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 the second day…
The first show of my day is Cocoon, in Museum of Alchemists. It’s a charming work-in-progress, still rough around the edges. Will Rowland has a sweet charisma about him, and immediately has the crowd on his side as he tells us about his relationship with his father and his granny. It’s funny in a calm, chilled out sort of way. It’s a welcome change in pace from the manic clown energy of other fringe comedy shows. The 5pm start may be a little early for some stand ups, but I liked starting my day at this relaxing pace. The piece doesn’t have a solid ending yet, and Will’s performance isn’t as tight as it needs to be – but I am interested in seeing what becomes of this show in a year’s time. If you’re planning an afternoon of fringing, Will’s Cocoon is a nice way to start, especially if you plan on seeing some high energy physical shows afterwards.
After Cocoon, I made my first mistake of the fringe, assuming my next play was in Kampa and then realising it was in Beseda. On the bright side, I now know that if you really, really try, Kampa and Beseda are only 5 minutes apart. In the Woods Where the Men Work was next. The performers are indisputably talented, with gorgeous voices and controlled physicality. The setting is eery and the giant bison is beautifully crafted. However, the plot is beyond comprehension. I left the show wondering if I was an idiot for not understanding it, but after some conversations with fellow audience members, I wasn’t the only one. It’s particularly frustrating, because one picks up on elements that feel like they’re leading to a plot. I noticed a character that the others disliked, a wrongdoing that had been committed, small details that felt like they should mean something but without the necessary context it required much too much focus to understand what was happening. I find myself annoyed, because all the right elements are there but they form an incohesive mess. It felt like during the writing process some important dialogue had been cut. I hope the play is modified to have more clarity.
The third play of the evening was Inheritance by Prague Youth Theatre and The Rijeka Youth Theatre. Obviously, I might be biased as a PYT alumnus, but I have a duty to review, so review I shall. Inheritance is actually two plays with very different tones. The first is a comedic performance by the Rijeka theatre. It’s a little meta as it deconstructs the first act by running through it several times and adding elements in each run through. It starts a little slow as the audience slowly catch up to what is happening, and the jokes finally pay off in the second half. My main complaint is that there is a running gay joke that tries to get a little more mileage out of the joke than it should. The PYT half has a much more dramatic tone, it’s a dark story that begins in the pharmacy, before hopping back a few days to see how everything built up to that point. The story builds tension incredibly well, considering it’s short timespan and the age of the actors. It sensitively covers themes of family reconciliation and heartbreak. I saw a joke that I felt was unintentional, a girl saying her father didn’t like her talking to boys whilst wearing two rainbow symbols. I think the bracelet and badge belonged to the actress, not the character, but it did make the father’s reaction seem more ridiculous. If you want to see some high quality youth theatre, this is the show for you.
My penultimate show is in Beseda again, I’m off to see El Diablo of the Cards 2.0. He’s exactly as I remember him from last year, perhaps a little too much. He’s energetic, hilarious and childlike. I think what sets him apart from other magicians with decks of cards is his attitude. Most magicians maintain a stage presence of aloofness, always making sure you know that they know more than you do. He plays a character that seems just as amazed as you are that he got it right. His joy is infectious. However, I don’t feel there were enough changes to the performance to warrant calling it ‘2.0’. The tricks, the jokes and the finale were indistinguishable from last year. I don’t mind seeing the same thing twice, especially someone as fun as El Diablo, but the 2.0 in the title is misleading. If you missed him last year, or just really want to see him again, I definitely recommend him. If you’re hoping for an evolution of last year’s show, I wouldn’t call it that.
Finally, the last show of the evening is Three’s a Crowd. This show follows a group of clowns with a clapperboard. The show is exactly as described, each time the clapper is clapped, the score changes and we see classic scenes from classic films. One doesn’t need a lot of film knowledge to appreciate it either, though it does help. Just watching them joyfully recreate scene after scene is fun enough to watch without the context. The pacing is very intense and the show is at a late hour. It barely ever slows down during the entire hour, making it difficult to absorb in its entirety. There’s no narrative to follow, so it doesn’t matter too much, but it would have been nice to have a more varied pace. Overall it was a thoroughly entertaining evening. I strongly recommend this, especially if you want to bring family and friends for whom English is not their strong point.
Prague Fringe Festival runs until the 24th June. Check out the the full programme, here.