Prague Fringe reborn: Madcap theater fest returns to Malostranská beseda

The festival, now in its 22nd year, presents alternative theater and performance acts from across the globe.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 19.05.2023 12:00:00 (updated on 19.05.2023) Reading time: 3 minutes

The 22nd edition of Prague Fringe brings an international array of artists performing theatre, comedy, children’s shows, and more to venues in Malá Strana. Between May 22 and 27 audiences can enjoy over 130 performances of 35 productions from 13 different countries.

The festival is inspired by the Edinburgh Fringe, which started a global trend for alternative theater. Each of the performances runs just under an hour and is in English or non-verbal.

A complete schedule and ticket information can be found on the Prague Fringe website.  

Original dates and a homecoming

Like many festivals, the Prague Fringe was hit hard by the pandemic but is now back to its normal schedule. “After three years we are finally back to our May dates,” festival founder Steve Gove said. “It’s three full years since we had a May fringe, so it just feels right to be back at this time of the year.”

This is also the first time since 2019 that the festival will have its central base at Malostranská beseda. “So it is a really exciting year. It feels like a rebirth of the Fringe as it used to be,” Gove said.

Slumber Party will do improv at the new comedy venue. Photo: Slumber Party
Slumber Party will do improv at the new comedy venue. Photo: Slumber Party

“Of course, we never stand still, so we have introduced a new comedy venue too,” he added. The Charles Bridge Comedy Club will be in the basement of a hostel on Mostecká Street, a stone's throw from the bridge. It will host several different stand-up acts or improv throughout the festival.

Other venues will be familiar to long-time fringe fans – Divadlo Inspirace, A Studio Rubín, Museum of Alchemists, and Café Club Míšeňská. Some of the venues are quite small, and popular shows do sell out.

Broad program from across the globe

This year’s edition has a diverse range of genres. The performers also come from a wide range of places including Italy, Ireland, Serbia, Poland, Sweden, Ukraine, and India. “Some of the shows were originally scheduled for the [canceled] 2020 fringe, and they are finally making it to Prague this year,” Gove said.

The Bubble Show. Photo: The Highland Joker
The Bubble Show. Photo: The Highland Joker

For families, some options are The Bubble Show, Strictly Come Barking, and Seska: Cooking up Fun. The latter show is a rapid-fire mix of cooking and magic. Other fun shows are aimed at a wider audience. Singer Shane Durrant first appeared in the Prague Fringe in 2009 as part of a troupe. He returns on his own as with Shane's Singo: Music Bingo, a late-night musical game show with prizes.

There are serious offerings as well. One of the more introspective shows is Death of My, by the Irish company Acting Out. It explores one woman’s cancer journey and her quest to discover what she really wants out of life.

Inspired by literature

British actor Pip Utton has been at the festival several times with shows based on famous historical figures. This time he embodies British writer Charles Dickens. Previously in Prague, he presented his take on figures ranging from Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler to late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Pip Utton in the one-man show 'Dickens.' Photo: Null
Pip Utton in the one-man show Dickens. Photo: Null

His show isn’t the only one with literary themes. The Australian Shakespeare Company returns with a quick take on playwright William Shakespeare’s Love's Labour's Lost, which they characterize as a romcom where the women are witty and clever.

England’s Face to Face and Burns Unit revisits themes from the Scottish play with Gruoch: The Lady Macbeth. Actress Caroline Burns Cooke tries to reclaim the legacy of the much-maligned icon with a new feminist origin story.

Gruoch: The Lady Macbeth. Photo: Face to Face and Burns Unit
Gruoch: The Lady Macbeth. Photo: Face to Face and Burns Unit

England’s SHU Acting and Performance troupe does a new spin on one of Shakespeare's more obscure plays. In Pericles, the title character tries to find his true identity as he encounters evil kings, princesses, pirates, and others.

Fans of more modern horror fiction can check out Jekyll & Hyde: A One Woman Show by Scotland’s Sweet Productions. Performer Heather-Rose Andrews uses the story to explore class and hypocrisy in Victorian England.

Jekyll & Hyde: A One Woman Show. Photo: Sweet Productions
Jekyll & Hyde: A One Woman Show. Photo: Sweet Productions

Over the rainbow

Several shows have LGBTQ+ themes. Slipshod Theatre’s Amerika finds Prague-born writer Franz Kafka transformed into a cosmic vagrant. He returns to finish his novel and save it from being changed to suit modern tastes.

The Australian troupe the Hairy Godmothers Inc. shatters childhood dreams in Dizney in Drag: Once Upon a Parody. The typo in the name is of course for legal reasons, as they are not connected to the house of the mouse. The late-night show is one of several with adult themes.

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