Keeping it on the fringe

The Spiegeltent has become the central focus of the Dublin Fringe Festival. But the rest of the fetivals offerings should not be overlooked. By Colin Murphy


All that jazz
It's finally happened. The Spiegeltent has taken over the fringe. The tent – a 1920s Belgian mirror tent, which tours Europe as a festival venue for cabaret acts and late-night hyjinks – embodies all that fringe folk typically want to be: louche, outré, risqué. Crucially, you can have the “fringe” experience there without even having to see some rubbishy play. This year, they've made it even easier: the festival's headline show is on at the Spiegeltent, a collection of international cabaret and circus acts called ‘La Clique' (8-23 Sept), which has been a big success in Edinburgh and elsewhere. The title is curious, because the Spiegeltent normally comes complete with its own clique. Still, international reviews indicate it's probably worth seeing and a trawl through the festival programme reveals that, though cabaret may be attracting more than its fair share of publicity, the mainstay of the festival is still theatre. If it's cabaret you're after, venture further north any night to the more authentic Cobalt Café on North Great George's St, Dublin's original red light district.

Danny and Chantelle are still here
Philip McMahon's Danny and Chantelle won the Spirit of the Fringe award last year. It was a spiky, witty piece of writing about a young Ballymun couple on the tear in town. This year, McMahon and his colleagues have decided to take over the festival. McMahon has a new play, written for the energetic Calipo theatre company (11-15 Sept at the Project); his company are involved in a play called Dublin City Counselling (18-23 Sept at the New Theatre); and McMahon is directing Panti's new comic lecture, All Dolled Up (18-22 Sept, Project). The collaboration between McMahon and Calipo should be unmissable for anybody wondering what youth culture means these days.

For the politics
Gavin Kostick spends more of his time these days fostering other writing talent than his own, as literary manager for new-writing company Fishamble. But he has a substantial body of work, and this year's Fringe sees him add to it. He's written an outdoor spectacle for Whiplash Productions based on Shakespeare's Henry VI, War of the Roses, which is playing just once (14 Sept). There's also a chance to catch snippets of his past work, and that of a plethora of other Irish writers, in the Bus Project, which is, as it says, on a bus (17-23 Sept). And finally, in a magnificent act of hubris, Costick will perform Conrad's Heart of Darkness, the whole thing, over five and a half hours, in the Winding Stair bookshop (14-16 Sept). Why?  “ it's the classic indictment of Western imperialism”, he says.

Over in Limerick, a dance company called Daghdha are doing interesting things with public access and art. They like to complicate it greatly when they talk about it, but there are good, earthy ideas there, and Daniel Vais, a young Israeli choreographer, is at the vanguard. He brings one of his projects to the Fringe, though it's just one part of the uninspiringly-titled ‘Dance Triple Bill 4: the Love Spotters' (21-23 Sept, Dancehous) are a group of dancers from a special needs day-centre in Limerick, most of them with Down's Syndrome, and Vais's work with them sounds extraordinary.

Ignore the Fringe
Consistently overshadowed, and consistently excellent, is the Lambert Puppet Theatre's international puppet festival (7-16 Sept) in Dun Laoghaire. There's a small selection of Irish and international puppetry in both the Lamberts' own theatre and the Pavilion. Highlights look to be the Portuguese folk puppet show, The Creation of the World, by the Centro Dramatico de Evora, accompanied by haunting fado music, an Italian shadow puppetry company, Controluce, with Haiku.

The truth about globalisation
Festival director Wolfgang Hoffmann is a man with his finger on the pulse of contemporary European performance, so his picks of the international shows are worth noting. The Au Cul du Loup from France, The TEAM from the US, Men of Steel from Australia, Plasma from Switzerland and Jo Stromgren Company from Norway. Also worth a look will be Teatr Polski Wroclaw from Poland, at the Axis in Ballymun (20-22 Sept).
The Dublin Fringe Festival runs from 8 – 23 September.
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