snippets of a wide range of theatre, comedy, mime and the world´s best hula-hooperrandom.

Most thought-provoking show: It did not appear to receive a massive amount of press but I found The Human Fruit Bowl to be an incredibly interesting and unusual show. Congratulations to actress Harmony Stemple for such a strong delivery of the lesson in art history and also to playwright Andrea Kuchlewska. I would like to see more from them both.

Biggest Regret: Judging by their brief sketch at Fringe Sunday and from seeing some ‘behind the scenes´ action at their show (they performed at Kavana 3+1 whilst I enjoyed a drink in the bar area) I was sorry to miss Dr. Brown Makes Love. Two very hairy monsters who both seem to look inebriated most of the time (I have no idea if this is an accurate assessment or not), wearing smoking jackets running around and jumping through windows, reportedly throwing food at the audiencewhat´s not to like?!

Most ‘lovely´: My burgeoning girl crush on Phebe Starr has been well documented. Her performance was excellent and I have been humming along to her CD Pink Lemonade, ever since.  A wonderful voice and skilled performer, Phebe deserves to makes it big in Europe as well as in Australia.

All-Around Top Act: I will sit on the fence here and say it´s too hard a call to make, between Cooking for Love, Phebe Starr and Merri-May Gill. But keep an eye on the Prague Fringe Festival website: the Creative Award (awarded to the artist or company whose production is deemed creatively exceptional), the Inspiration Award (for a piece of work that has been staged on a world platform no more than twice previously) and the Outstanding Performance Award (for the artist who has excelled in their performance at the festival) should be announced soon.

So must we go English theatre and comedy cold turkey until next year´s Fringe Festival?  Fortunately not.  Keep your eyes and ears open for some upcoming English language events. The Prague Shakespeare Festival is performing A Midsummer Night´s Dream in July and August and the Crown Comedy Club (Divadlo U Hasičů, Římská 45) is offering a night of English stand-up on 15 June. Enjoy!


Other Fringe Festival Praha 2011 Reviews:

Merri May Gill

Cooking for Love

Andi Neate

Phebe Starr
Human Jukebox
Fringe Sunday
Stealing Buckingham Palace
Human Fruit Bowl
Fringe Fest 2011 Preview

CzechingIn is the creator of a Prague-based expat blog of the same name, written by an English lady living, working, and writing in the Czech capital. She posts regularly, writing about expat life and Prague-based events, critiquing museums, galleries and theatre, and generally provides happy musings on a range of random events.

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