22nd edition of Prague Fringe kicks off
In the early 2000s, native Scot Steve Gove decided to resurrect the intimate feel of the original Edinburgh Fringe festival, before it became the gargantuan beast it is today, and bring it to Prague. Now in its 22nd year, the Prague Fringe is running from 22 – 27 May at venues dotted around Malá Strana. I spoke to him as the festival got underway and started by asking him to summarise what the Fringe is all about, for people who have never heard of it.
“The Prague Fringe is the Czech Republic’s English-language theatre festival. This is our 22nd season and it’s a festival that we ask our public to embrace. Come and see not just one show, but two or three shows!
“The shows last about 45 minutes to an hour each and tickets are cheap. If you jump in at the deep end you’re sure to have a good experience!
“In essence, it’s a festival of English-language theatre, although we have a bit of comedy around the edges. There are a couple of shows that are not in English, but they come with subtitles. So that’s Fringe in a nutshell here in Prague.”
If somebody wants to go and see something at the Prague Fringe but they’ve got no idea where to start, do you have any tips for how they can go about choosing?
“I think if you’re not sure, or you’ve not been to the Fringe before and you’re a little bit nervous, just dip your toe in and see how you feel. The risk factor is super low – the shows only last 45 minutes to an hour and the ticket prices are very low, so worst-case scenario, you’ve only lost 45 minutes of your life.
“But we tend not to disappoint – the quality is really high. There are shows for kids, there are late-night cabaret shows and there’s everything in the middle.
“Also, if some people are a little bit nervous about their English, don’t worry, because there’s a category called Easy English, which means that you can select shows that have English that’s not as demanding. And there’s also a non-verbal section, because there is some non-verbal theatre too, so there is something for everyone.
“The audiences are made up of something crazy like about 60 different nationalities, so it’s not just Czechs, but foreigners that live here from many different countries all over the world. So having a basic knowledge of English is not a barrier to coming to our festival.”
Have you personally seen and vetted all the shows?
“Oh, of course – not all of them, but many of them. What tends to happen as well is that artists who have performed at the festival in past years create new shows, and of course if they apply and they’ve had a successful run at Prague Fringe we jump on them.
“Some of the shows I’ve seen at other festivals. For example, in October last year, I went to the Fringe festival in Sicily and we found a brilliant show called 80 cents. And they’ve actually used Prague Fringe as a challenge – they’re presenting the show in English for the first time ever.
“And of course, I go to the mother Fringe in Edinburgh every year, and often shows that come to the Prague Fringe are shows that I’ve seen in Edinburgh.
“So they’re pretty tried and tested, although there is a sprinkling of new work every year. This year we’ve invited a theatre group from Poland and a theatre group from Serbia for the very first time ever.
“And of course our friends in Ukraine – we met a fantastic theatre company online last year who wanted to come to the Prague Fringe. It was at the last minute, but I said ‘Yes, you must come!’
“This year, it’s a different element of the theatre company and the performer has travelled by train from Kyiv to be here.
“So it’s a mixed bag of things, but a lot of the shows are tried and tested and I have seen many of them. And the ones that I haven’t seen, I will see this week!”