From Taiwan to Žižkov: 23rd Prague Fringe “most international ever”

The Whispers of the Waves

Final preparations are underway for the 23rd edition of the Prague Fringe, which starts on Monday. Alongside an array of artists from around the globe, this year’s edition will also include a local company performing a play “by” fictional Czech legend Jara Cimrman. Founder Steve Gove discussed that booking – but first told me about a production by Shinehouse Theatre, a company from Taiwan.

“This is really exciting. It’s the first time we’ve had a theatre company coming from Taiwan, and it’s a proper, full-scale production.

Photo: Prague Fringe Festival

“The application came in in August [for the show The Whisper of the Waves] and I thought, Wow, this would be quite the thing.

“So we were in touch right from the beginning and I said, Yes, yes, yes, this has to come. And we’re really, really excited about it.”

Also coming is UnErase Poetry from India, who I see have 1.2 million followers on Instagram alone. Who are UnErase Poetry?

“UnErase Poetry are a poetry collective from Mumbai. They are huge, even by Indian standards. They’ve got several awards from YouTube for their viewership and followers.

“It’s a beautiful hour of stories from India. They invite you in and they wrap you up in this beautiful, warm Indian glow.

“It’s a fantastic hour. It’s a little slice of India which we will be putting on in [Malostranská ]Beseda.”

"How Women Love Women" - Helly Shah ft Abhin | UnErase Poetry

Unusually there’s one act at this year’s Fringe who aren’t touring but are based here in Prague, specifically in Žižkov.

“Cimrman of course – Czech legend. Everyone knows him, everyone loves him.

“Actually, there’s a funny little story, which I might just add here. Everybody thinks that the Fringe festival tradition started in Edinburgh, back in 1947.

Jára Cimrman's play The Stand In | Photo: Prague Fringe Festival

“That’s actually not true. In 1946 the first Fringe festival took place in

České Budějovice, and it was Cimrman himself that started it.

“So it is exciting that we’ve brought Fringe back to the Czech Republic. But it’s also exciting that the play [The Stand-In] by the great Cimrman will be performed, back in Beseda, I believe for the first time in a great number of decades [laughs].

“And it’s the English-language production of it, which is quite unique.

“A number of years ago a Brit and his wife, who were living here, decided that it might not be a bad idea to do an English version of this.

“I believe that the Cirman company had said it wasn’t going to be possible to – it’s impossible to translate this.

Standing on the Miracolous Field | Photo: Prague Fringe Festival

“But it has been done and people who speak fluent English and fluent Czech celebrate the fact that it actually is very, very close in style to – if not identical with [laughs] – the original Czech.

“So we’re really, really chuffed that this is happening.”

You have said this year’s 23rd edition of the festival is the most international ever. Is that by accident or design?

“Partly by design. We’ve had a few years where for obvious reasons people weren’t travelling as much.

“Last year was super European. We had groups from all over Europe, countries that we hadn’t represented before: Serbia, Poland and the like.

On the Edge | Photo: Prague Fringe Festival

“We started a tradition of presenting Italian work, from the Italian Fringe festivals, last year, which continues this year.

“But yes, it’s really international. We’ve got the shows that we’ve just mentioned. We’ve also got a performer from Japan, who’s based in the Netherlands, and we’re really pleased about that.

“We’ve got the usual smattering of fantastic work from England, Scotland, other parts of Europe. Ireland of course; we have two presentations from Ireland, including Acting Out, which is Dublin’s premiere queer theatre company.

“So yes, it’s a super eclectic mix.”