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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: August 17, 2010 @ 5:53 pm

    Fringe benefits

    Laurence Mackin

    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.

    • Aaron Dowling says:

      I just flciked through the schedule there and there does seem to abundance of diverse events happening. Really looking forward to it especially Macnas and the escape from dead zoo could be a bit of fun. The schedule does seems to be a little light in the music department. However, saying that, I do love my icelandic music so Im sure I’ll be kept happy.

    • Róise Goan says:

      Hi Laurence,
      Thanks for the shout out – we are very excited about the programme for this year’s festival. As ever, ABSOLUT Fringe strives to reach as broad an audience as possible, introducing them to what’s new and what’s next in the world of performing arts, culture and live entertainment. In doing this, we make a conscious effort to keep our ticket prices low. Compare our ticket prices to any other arts festival in the country this year and you’ll see what we mean. There are plenty of deals available (the early bird is the first of many others we will announce in the run up to the festival) and lots of free performances as well.

      For example on Sat 18th, you could catch 5 of our outdoor or free events: LiffeyTown on the River Liffey, Laneway on Dame Lane, the Bridal Solution in Temple bar, Anybody Waitin’? by ponydance on South King Street and then listen in on our RadioActive podcast.

      On that same day, for €53, you can catch The Ballet Ruse at 1pm (tongue in cheek contemporary dance) , The Pajama Men: Last Stand to Reason at 7pm (internationally renowned comedy duo), Four on the Fringe of Folk (a once off collaboration between four internationally renowned musicians) at 9pm and round off your day with Dead Cat Bounce at midnight in the festival club (for €5). If you book that using our early bird deal, you’ll only spend €47.70.

      Considering the quality and reputation of the performers and companies involved in all of the shows above, we stand behind the prices we’ve set!

      Hope to see you at a few events this year,

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