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 fifth day…
The first performance of the evening was up in the Museum of Alchemists, it was Bonnie Fechters. Bonnie Fechter is Scots for “a person that stands up for themselves”. Morna Burdon tells stories of those courageous women, interspersed with acapella singing. She sings with heart, and though her voice is not sensational, the tunes are beautiful. She tells stories of women leading strikes, joining unions and surviving the Tiger Cages of Vietnam. I’m excited about the future of this show. Morna still performs with her lines and the songs in front of her, and she incorporates little else than her words. While the show is pleasant enough, it’s still in its infancy. The stories, for instance, need more of a spotlight. As I listened to the show, I found myself more excited for the song to come and I didn’t remember as much as I would have liked about the individual stories. I believe that the delivery of the stories would be more powerful with the script removed. If you enjoyed the passionate spirit of “A Diary of a M.A.D. Activist” last year, you will definitely find this to be a pleasant evening.
I left, humming to myself, going down to Beseda to see Much Ado: Beatrice and Benedick, a rock and roll retelling of Shakespeare’s classic. It’s similar in tone to what the Australian Shakespeare Company have done before. The costumes, as ever are dazzling and the cast is large. It’s a great contrast to most shows at the Prague Fringe, which tend to go for a much more minimal aesthetic. Beseda feels crowded with the whole cast, which is rare for the biggest stage of the fringe. This is my favourite Shakespeare comedy, so I admit I’m hard to please but this adaptation felt a little rushed. The lines weren’t always articulated, I heard a lot of jokes rush by without the audience noticing due to poor diction and focus. I’d rather have lines cut than spoken without thought. Though the music was good, it did feel like they had to speak quickly to fit the music into the time frame. I know the story too well to judge how this play would be for someone unfamiliar with Shakespeare but I’m not sure I’d recommend it. I’d rather see a more streamlined show, if pretty props and clothes have to be sacrificed, so be it.
Then I strolled up to A Studio Rubin to see Proxy. It tells the heart wrenching true story of Gypsy and her struggle with her mother’s Munchausen by Proxy. This is a form of abuse that takes the form of faking illness in one’s child. The story begins with Gypsy, an adult constantly infantilized, singing disney songs in a strangled voice. It’s creepy, like a child singing in horror film. But the audience discovers that while Gypsy seems broken and insane, the true insanity comes from her abusive mother, who powerfully sings the national anthem with a madness in her eye. Caroline Burns Cooke has a piercing look in her eyes, she’s a hypnotising performer. The writing struck out to me as well, it’s so rare to listen to a text where every word could only belong to the character speaking it. More than accents and affectations, characters are differentiated even by their syntax. We watch Deedee self-rationalise her abuse using the language of motherhood, references to lemon pie and self-sacrifice. Even Gypsy, a character so difficult to understand is performed beautifully. Cooke captures the furious righteous anger and massive naivety of this 23 year old who was never allowed to grow up.
Finally I walk up to Inspirace to catch “Where the Hell is Bernard?”. It’s a sci fi piece following the members of Pod 17 who live in the Vine. The setting is a simple futuristic compound where people are evaporated at the age of 50 and everyone is raised to believe this is normal. When Bernard escapes evaporation, the members of Pod 17, in charge of his belongings, run off to explore the vine. They discover the library, the babies (seedlings!) and are amazed to learn how much there is to life they didn’t know about. The performance is slick physical theatre and so fun to watch. Bernard is played by a t-shirt and a hat used as puppets and is the most expressive one can be without a face. The premise behind the show – a coming of age in a repressive futuristic society – isn’t anything new, but the execution is entertaining to watch. A fun way to finish the evening.
Prague Fringe Festival runs until the 1st June. Check out the the full programme, here.