Prague Fringe closes with audience awards

The 17th annual theater festival saw a large increase in ticket sales

The 17th Prague Fringe has drawn to a close after nine days and over 240 performances of more than 50 productions. At a closing party, the new Audience Award was announced.

Not only was this year's festival the biggest program ever, but it was the most successful.

At a closing ceremony, festival founder Steve Gove said attendance was up 27 percent in recent years after rebranding and a partnership with Avast Foundation.

Many shows toward the end of the festival were sold out. Final figures have not been released yet.

The first Prague Fringe had just 400 viewers and the recent festival had a preliminary attendance estimate of over 7,500.

“This is the Fringe we always wanted to have,” Gove said. While the first Fringe was 17 years ago, planning took place for two years before that.

Gove said the audience now includes many people who travel year after year to Prague from as far away as Australia just to see the festival. There is a good spirit with people recommending shows to others by word of mouth.

Social media has also grown in importance in promoting shows and the festival in general.

The festival also now has its place on the annual calendar of regular fringe festivals.

Since 2009, the festival has given out awards based on secret jury voting, and the votes have not been tallied yet.

But audience votes have been counted, and the new audience award went Chores, a family-friendly show that also pleased adults. It was staged by Australia's Cluster Arts Pty Ltd. The show has two people on stage pretending to be young brothers who have to clean up their room. This leads to lots of physical theater with juggling and other stunts.

In second place was Songs of Gays, performed by the London's Gay Men's Chorus Ensemble. The show featured an all-male choir accompanied by piano on a set of show tunes, disco and pop. The group first came to the stage in nuns' habits, and then changed to basic black shirts with colorful accessories. The end included fans in rainbow of colors.

The third-place show was Scotland, another physical theater show. This one was performed by three people, none of whom is from Scotland. The come from England, Australia and Sweden. The show relied on audience participation, with a highlight of a volunteer wearing antlers and pretending to be a wild deer while the inept trio tried to catch it.

A special mention went to The Orchid, by the group Twentysomething, which actually was from Scotland. This show was love story featuring a cast of two.

Prague Fringe showcases alternative theater and music acts in small venues to medium-size venues. It is modeled on the Edinburgh Fringe, which began in 1947.

The next edition will be in 2019 at the end of May and start of June, and details will be announced soon.

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