The 18th Prague Fringe Festival (24th May-1st June) has come to an end for another year. Former Prague Youth Theatre student Megan Meunier has been busy reviewing the programme this week. Here is Megan’s review of the final day…
Finally, the last day has arrived. I start my day by watching the documentary “Meeting Jim” at Beseda, and immediately after, I text my Parisian friends that I need to meet him too.
A few hours and some sandwiches made later, I walk up to Museum of Alchemists to see Charlie’s Wake. This touching piece is performed by PYT’s very own Liam Hallahan with audio from his dad, Charlie Hallahan, and Charlie’s friends. We sit with him, warm tea in our hands as he tells us about a man he didn’t know long enough. Liam, as a performer, understands that theatre is ephemeral, that no piece can be experienced the same way twice. People are much the same way, we all see a different side of them, and when they die, they live only in conversation and whatever recordings may exist. Liam plays eulogies from the funeral, acts out anecdotes, trying to understand his father as an actor understands a character. He shines with pride as he tells us of his dad’s accomplishments and all the people his father got to meet. It just hurts that Liam’s adult self isn’t on that list. I full-on ugly-cried, once while watching the show and once again just before writing this review. The story rings painfully true. Liam is sweet and a delightful storyteller but at times we see his anger at an indifferent universe. It’s captivating and heartbreaking.
The next show was still at Museum of Alchemists, Monkey Mom. Two men stand in their underwear,and they slowly begin to dress. One is a stereotypical housewife, the other is Satan. They act out scenes with paper props and recordings of dialogues play over. The theme of dementia returns again and again, the story seems to follow a woman who lives with a monkey for a child and there are references to a tribe of angry monkeys. This show is erratic and abstract, for the first half hour I didn’t understand what was happening and I was irritated by the nonsensical dialogues. About halfway through, however, it clicked for me. As I began to follow the narrative threads, it suddenly felt a lot less weird and pretentious. For me, this piece speaks of the destructive nature of suburbia and the role that “homemakers” play in it. Suburbia and housewives are so often portrayed as wholesome and harmless, making apple pie and looking after children – but suburbia is also painfully fake. The piece refers to the housewife as being “married to the house and the beast that built it” also referring to her husband as “her captor”. Humanity is a swarm of angry monkeys, devouring nature, tearing it down and replacing it with concrete suburbs and cities. I didn’t follow everything but I greatly enjoyed it.
The penultimate show of my fringe experience was Canary at Inspirace. The show won the Audience Choice Award at the Fringeys later that evening and I was not surprised. The show is set in 1918, the last day of the war, and begins with a sort of propaganda voiceover, as we watch three women work in a munitions factory. These girls are called canary girls as the TNT dyes their skin bright yellow. This nickname also makes sense as canaries were famously birds sent down mines to find if the mines were safe, these girls had an equally toxic dangerous job. The first half is hilarious, with well rehearsed sequences of physical theatre set to sound effects of building munitions. The second half, set during an air raid is much darker. Their feelings about the war, about being allowed to work and living without men come out organically. It tells a difficult story, merging the fear that blanketed the UK during the first world war and the tentative joy women felt when given their first taste of working for an income. It’s a touching tribute to the women that sacrificed their health for their countries, the unsung canaries.
The final show of the evening is Heather and Harry, that I have invited my dad too after reading that it was “Easy English” on the programme. It was a wonderful show, but this was overshadowed for me by the fact that my dad couldn’t understand a single element of the plot. No show that includes several rap breaks should be considered “Easy English”. Other than the description error, which was considerably annoying, the show was pleasantly funny. This is the story of Zeus’ girlfriend Heather, whom he sends to the world of mortals in order to teach her that mortals aren’t fun. She learns the opposite by meeting Harry and falling in love. It’s an entertaining enough show, though some of the jokes go on too long. The two have great chemistry and work well off each other, it says a lot that despite not understanding a word, my dad still enjoyed himself. I’d be happy to see them again, but I would be cautious to bring a less fluent friend.
The week concludes and I have seen 43 fringe shows, not including the documentary. We dance, we take the selfie on the bridge, and then we go our separate ways. I’ll be back next year.