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Bloodied by attacks but unbowed, the Dublin Fringe Festival have pushed the envelope even further this year.
Joe Jackson, 16 Sep 2003
Anyone who attended the launch of this year’s ESB Dublin Fringe Festival in Dublin’s Market pub, will know that the dominent mood of the evening was one of unfettered celebration. Even defiant celebration. Which is pretty astounding when you consider that the general mood dominating Irish theatre this year, fringe and otherwise, is one of distress in terms of Arts Council cutbacks. But then, when those forms of potential oppression are imposed on people, they often fight back like hell and take other routes around seminal issues like the funding of theatre companies and even individual productions. And that seems to be precisely what many theatre companies have done this year.
Better still, having to go their own way means the general tenure of shows in this years ESB Fringe Festival is more edgy than ever, more avant garde, more political. In other words, what could have been negative energy is turned into a far more positive dynamic. At least that’s how things seem to Nik Quaife, who is handling publicity for the Festival for the first time this year, having previously worked on shows like Riverdance and The St. Patrick’s Festival. He’s also a more than capable spokesperson for the Festival.
“You saw the impact the launch had,” he says. “And that whole sense of celebration is continuing. On the day the box office opened there was a record amount of tickets sold and we’ve continued to achieve that amount of ticket sales every day since. And what definitely has come across this year was that because there were those cutbacks – though it’s not as bad as the ’80s – you are seeing different theatre groups collaborate on different projects. And rock the boat a little more, be more experimental. There is a lot of work in this year’s Festival that deals with issues and is more confrontational, more risqué, more avant garde, that’s for sure. But that could also be because the Fringe is getting a higher profile. In fact there were 350 applications to be in the Fringe Festival this year and that was siphoned down to 140 productions. So, obviously, despite cutbacks, there still is great energy in the world of theatre when it comes to the Fringe. And this Festival.”
Other new elements to the ESB Dublin Fringe Festival this year are the huge music programme, in the Spiegaltent (see feature elsewhere in hotpress), New Irish Writings and international work, plus new venues such as the Peacock, The Space at the Helix, Temple Theatre and so fort. But the most radical innovation of all is the “focus on questions and ideas around ‘Diaspora’, working with local and international theatre companies examining cultural questions raised in Ireland and internationally by diasporioc populations.” This is one of the more fascinating aspects of the Festival for everyone concerned. Including Nik.
“There is a loose theme in this year’s Festival – when you’ve got 120 shows it would be wrong to theme the overall Festival itself in terms of any form of exploration – but there is that loose theme which starts on the opening night of Asian Dub Foundation presenting their live soundtrack to La Haine,” he says. “There is a lot of cross-cultural, diasporic work in this year’s Festival. But then we are in an unprecedented age of emigration into this country and there are definite works in this year’s Festival that deal with that. Jimmy Fay, co-founder of the Fringe, working, for example, with Bisi Adigan, who is one of the foremost African Arts presenters in the country. And they are putting together a play, with Africans living in Ireland, taking all the parts of Oedipus Rex, transposed to Nigeria. You’ve got a real cross-cultural dimension to this year’s Festival, raising the question of what are all those people who are moving to Ireland, from different cultures, bringing to the Arts scene in this country. And ADF tackle that by being an East End London band doing a soundtrack to a film about suburban Paris. There are quite a few shows that just look at this increasingly globalised world and cross-cultural, cross-pollination of art forms. That would be a highlight of this year.”
Incidentally the ESB Dublin Fringe Festival is looking for volunteers to help at this year’s Festival. If you want to help, call (01) 679 2320. The same number is the one to call for all enquiries about the Festival.