No sooner has the Kilkenny Arts Festival cooled its jets than the Absolut Fringe in Dublin is vying for your attention. The festival kicks off on September 11th with more than 479 performances of 100 shows in 40-odd venues. That’s enough to make your head spin.
Last year, I went to quite a few shows and didn’t manage to see anything mindblowing (this, though, was probably down to my own poor judgment). However, the festival was still in a bit of a transition as it was Róise Goan’s first year with her hands on the directorial reins. This year should be a more assured line-up – and the early signs are that it is.
There’s a world premiere of a new translation of Medea, directed by Selina Cartmell and featuring a top-notch cast, that includes Eileen Walsh, Olwen Fouéré and Ronan Leahy.
Amiina continue to plunder the spoils of the Irish arts calendar, with a performance as part of an Icelandic music weekend. The public nudity box is being ticked by Nic Green’s potentially explosive Trilogy. Emma Martin’s Listowel Syndrome threatens to take a bleak look at insular small town mindsets. The Show in a Bag concept is intriguing, with actors working on pieces written specially for them.
World’s End Lane is an exploration of what was, at the turn of the 20th century, the most notorious red-light district in Europe – Dublin’s very own Monto (how the area and its mythology hasn’t inspired more music, plays and writing is deeply odd). And, having seen the press pics of Fergal McCarthy’s project LiffeyTown, where red and green houses that smack of a certain board game will be floating on the Liffey, I feel that perhaps they gave the game away a little. However, it does look like great fun.
It’s also great that the Live Collision strand is back – international companies perform at night and then spend the day feverishly working with Irish colleagues during the day to bring even more experimentation to their shows. Excellent.
This is a mere sliver of highlights, so click on the web page here for a better look at what’s on offer. The Fringe is a fantastic festival and it does a terrific job of bringing the city to life. It is one of the most enjoyable times to be in the capital.
The one disappointment I would have would be ticket prices. It’s not so much the individual ticket prices themselves – these veer from free to around the €20 mark, which seems perfectly reasonable for what are some fairly ambitious and promising productions. However, if you are planning to go to a range of stuff (and my guess here is that most Fringe-goers would be repeat offenders), then it isn’t long before ticket prices start stacking up.
Currently, the Fringe is offering a 10 per cent discount for early bird bookings if you spend more than €75, and 5 per cent if you spend less (offer ends August 25th). These seem to be the only discounts on offer. The Fringe is not alone in this regard – last year I spent a good chunk of wedge on tickets in the Dublin Theatre Festival but there was no kickback for booking four or five shows, which was a little disappointing (I tried every trick in the book, but the box office staff were having none of it).
A system that would allow you to buy a multi-ticket or get meaningful discounts for block buying tickets would be very welcome for many of Ireland’s festivals. It could logistically be a bit of a nightmare for organisers, but it is an idea worth exploring. There is no doubt that budgets are punishingly tight, and when you consider that for the price of an Electric Picnic ticket you could see roughly 20 shows in the Fringe, for example, it starts to seem like very good value.
So what will you be going to see in the Fringe? How does it stack up to the competition? Your comments are as ever welcome, and expect plenty of coverage during the festival here, on the Irish Times website and on our lovely Arts pages.