Thursday, February 4, 2010

UnFringed Festival 2010 review and awards

ENVELOPES arrived with a heavy thud last Monday afternoon to arts organisations in Limerick City, informing them of decisions on annual funding from the Arts Council. Most were cut, among them Daghdha Dance Company (36 percent, or €90,000) and the Belltable (16 percent or €45,000), with only Limerick Printmakers holding firm at last year's levels.
Despite the doom and gloom that accompanies such news, just a matter of days ago we were hailing the strength of fringe theatre in the city at the end of another higly successful UnFringed Festival in Limerick.

On the strength of the five day festival, which finished on Sunday night, there is still a bustling vitality to theatre in this city that goes on despite any cuts.
This year's UnFringed Festival - the 13th - was a shortened one due to economic necessity, but what it lacked in length was certainly made up in diversity and depth.
Over the five days 16 separate productions took place, made up of theatre, both full productions and rehearsed readings, as well as comedy and music.
The rehearsed readings are innate to UnFringed and one in particular, Peter Gowen’s The Chronicles of Oggle, to be produced by Cork based theatre company Corcadorca, was simply mesmirising, despite being a work in progress. Noted actor Frankie McCafferty - of Ballykissangel fame, who read what was essentially a 50 minute monologue - was stunning.
We await the finished product with interest.
Likewise, the rehearsed reading of For the Birds, written by Siobhan Donellan and Jen Browne - who worked collaboratively across the Atlantic - was excellent, with Browne notably standing out in the piece.

Site specific theatre is also one of UnFringed’s selling points; and this year was no disappointment.
Anu Productions presented the Irish premiere of Memory Deleted in the Boutique Hotel on Denmark Street - taking over a whole floor of the city hotel. This was a baffling and beguiling piece, almost more installation and performance art, as a large and superb cast presented the tinges of memories that remain in a hotel room after its use - from a doomed couple to the hotel cleaning staff, to the teacher having an affair with a student.
A provocative and profoundly disturbing piece, it was also atmospheric and enveloping, as actors leaned over the audience to switch on a light, it felt as if you were intruding onto something immensely private and touching.
A deserved winner of Best Production.
Bookshelf’s production of Beast, featuring the acclaimed actor David Heap and superb up and coming actress Hannah Scott, was also a highlight; a lilting story of lust between a dying artist and his muse.
The use of visuals was superb, but the writing was the star in this piece, which was profoundly affecting and deeply emotional. It is hard to believe that Elena Bolster, the writer, is merely 27 years old.

The uplifting element of UnFringed is the sense of fun that pervades proceedings, and this was reflected in two productions, Cirque de Legume, which opened the festival, and Lords of Strut, which featured two guys in lycra performing theatrical acrobatics on Thomas Street (see pictures, thanks to Sarah Lynch for those).
The latter drew huge crowds and was a deserving winner of the Spirit of UnFringed award - the 45 minute, high energy show encapsulating the energy behind the festival.
As one observer remarked of Cirque de Legume, “I’ll never be able to look a vegetable in the eye again”, and this sums up the fun about this show, which won an award at the Dublin Fringe Festival last year.
Featuring two superb performers in Jamie Carswell and Nancy Trotter Landry, Cirque was half an hour of pure mayhem, involving little dialogue and a lot of physical comedy, as the two “idiot performers” attempt to put on a Cirque du Soleil type show, using nothing but a box of vegetables.
Local comedy troupe Choke Comedy produced a special show for UnFringed, called ‘Pure Sketchy’, essentially a series of sketches that saw the local group make the jump from off-the-cuff improv - of which we were a major fan - to scripted set pieces. The production showcased the group’s fine comic abilities but requires further work, in this reviewer’s opinion.

Special mention must be made of Cleaner, which was performed in Our Lady of Lourdes and Watchouse Library, Moyross - a one woman show about a woman who falls in love with her sweeping brush.
Deep and dark in places, actress Meave Lambert fully deserved her award for Best Female for the piece.

A full list of winners is below, but we are pleased to report that UnFringed is alive and well and as strong as ever.
Long may it continue.

Best Female Meave Lambert for Cleaner

Best Male David Heap for Beast

Best Production Memory Deleted

Spirit of UnFringed Lords of Strut

Judges Special Award Elena Bolster for Beast

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