The 18th Prague Fringe Festival (24th May-1st June) is coming to an end and former Prague Youth Theatre student Megan Meunier is here to review the eighth day…
The first show of the day is Roots in Beseda, an improvised play about familial relationships, specifically female ones. The premise is interesting but the execution misses the mark by a long shot. The music accompanying the play is also improvised and works well with the performers but it’s hard to find much else to like. It’s difficult to create improv that isn’t funny, and by doing so, Roots have also removed what makes improv entertaining. The pace is painfully slow, and nothing precise is ever offered. The main character, the niece, is a hardworking single woman who looks after her aunt and mother. Her job, as she keeps repeating, is very important to her, yet we know nothing about where she works. Her mother is just sick. Nothing else. And then she dies. From what? No one knows. The aunt was a nurse once, and now she needs to be driven around constantly. Why? Why, I wish they would tell us. I understand where this comes from, after all, it’s very difficult to be precise in improv without accidentally saying something ridiculous and turning it into a comedy. However, if you can’t manage that difficult task, perhaps you should stick to scripts, or accept the comedic element. It’s also an uneasy show to watch as a woman, as we see an ambitious woman marry a man (yes, we know nothing about him or why he’s worth it) and quit her job to have a child. The fact that we don’t know her job, the man she’s leaving it for or why her aunt is sick and needs her help makes it difficult to care. I shouldn’t be yawning at 6pm.
The next show is much more captivating, Johnny! In Boheme by Primal Dream Theatre in Studio Rubin. The choice of venue is perfect, since Rubin gets so dark, the lighting is precise and forms sharp dramatic shadows over the songs. The performance is magnetic and enchanting. Johnny was a Bohemian in Montmartre at the turn of the century. Apparently immortal, he tells us stories of the filles de joie (prostitutes) and the poets with broken souls and shoes with broken soles. We learn of sordid, turbulent love affairs between famous artists and all of these stories are told so well I feel I can see the images painted across the stage. Even when things mess up, he is ever so charming in the way he redoubles his efforts without breaking character or losing the affection of the audience. The whole cabaret is a love song to artists. Each song is performed with emotion and a gorgeous voice, most of the music is in French and there are some songs in English. My experience of the show was coloured by my cultural background so I adored it but I also believe the show works for people who don’t speak French. The songs have enough emotion, one does not need to know the words. I wish it was longer, I could have sat in that atmosphere for another hour.
Afterwards, I make my way up to Golden Key to see Isa Bonachera: Great Emptiness. This is a wonderful stand up set that melds queer themes, pop culture and space. From Muse’s odd, futuristic music videos to Isaac Newton’s invention of the apple (is that right?) we’re taken on a delightfully funny lecture on astronomy. Isa is a talented writer and a friendly performer. Her stage is surprisingly well built, with a projection of stars passing by us while she talks. The show could be smoother, latecomers easily startle Isa and audience interaction is a little shaky. A woman opens up her phone mid performance, forgetting that in the dark theatre, everyone can see her screen which distracts Isa. This is a pity, because Isa is solid on her written material, landing regular laughs. Two women sitting across from me are in hysterics throughout and I feel the same way. My recommendation would be a no late comers policy so we can see a more self-assured stand-up.
The final show of the day was Cat Loud’s Torch Songs, like Johnny! also by Primal Dream Theatre. A performance that was more music than cabaret, it explores the vulnerabilities of sad women in music. Cat pulls her title from the idea of carrying someone’s torch, to love someone until they do not love you back. Love is often symbolised by fire, and here she is dressed black as coal, ready to be set alight by the songs she sings. She’s inspired by her education in literature and finds poetry in each song. Between powerful, long sad songs, she tells us of the heartbreaks of sad singers and the way the media, like starving literature students, read scandal in every lyric. The songs are all big, loud sad songs, with little except the humour in Cat’s anecdotes to break up the tension. I would have liked to know a more about jazz singers before watching the performance. It’s a demanding performance, each song commanding you to listen intently. Cat is undeniably talented and though I found the music to be a touch too intense, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I highly recommend this show to any fans of jazz and sad songs.