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 seventh day…
The last three days of the fringe are upon us as I make my way up to A Studio Rubin to see Henry Naylor’s Crime Story. As we are informed by a long letter on our seats, this was originally supposed to be about Brexit – but it has since been replaced with a story about Shamima Begum. This is the story of a Daily Mail journalist, Carter and her quest to drum up anger against Shamima, to push for her being made stateless. She decides to meet with Iraq veteran Captain Cain to get a statement that will tear Shamima down. The show artfully tackles the nature of extremism and its motivations. It’s a chilling portrayal of revenge and its futility. This is a rehearsed read-through of a work in progress, so it isn’t as polished as other shows at the Prague Fringe. The actors are undeniably talented and the script is written poetically. Obviously the whole thing needs a lot more movement, but that is difficult to add while the scripts are still in hands and I did find the text to be quite preachy. The last sentence of the play is a heavy-handed moral statement, which was unnecessary when the story speaks so well for itself. For what it is, it’s amazing but if you’re looking for something more polished, this isn’t it.
Afterwards, I headed down to Kampa to see Tropez! by Nathan and Ida. It’s the story of George and Frankie, unlikely friends who find themselves thrust together by a mutual need to steal a diamond This play feels considerably more ambitious than Nathan and Ida’s Hot Dog Stand last year. There are more central characters, more action scenes and more transitions. It definitely feels like a young show that could be a bit tighter in places but the energy is infectious. There was a lip-syncing scene that overshot the mark by about two verses and a few unnecessary scenes but this is a bit of a nitpick. The two are a delight to watch as they cycle through a million characters with ease. It’s a sweet story about the importance of friendship and support with some silly GCSE French and idiot gendarmes. It’s whacky, fun and lighthearted and even in the dark Kampa theatre, with just a few props, I could picture all the colours of Tropex in my head. If you want something light and cheerful – this is the show for you.
I hung around Kampa afterwards to catch The Man Who Was Thursday, based on the GK Chesterton novel of the same name. Just thinking about that show blows my mind. What a brave choice to choose that book and turn it into a one man play. Each character has multiple voices as they are all hiding secrets and putting on disguises. This is the story of Gabriel Syme, a policeman of philosophy and poet who infiltrates the incredibly organized Council of Anarchists. Yet all is not what it seems as he begins to unravel an odd conspiracy. Despite the 20 different characters and the apparently confusing plot, the performance makes the whole thing easy to follow. We sympathise with Syme, a man whose dream is to live in a beautifully predictable world, and his increasing confusion as the world around him stops making sense. The twists are predictable, but the fun doesn’t come from the surprise of the twists but from waiting for the penny to drop and seeing the characters reactions to the penny dropping. This is another great comedic piece to check out.
Then I head to Cafe Club Misenska to see Gone Edinburgh. It’s an hour of Scottish folk songs, contemporary, original and traditional and it’s charming. The frames of the theatre’s paintings are draped in flags, the warm packed crowd and the warm singing voices makes the atmosphere comfortable. They sing of rebellion, of fighting for freedom, singing in solidarity with figures like Nelson Mandela and they sing about a dog called Bullet (which is actually a critique of poverty porn). The show gets political which I personally found pleasant. Whilst the themes of the songs are relevant in the modern day, a lot are reactions to older grievances, for instance there are two songs inspired by the Thatcher era. I would’ve bought a CD if my computer had a CD reader, but luckily I’ve found both on Spotify. However, even if you find their music online, it’s worth seeing the music live to hear the context behind the songs and the humour of the singers. If you like folk music, are politically-minded or just like the sound of guitar, then this is the show for you.
The final show of the evening was Lucille and Cecilia, or more accurately “Luseal” and “Cesealia”. A show about two entertaining sea lions in an aquarium. I was expecting a simple clowning show with an hour of silly antics from the seals, but it quickly becomes a rather touching story. The younger seal is happy with her life, as she knows no alternative and is rather fond of the creepy trainer Kevin, but Cecilia is bored of caged life. She can feel that there is a ‘big salty drink drink’ beyond ‘Carpark’. Together they hatch a plot to figure their way out. Darke and Scott are clearly having fun, they work off each other effortlessly. Trevor is such an uneasy character to watch, which is a daring choice for a comedy but they make it work. Watching him groom a struggling seal is disconcerting and uncomfortable but seconds later they break that ice and you’re laughing again. This is fantastic clowning, well worth a look if you’re in the mood for something ridiculous with two characters you’ll definitely get attached to.
Prague Fringe Festival runs until the 1st June. Check out the the full programme, here.