Reviews: Hits of Prague Fringe

There are several string shows, and many have been selling out

Prague Fringe is under way and will run until June 3 at venues in Malá Strana. We've caught a few shows on the opening days and there are some that stand out.

Hess, a one man show about Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess and his time in Spandau Prison, is performed by Derek Crawford Munn. It is a revival of the 1978 play by Michael Burrell. The title character, now an old man, explains his life and questions why he alone of all the Nazi leaders is still in prison. The actor elicits some sympathy for the character, but at the same time shows him as an unrepentant monster. The play at times grows very intense as Hess forcefully tries to explain his side and make out the he was a hero and not a madman. The play is at Divadlo Kampa until the end of the festival.

Another strong drama is Domestic, which looks at the growing police state and how far it can intrude into people's lives in the name of protecting society. The two-person play mostly takes place is London commune. It seems on the surface to be a simple romance, but turns much more complicated by the end. The production is by the international troupe So It Goes … and is at Divadlo Kampa until May 31.

The local group Blood Love and Rhetoric put on Zurichplays: An Anticomedy. The play examines the Dada movement of the early 20th century with a very Dada performance. The play's acts are in a seemingly random order, and there is little rhyme or reason to the alleged story. Several important figures of the Dada movement such such as Erik Satie and Marcel Duchamp make appearances.

It looks like disorganized madness on the stage, but actually the performances and the loose story capture the mood of the artform.

The play has only three performances in the Fringe, from May 26 to 29 at Divadlo Kampa, but the group plays in Prague often with this show and others, including improv nights and they are worth checking out.

Returning from last year, Men With Coconuts are doing their improv show in Malostranská beseda all week. The show has the same structure still, with the group doing skits based on audience suggestions. But it is different every night, and often sells out. Some of the members are also doing solo shows and Will Naameh will be performing improv hip hop under the name MC Hammersmith at the end of the festival at Divadlo Inspirace.

Comic duo Zack and Viggo are back as well. They are actually in the middle of developing the new show, and some parts are a bit weaker than others. The show also is a bit less elaborate than their previous one, though it has been popular with the audiences. Some of the humor is rather crude, but the two manage to remain likeable and present the poor taste material with a lot of positive energy. They are at Divadlo Inspirace for the entire festival. Both performers also have solo shows playing on limited runs.

Also back for more is Tooth+Nail Theatre Company with a new show, Hummingbird. They were here last year with Parlour Games, which had quite a good reception. We've not yet seen Hummingbird but the buzz from the fringe regulars is that it is the must-see entry on the program. The company blends drama with some difficult physical theater. The new show has also has been selling out. It is at Divadlo Inspirace for the entire festival.

Twelfth Night Reimagined, put on by Australia's BraveHearts youth touring company, has divided fringe fans with some strongly liking it and others having a polar opposite reaction. The play is presented as a musical, and the singing is quite strong and the music is put on with a sense of enjoyment. The costumes and makeup are also positive points. But the play itself is cut down so drastically that the plot is all but lost and the characters become rather muddled. All fringe plays have to be put on in less than an hour, so with the addition of the songs, simply not enough time is left to develop the drama. People familiar with the play might have better luck at following the convoluted misunderstandings of the plot. The second night's performance was reportedly much better than the first, so perhaps this reviewer caught them on an off night. It runs to May 30 at Malostranská beseda.

Something for kids that adults may also enjoy is What If …, presented in a geodesic dome in Malostranská beseda until May 31. Sweden's Slava Theater takes the audience into outer space to visit two planets. The play uses only nonsense language to convey the journey. The props are a mix of old-fashioned items, and the audience is asked to open their imagination and ride along, experiencing weightlessness along the way.

For more information and tickets visit www.praguefringe.com

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