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 fourth day…
The first show of the day is Last Hive, an irreverent comedy about David the drone, a male honeybee. He must go on a quest to save his hive from being destroyed by the ‘large wingless beasts’ (us!) and meets the white bee and her congress of insects. The show is clever and charming, and I get the feeling that a few scenes are improvised, or at least ad-libbed. The most gorgeous part of the show is the projected light display behind the performers, it’s contrastingly beautiful next to the immature nature of the humour. David is a bit dull but he’s good natured and excellent at waiting, he’s an absolute joy to watch. The queen moves very slowly as she has no wings and this is milked just the right amount. My favourite part of this show is how much fun the two performers are clearly having, they have great chemistry and often try to make the other one crack. Their grins and enthusiasm are really infectious.
The next show is down at Kampa for The Story of Faust. The show is already aesthetically incredible. A large instrument sits in the middle of the stage, custom built for the performance. There’s a skeleton which rasps a stick on its bones and other figures playing different sounds. The backdrops are drawn in style that reminds me of Quentin Blake and the puppets are wonderfully expressive. This is the story of a man who sold his soul to the devil for a life of magic powers and wishes. As the story is told, we learn the context from puppets that comment, it’s a tale from the church to discourage onlookers from attempting black magic. “Faust must not be enviable”, the church demands, as the performers try to make the story worse for Faust. I found the ending lacklustre. It felt like it was building to a redemption arc or an incredibly dark ending, but neither happened which was unsatisfying. Ultimately though, the show is worth watching for most of the story and the craftsmanship of the setting.
The third show is up in Misenska, Crizards Cromedy Hour. It’s a sketch show with a plot and a redemption arc for almost every character (and the performers). As the show began, I was worried. They began by just chatting for a while, and I was nervous that this might literally be the lowest energy sketch show ever – but after about five minutes of that, the show begins. It’s the story of an American high school with Australian jocks, a cruel coach, and the two underdogs with the exact same voice. It’s amazing how little energy they need to make the room fill with laughter. They could be more confident in their interactions with the audience, there are times when audience participation is encouraged but their low energy doesn’t sell those moments as well as the scripted elements of the show. The biggest downside is that yesterday was their last night, this is the only festival they’re performing at this year, and they wrote this especially for Prague. So let’s hope they come back next year.
After a chilled out comedy, I head up to Inspirace for the dramatic Kafka’s Ape. This play, based on the short story by Franz Kafka ‘A Report to the Academy’ is perhaps my favourite performance so far. I could gush for hours about Tony Miyambo’s movement as the ape turned human. He walks bent, his knuckles just above the ground and his legs are awkward as his stands, he even sneezes like a chimp. I was completely blown away with his performance. This is the story of an ape that turned into a human, out of necessity, to escape the cruel punishments of his captors. When Miyambo acts out the scenes of his past, he somehow manages to amp up the ape nature of the character. This story hits so many important questions. As Miyambo describes how he lost the ability to think as instinctively as an ape, I realise just how arrogant it is to think that human logic is the best way to think. After all, instinct is just a faster form of logic. When he describes how people react to his otherness, to his skin and the pain he was put through – it’s barely subtle allegory to the pain and humiliation that affected so many in South Africa’s apartheid. It’s painfully relevant today. If you can only see one show this fringe, make it this one.
The final show of the day is Kate and Ilyssa Present: Best Ritual. This is a clown show about two idiots preparing a ritual in the honor of ‘Third World Animals’. The concept of doing a clown show about a parody ritual doesn’t work on multiple levels. The clowns fail to build any energy in the crowd before starting the show, and then proceed to attempt comedy with the slow pace of a ritual. There are long awkward scenes where they argue and physically fight over props, which are supposed to be done to loud laughter – but they look embarrassing in front of the silent audience. After the first ten minutes of waiting for the punchline to drop, I realised that that was the show. It’s just two inept people struggling to mimic as many cultural elements as possible. I guess the joke is that they appropriate cultures that they do not understand, but it doesn’t really land. Instead, it comes of as more cultural appropriation than joke. The silent audience definitely affected the performance, they seemed stressed throughout which made everything even worse. A clown should at least look like they’re enjoying themselves. To top it all off, they have a donation bucket that they hand out mid performance to the paying audience. I understand standing outside after the show perhaps, but it’s just bad etiquette to ask during the show. They can’t afford to make the crowd any more uncomfortable by asking for money. The whole thing needs a lot of work.
Prague Fringe Festival runs until the 1st June. Check out the the full programme, here.