Thursday, May 29, 2008

Prague Fringe Festival

Thanks to the lovely Stephen Gove from Edinburgh, we have a zappy Fringe Theatre Festival in Prague. I'm always advising my students, that if no one is casting you then cast yourself in something... do a fringe festival. And sure enough some of my Prague actors are doing just that. I was so proud of Matt Blood-Smyth, James High and the whole cast and crew of "Sacred Cow" that's playing at the Rubin right now. I congratulate Brian Caspe on his direction and Elleanor Cummins on her script. The play is ever so Irish, reminding me of the caustic, but darkly funny Beauty Queen of Leenane and like. The only decision that didn't work for me was that the role of Pavel, the Czech pub owner, should have been played by a Czech actor. Come on Brian, there are plenty of them here in Prague! See for details. 

I also caught Magic and More with Frisco Fred. He says it's for all ages. It's not. It's for kids. 

As for Pip Utton with his Hitler, and Michael McEvoy with Not in My Name; the trial of Machiavelli, I have some ambivalent reactions. I loved McEvoy's thesis that Machiavelli's "Prince" has been bastardized, and that many of the same torture techniques that were used on him are still being used today at Guantanamo... but why did he need to take out a sledge hammer and bash it over the audience's heads at the end? OK... we got it that he was making a comparison with Bush and the US before he started lecturing to us about how nasty our war is (yes... we all know), with the final blast of Bush's voice at the end. It would have been far more interesting if he had let us come to the conclusion ourselves, which we easily would have. 

Pip Utton was a much more skilled performer, who finds moments of resonance in taking clips from Hitler's actual speeches which as a whole also... yes again... found correlations in contemporary times. I'm not quoting this verbatim but "a lie becomes truth if you repeat it many times." Yes that's politics today. And as this nefarious Hitler character spit out his ethnic cleansing aphorisms, "if a people are a problem, then just get rid of them," (Sorry again not quoting exactly)I was haunted by Rudi Giuliani's removal of homeless people from NYC. (OK, he didn't kill them but that's next.) I was so happy and relieved that Pip Utton didn't feel the need to lecture to us about that... but no, I was wrong! Lights went down, then up, and he slipped into another character, letting the audience think it was the real Pip Utton. Then he started casually flipping off the racists jokes and sentiments... all so that he could prove to us, his dumb audience who can't figure it out ourselves, that racism still exists. I was squirming like a jelly fish I was so angry. Why didn't he trust us to figure that out ourselves? No... he had to explain the play and its relevance to us. Though maybe he's right that the audience IS stupid... a few people left during this section since they thought he was serious. OK... so actually these offended audience members merely lacked humor. I would recommend the show, just leave after the first forty five minutes and you'll feel really enlightened. 

TOPPING AND BUTCH is always good too, and I'd love to catch Peter Hoskin's show (he's pictured above, shaving) A Stretch of the Imagination.

And support the Fringe. Our arts are in danger in Prague.

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