Opening night may still be more than a month away, but anticipation for the Prague Fringe Festival has been slowly building over the last several weeks. Now in its 14th year, this international performing arts festival is arguably one of the biggest outside of Edinburgh.
The Prague Fringe will take over intimate theater, museum and cafe spaces in Malá Strana for a nine-day run starting May 22. Organizers are expecting audience numbers will top 7,000, one of the strongest turnouts yet for an event that’s largely centered around English-language or non-verbal performances.
From kid-friendly shows to dark adult late-night cabaret pieces with a hardy helping of theater, comedy, music and dance mixed in, the Prague Fringe never fails to offer a “full range of everything,” according to Steve Gove, the festival’s illustrious director and co-founder. “We recommend you dip your toe in as many levels as possible – cry one minute, laugh the next and be taken on a mini holiday in the next,” Gove enthuses. “A night at the Fringe can be quite an emotional roller coaster.”
This year’s program, announced April 17, includes 211 shows from artists across Europe as well as the US, Canada, Japan, and Australia.
“The majority of the shows are by entirely new groups or artists, some of whom I have seen at other Fringes, including Edinburgh and Amsterdam, and some are completely new even to the organizers,” says Gove. But there are a few returning acts that will be debuting new shows in Prague.
Among the familiar faces will be Stuart Lightbody, a magician from South Africa whose shows routinely sell out.
Duane Gelderloos and Susan Galbraith from Alliance for New Music-Theatre, meanwhile, will be tackling Kafka’s Metamorphosis. This is the troupe’s sophomore turn at the Prague Fringe. Their Václav Havel Project, which included a staging of Havel’s “Unveiling,” was one of the highlights of Fringe 2014.
This year, the Washington, D.C.-based Alliance will perform an adaptation of Kafka’s Metamorphosis by Steven Berkoff.
“I knew I wanted to try my hand at Berkoff’s piece, which I and seen on Broadway starring Mikhail Barishnikov as the transformed character, Gregor. I had loved the production and been deeply moved,” says Galbraith, who tweaked Berkoff’s script to “focus more on the inner tension cause by a mixed-cultural identity as well as unresolved family issues Kafka felt as a German-Jew living in Prague during the last days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.”
Joining the lineup for the first time is Tomás Ford, an “electronic cabaret showman” from Perth, Australia, whose “Final Chase” is a cabaret spy thriller, where the story is told through songs.
“My character is a damaged Australian spy; his girlfriend dumps him and then goes missing, which sends him into a messy adventure tracking her around South East Asia,” explains Ford, who’s performed the show at the Edinburgh Fringe and around Australia. “I feed off different audience reactions, so I’m excited to see how Prague’s audiences react to what I do. My shows evolve in response to the audience. I’m excited to see how the show ends up at the runs’ end.”
Javier Vilalta is also new to the Prague Fringe stage. The Canadian will be presenting Neruda Nude, a fusion of poetry, images and contemporary movement inspired by the early works of Chilean author Pablo Neruda, whose poems of love and loss described the human body in its most intimate state. As the title might suggest, Neruda Nude will be performed by seven performers in the nude. The show has already wowed audiences across Canada and Mexico.
Coming to the Prague Fringe “will be a once in a lifetime experience for us,” says Vilalta. “Meeting the other artists and watching performances from all around the world will give us a unique opportunity to have a taste of what is being presented and developed in the international scene. This will surely inspire our work and will hopefully influence our future creations.”
Vilalta’s sentiment is one of the event’s main drivers. “The buzz and the energy that comes together is magical,” says Gove, as is the “incredible mix of artists from around the world who have raised money and taken risks to get here.”
“We have build a really nice following both at home and abroad. There’s a real community that builds over the nine days of Fringe with artists, staff, volunteers all mixing at the Fringe venues and Fringe Club,” says Gove, who hails from Scotland. “There are many festivals here, and when we started Fringe, people thought we were mad … But it works. We are the only English language festival in the country.”
Prague Fringe Festival
Various venues around Malá Strana
150 CZK general; 100 CZK students
What’s your favorite Fringe act of all time?