“It's truly an award-winning programme”: 21st Prague Fringe starts

Pip Utton: Bacon

The 21st Prague Fringe gets underway on Monday, with organisers promising one of the best editions yet. The week-long event will also feature an act from Ukraine – and the festival is planning to bring alternative theatre to Kyiv in future. I spoke to Prague Fringe founder Steve Gove.

“It’s the most award-winning programme we’ve ever had.

“I always say, This is the best programme, and how can it possibly be better next year?

Afghanistan Is Not Funny by Henry Naylor | Photo: Prague Fringe Festival

“But it is truly an award-winning programme.

“We’ve got Henry Naylor coming with his show Afghanistan is Not Funny, an autobiographical piece about his trip to Afghanistan a number of years back as a journalist.

“He has won multiple awards at the Fringe in Edinburgh this year.

“Pip Utton is back. He’s been doing the Fringe in Edinburgh for 30 years and gets five-star reviews every single time he’s there.

“He’s always got fantastic, quality shows.

Photo: Prague Fringe Festival

“He did Maggie and Churchill last year, which sold out almost, pretty much every performance.

“And this year he’s back with Bacon and Hitchcock – two other interesting characters.”

Congratulations on reaching 21 years. Where do you find the energy to keep the Fringe going, especially given the last couple of years with the misery of Covid?

“I am, obviously, extremely passionate about what I do.

Steve Gove | Photo: Miroslav Romaniv

“I love living in Prague, I adore what I do, I love the arts – and it’s just such a pleasure to put all the pieces together and see it all unfold during the week of the Fringe.

“It’s kind of like having all your birthdays at one go.

“Perhaps that’s a bit of it.

“I don’t know where the rest of my energy comes from. Naivety maybe [laughs]?”

I was reading that you were talking about taking some form of the Prague Fringe to Ukraine, hopefully. What’s that idea?

“Of course Ukraine’s on everyone’s mind at the moment and I was scratching my head, thinking what I could do personally to help.

“Then an email popped up from a guy in Kyiv called Alex Borovenski.

“He said, Hey, you do English-language theatre in Prague, we do English-language theater in Kyiv. And I was like, OK.

“He said, We’ve got a show, can we bring it to your festival?

“This was two months ago and I said, Well, not really, because we’re fully booked – but yes, bring it!

The Book of Sirens | Photo: Prague Fringe Festival

“So we squeezed it in. It’s called The Book of Sirens and there will be four performances only in a really small venue, so if you want to see that you’d need to get tickets in advance.

“It’s an adaptation of a play which is set in a bunker in Germany in World War II.

“They directed it and put the piece together in their theatre, which is in a cellar, a basement theatre, which is also – as he told me when we first met online – their air-raid shelter.

“Prior to meeting him I was sort of brainstorming as to what I could do in terms of Ukraine.

“I thought, Well, there’s no fringe in Ukraine, and there’s a world of fringes out there – let’s pool these resources together and let’s pre-celebrate the end of this horrific invasion of Ukraine by bringing the world’s arts to Ukraine and celebrating with them, when this is all over.”