Dublin Fringe Festival puts live indoor performances into the mix for September

Reimagined line-up sees experimental work outdoors, plus landmarks as performance spaces

Dublin Fringe Festival plans to present shows inside venues in early September – in what may be the first tentative live performances indoors in many months.

The Fringe on Friday announces a “Pilot Light Edition” for 2020, to “keep her lit”. The festival will include some live shows in what it describes as “a safe return to live performance in much-loved Dublin venues” if the reopening plan goes as outlined. Festivals and theatres are allowed to operate from phase five of reopening after Covid-19 restrictions, from August 10th.

The Fringe Pilot Light Edition on September 5th-20th will have a smaller programme than usual for Ireland’s largest multi-disciplinary arts festival, and will include outdoor performances, site-specific shows for small audiences, solo art adventures, interactive projects at home, and use Dublin landmarks as performance spaces.

Performances indoors will not see venues used traditionally, festival director Ruth McGowan says. Audiences “will not be walking into places and seeing them look as they did in February”, she adds. The Fringe is being led by its usual Dublin venue partners “in terms of what they feel is safe and doable and possible”, making plans, just as pubs and shops are, for how to reopen. This will mean “smaller numbers of seats in venues meant for much bigger capacity. And obviously, it’s changing all the time. We’re assuming social distancing will be with us this September, so we’re making the festival” planning for that. She adds that they are “staying nimble with plenty of imaginative Plan Bs and Cs” in case circumstances change.

“This is an opportunity for experimental performance. Many artists who make work for Fringe work in a contemporary style in a non-traditional space. That sort of work has always thrived at Fringe.”

Contracts have not been signed yet, so McGowan can’t disclose which venues are likely to feature performances this September. Its core funders, the Arts Council and Dublin City Council, and principal patron Ballymore, are fully behind its plans, she says. Currently the Fringe team is “un-producing” the festival it had planned, and “re-making it while keeping a sense of shared experience and liveness” in projects with “active spectatorship”. She says, “We don’t want a diluted version of the artists’ vision. We want to back ideas that can exist fully within the context” of what is possible safely.

They plan to announce the programme on August 5th, a month before the festival starts. “We’re really alive to the idea that that might not be safe, and we might not get there. That’s okay too, because we’ll have enough in our programme that’s really nimble, and doesn’t have to happen in a traditional space. But we’re not giving up on live performance, just yet.”