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What do Melbourne, Sydney and Wroclaw have in common?



After a few guesses you might get somewhere but unless you are a FRINGE buff you would never know! Fringe season is in full swing right now with Fringes happening right across the globe, still no clue what I am talking about... read on!

It all started 64 years ago in Edinburgh when a band of turned-away rebel students decided no one was turning them away and took their shows to Edinburgh during the first Edinburgh International Festival - a festival that was established to re-unite Europe after the dark war years. The off shoot to the main event was dubbed a 'Fringe' by a journalist. 65 years on the anyone-is-welcome philosophy still stands and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe has grown to become the largest arts event in the world, shows taking place in every conceivable corner of Scotland's ancient capital.

This August was my 16th visit to the Mother Fringe. Even in that time I have seen it transformed, from what was already a monster event, into something almost beyond belief. Fringe statistics alone are mind blowing - 21,192 performers presented 41,689 performances of 2,542 shows in 258 venues and this year almost 1.9 MILLION tickets were sold! Now... you might be forgiven for asking 'How the hell do you even begin to choose something to go and see?' it's a good question. There are of course the massive headliners - mainly established stand up comics who have made their fame and fortune by being discovered at the Fringe and return to pack out venues seating 800 - 1,000 people but on a more intimate level there are shows that have taken place in cars, lifts and even one year a public toilet. Usually the more quirky the location the more attention a show gets and of course word of mouth plays a big part in helping you choose what to see too - speaking to people in Fringe bars and cafes and getting the inside info is a definite plus - it pays not to be shy. After visiting the Fringe for so many years now I usually pick up programmes for 4 or 5 specific venues and focus on those. These are either places that I know well or where I know I will find some of the best and least commercial shows at the Fringe. This year my top venues were as follows:

ZOO VENUES (not actually at the ZOO!) This has become one of my favorites, housed in three spaces including two churches that have been converted into studio theatres and always has an interesting and varied programme and sometimes Czech groups too.

REMARKABLE ARTS are reasonably new kids on the block holding shows in the beautiful and recently deconsecrated St Georges West church, converted into a theatre with raked seating and lights and a Masonic hall on Hill Street, the Masons leave for the month!

SUMMERHALL was a new addition for this year - a multi space ex Victorian Vet School where the bar was in the dissecting hall!!! An eclectic mix of visual arts, talks and performances.

FOREST FRINGE is held in an edgy community centre that hosts free performances (but you can give a donation after if you like the show). Shows are usually short and often experimental and always fun. What I like most about the Forest Fringe is that it is on the Fringe of the Fringe as it doesn't even feature in the official programme.

I only saw about 20 shows this year (usually see 50 or 60) but the best show I saw was not however at any of the venues mentioned above but at the long established Traverse theatre and was performed by Marc Almond (Of 80's pop group Soft Cell). TEN PLAGUES is a a unique music-theatre experience which is written by renowned playwright Marc Ravenhill. A stunning show and remarkable performance that made it hard to take your eyes off Almond for a single second of the sixty minute show.

'In London
Came the plague in sixteen sixty five
One hundred thousand dead
But I alive.

London is infected. The dead fall in the streets. As the plague pits fill, the people of London struggle to maintain a society in the face of overwhelming mortality. Based on eye-witness accounts from 1665 and drawing poetic parallels with modern epidemics, Ten Plagues relates one man's journey through a city in crisis'.

A quick flight across the North Sea a few days later and I am at one of the newest and freshest Fringes on the scene, Amsterdam Fringe. My forth visit to the 6th year of the Dutch Fringe and only 5 days to pack in as much as possible. Amsterdam Fringe certainly doesn't take the city over in the way that Edinburgh's does but the shows take place in brilliant spaces mostly in the historical centre which give you a great chance to discover corners along canals that you didn't know existed.

Dublin Fringe has just finished. The Irish version runs directly after Amsterdam but now it's time for the Aussie season to start Sydney and Melbourne are in full swing and will be closely followed by Perth and Adelaide (second biggest in the world). The bug has now been caught by Poland. Earlier in the year Sopot had a 24 hour Fringe and Wroclaw Fringe is running an 18 day event right now at which Prague's own Vesely Skoky theatre company performed.

Pragues own Fringe (the 11th) takes place from 1st - 9th June 2012 - make a note in your diaries!

Steve Gove
Founder and Director, Prague Fringe

Check out what is happening at the four world Fringes that are happening right now:















text: Steve Gove - Founder and Director - Fringe Festival Praha

11th Fringe Festival Praha Friday 1st - Saturday 9th June 2012

Image: Susie B /

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