Prague Fringe 2018 : Day 1 Roundup!

The Prague Fringe is in full swing now… Megan Meunier and Liam Hallahan have been hard at work, seeing as much as they can! Here’s their roundup of the shows they saw on Friday…

 

Megan

As the 2018 Fringe Binge begins, I almost make the same gaff I made last year of being late to the first show by turning up at the wrong venue. On the bright side, I also had the wrong time down, and turned up early by 15 minutes. The first Fringe show was The Little Fisherman – a play aimed at children between the ages of 7 and 8. It was interesting to see a completely adult audience entranced by this simple tale for kids. The performance is talented and it was fun to watch as an adult, but it definitely felt like a children’s show that would have benefitted from having children in the seats. I particularly enjoyed the way that the fisherman’s agency became more pronounced as he began to respond to the narrator in the story, eventually overpowering the tale. The props were also quite creative as the performers expressed each scene using only 2 sticks. It was hard, in the interactive moments, to gain much energy as a small adult audience at 4pm was not in a mood to respond to the performers, but they did well considering and did some great mimed improv with the suggestions given.

After that show, I headed to Malostranska Beseda, where I saw Chores, a stunning piece of acrobatic clown work about two brothers cleaning their room. Before I started attending the prague fringe, I was rather nervous to watch anything with clown in the description, but I’ve come to realise I quite like it. I felt that the two actors created a playful relationship between two mischievous brothers, who were occasionally tricking each other, but also ready to help and support the other (often literally). The acrobatics were skilled and impressive for all ages in the audience, though I did feel that the show dragged on a little. The children adored the show, they were shouting at the performers throughout the afternoon and their responses were brilliantly funny. I know I’m not the intended audience as a teenager, but I think Chores, more than The Little Fisherman, is one of those children’s shows that an adult could watch alone and enjoy without needing to bring a child.

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Then as I left the theatre, I walked up to Golden Key in the sweltering heat and sat down in the cool, humid cellar to watch An Evolution of a Sexual Bean. I felt for the first time that day that the flyers didn’t quite do the show justice. A few years ago I saw an incredibly static show about a woman’s sexuality which left me feeling a little wary of shows that explore sexuality. At every fringe there’s at least one, (last year, I can think of ‘Nothing like your profile picture’ off the top of my head) it’s a popular topic and it’s hard to do originally. I liked the idea of presenting the show as a sex ed class. It made the awkwardness around the subject make the moment more genuine. The brilliant part, of course, was when she passed bits of paper around and allowed audience members to write out sex-related questions, which she answered with honesty. I’m not sure if she planted questions or had scenes prepared for different answers, but the piece was well integrated into the narration. A crucial part of a one-woman show is being able to pull story from narration, “show not tell”. When only one person is on stage, it can sometimes turn into story time. Bean managed to avoid that and I felt that was what pulled the piece together.

On the other side of the equation was A Taco Truck on Every Corner, or Dreaming in English. I was worried about that show in the programme, because, though I feel politics definitely has its place in theatre, the forefront should always be the story and the direction. The performance definitely has some way to go. For a start, the one-woman show has too many characters. It needs trimming down, or at least work on separating the characters vocally and physically. There were only two characters I really liked, “Obummer” and “We’re awake”, a conspiracy theorist and an old woman from the 1950s. Each character voices their opinion of Trump and American politics like a speech, or like answers in half a Q&A session. The idea is good, but there are stories in those narrations that I would much rather see performed that told. There were so many opportunities that I felt needed a little more illustration, or a little more energy. I didn’t understand why there was a need for a large space like Inspirace for a one woman show with very little actual movement. I wish I had enjoyed the piece more because I agree that those discussions are important, but if I’m looking at my watch halfway through, the delivery needs work.

The next show I saw was Birds, a silly sketch show with a running thread of narrative about the two comedians. The show was rated 18+ but I feel that the rating is a bit high, especially after seeing Zach from Zach and Viggo strip down at a 14+ show last year. The rating is mainly for the strong use of language, there isn’t any nudity or otherwise shocking images and my sixteen year old brother, who joined me, was fine and loved it. The two artists have a wonderful dynamic with each other and they are both convincing actors. The sketches are simple and at times absurd, my favourite being the self-service sketch near the end. I also found myself looking forward to the stings where they made sketches with the punchline “birds”. It was funny, fast-paced and great way to spend the evening.

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I entered Beseda for the second time that evening, five shows in and baking in Czech heat. I just wanted a cold beer and a good laugh to end the night, and that what I got from Wimps. It is, of course, always a challenge to review an improv show, as it does change every night. The key is always the sense of good communication emanating from the performers as they exchange glances to put together musical numbers and emotional beats. I loved the short sketch part at the beginning, and enjoyed the musical although I think it was lacking in the emotional beats that longform needs. I didn’t think the choice to have the entire musical be one scene without time or location change worked. It didn’t capture the tropes that it could have and I think it was the reason that it felt like a half baked story without any form of journey in the middle. It’s harsh criticism of a story that was only just made up on the spot, but I do think that was entirely within the performers’ control to move the story forward and I don’t think they did it effectively. Although, as I stress, it was funny, and the short form parts were faultless.

 

Liam

Here we go. First time at the Prague Fringe as a punter… I’m feeling a teeny bit nostalgic!
I spent my evening at Malostranska Beseda, seeing one show in the Inner Foyer – a new space this year! – and the main stage.

First off, I saw Quest(ion) performed by Madame Senorita, a.k.a. Paula Valluerca. She’s a clown with 5 years of experience creating and performing shows, and she’s mastered her craft without a doubt. When you’re in the presence of a clown performer who really knows what they’re doing, you’re in for an intense experience. She’ll notice every little movement, every little tic, every late arrival (which there were a few of when I saw it). Nothing escapes her eye. She’s going to entertain you, dammit!
And yet, it also feels safe! Her direct interactions with the audience were uncomfortable, but not uncomfortable enough to keep them from being hilarious. The show is essentially one long existential crisis, and you’ll almost certainly find yourself feeling a bit lost and anxious and confused. But Quest(ion) is never pretentious and always entertaining to watch. If you’re a fan of clowning, you’ll enjoy this one.

Next, I saw I Wish I Owned A Hotel for Dogs, written and performed by Claire Sullivan. It’s somewhere between standup comedy, sketch comedy and weird performance art. Lots of little quick fire running gags and non-sequitur jokes and moments, along with some really, really long drawn out gags that reminded me of Kirsten Schaal’s stand-up. The stage is haphazardly covered with props that gradually get used throughout the show, before getting tossed aside the moment she’s done with them. It wasn’t always laugh out loud funny, but for me, the whole thing was an absolute delight. It reminded me of scrolling through a weird Twitter feed, and I mean that in the best possible way! Claire’s with the audience from the very beginning, welcoming you in as you arrive and handing you a cute little handmade zine as you leave. Her energy’s inspiring and infectious; she never really takes a pause, but you never get the sense that she’s trying to force herself to be happy for our sake; she just loves being on stage! And honestly, a performer who’s absolutely at home on stage is one of my favorite things to watch, without a doubt.

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I’m not quite the theatre binger I used to be, but I’m going to try and use this week of theatre to get me back into my hold habits. It’s gonna be a fun one!

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