The 18th Prague Fringe Festival (24th May-1st June) has arrived and former Prague Youth Theatre student Megan Meunier is back to review this year’s programme. Here is Megan’s account of day 1 of the Fringe…
It’s that time of the year again, and I’m starting my fringe with a walk to Kampa to see Kotuku and the Moon Child. It’s a Maori inspired puppet show about a child born on the moon who winds up on Earth, unable to get home. It has beautiful puppets made from recycled materials and bright colours. It also has a sweet, if simple story. Yet, I’m not the intended audience as I am a twenty year old student. I found the first 10 minutes boring. Before the Moon Child winds up on Earth, the world of the moon is slow and colourless. It would have helped to have more noise from the characters, especially the parents. Though the Moon Child makes gasps and cries of joy to express emotion through the piece, the parents are silent mimes, even when they lose their child. This gives the parents an unnecessary sense of eeriness. Later in the story, I found the pacing too slow for my taste, which was not helped by the child yawning and the echoes of ‘Co to je’ at the more confusing parts. This play is for the little ones. Though you might be unlucky, one child was so scared by the masks that they had to be walked out in the first five minutes.
After Kotuku, I’m rushing off to Cafe Club Misenska for Going South. This venue is quickly superseding Golden Key as my favourite. I get a raspberry lemonade to take down to the show and watch the performance of Cherry Garrard, as he tells us of the South Pole. The tone that the story sets is perfect, balancing humour and tragedy expertly. Cherry is a highly educated yet inexperienced nerd who’s search for adventure became the worst journey in the world. (Incidentally, that is the title of Cherry’s real life memoir). The message is a criticism of that stiff upper lip, fatally toxic masculinity often associated with Britishness. The show is bursting with energy. There’s some music, some juggling and fun audience participation, though no one need go on stage. I would recommend this show to anyone looking for a good laugh, and you might learn something about the Arctic too.
The third show of the afternoon was a race up to Golden Key to catch How to Make Friends in Hollywood. The character of Sandra is a personal assistant to Lindsay Ordell, an 80s star with an opulent lifestyle of sex and drugs. She’s tasked with stealing Lindsay’s memoir manuscript by a shady woman in a trenchcoat. The story’s theme of Hollywood’s dark side is one that has been explored in many a fringe show, and the voice for Lindsay Ordell becomes grating as the hour goes on. It’s a decent story, the plot is solid, the music, played on vinyls, is good and the acting is great. I just didn’t feel wowed by the show. I felt very neutral about the show, I like to leave a show with an itching to discuss it and its themes with a friend, but I just don’t feel it with this one.
A minute away from Golden Key, I saw #Hypocrisy, a spoken word poetry show, backed with music, about race and terrorism. The rhythm of the poetry, which at times felt almost like song, formed the steady heartbeat of the message. The poetry aspect was faultless, if you enjoy poetry, then you’re sure to love this show. The message about terrorism was well told, with interesting imagery and stories. Imogen Stirling is artful in her discussion of the effects of media on Muslim lives in Glasgow and the disproportionate focus of the media on Western terror. I did find the opening section a little annoying, but perhaps that was the intention. Seeing someone take so long to become aware of their privilege is irritating, but that says something about how ridiculously blind some people can be to their advantages. The problem with shows like these is they so often are preaching to the choir. The people that most need to see this may not be in the audience, but we can all learn a little about our prejudices.
The weirdest show of the evening was definitely Doppelgangsters: Cold War. It consists of two men with two microphones, having a conversation at lightning speed, jumping from topic to topic. Between breaks, the room darkens and they sing/shout loudly. The lights go from dark, to incredibly bright to the point where I had to shield my eyes. The music and dialogue is also deafeningly loud. It’s a sensory overload, and I would recommend sitting further back. The conversation is reminiscent of one you might overhear and be unable not to eavesdrop. The kind with questions about greatest fears, the apocalypse and vulnerabilities. The show is so quick and so full of ideas that if you take a minute to absorb it, you lose pieces of text. It’s good that there is no narrative thread to follow, or you would quickly be lost. I needed a good twenty minutes after the show to actually process what I had seen. I think one needs to be open to an experience of theatre that is abstract and daring to enjoy this. If you are open to this strange sensory overload, then you just might love it.
The final show, still in Inspirace, was David McIver: Teleport. We’re all in his guild, warriors of the rpg game Realms of Warquest. To learn how to teleport, we must defeat a dragon and meet several of his brilliantly crafted NPCs along the way. Among others, there’s a talking amulet, the figure of Death itself and a waffling oracle. McIver has an infectious frantic energy about him as he juggles multiple outfits and personalities throughout, but those rough edges only add to the character of the piece. He interacts wonderfully with the audience, keeping them thoroughly engaged and involved. The whole room was enraptured with his quirky personality, and at no point did the show slow down any more than necessary. Deep in there, there’s a theme of seeking escape from painful situations (hence teleportation), a message that I felt was subtle enough. The show is 14+ because of the nature of some jokes, but other than the age restriction, I highly urge anyone to see it.
Check out the the full programme, here.