When we mention that Dubai is to have its own Fringe Festival this month, one colleague is appalled. ‘But, but – what if it’s no good?’ she utters, almost frightened. Her response is justified, for all her melodrama. Taking on the Fringe Festival brand is a challenge. The original event, the Edinburgh Fringe, started out in 1947 and is now the largest art festival in the world, covering comedy, theatre, music and dance. Last year’s event included 34,265 performances across 265 venues, with ticket sales of around 1.8 million.
In short, the Dubai version has a lot to live up to. Dubai Fringe Festival curator Stuart Evory agrees. ‘Dubai is still a business town with a small artistic community,’ he tells us. ‘The Fringe represents artists expressing themselves for performance, rather than just for money.’ If Dubai’s nature is at odds with the essence of the Fringe, why hold it here? ‘I wanted to bring the vitality of creative thought that The Fringe Festival represents to Dubai,’ he explains. ‘Visual artists are coming through here very strongly. In future I’d love to include local entertainment in the festival.’
This year, however, he’s inviting only international artists ‘that would grace any Fringe. All have won awards across the globe.’ The big question is: will Dubai’s audience dig a Fringe Fest? ‘Absolutely,’ Stuart replies. ‘Good entertainment will always shine through.’ It’s your call. Let us know what you think at www.timeoutdubai.com.
Meet the performers
Primate, theatrical percussion
Why the name?
Our goal is to touch people’s sensitivities to the core. Our audience should be able to hit the inner ‘animal’ hidden in themselves when experiencing the show, and let loose. We ourselves experience it in every performance. Sometimes we surprise ourselves with our routines, and we let out grunts and sounds that are very ’primate’. It’s a lot of fun.
What’s your favourite bit of your set?
It’s very hard to pick one. My favourite part could be when I’m washing dishes and I discover a whole new world of sounds from the dishwasher itself. The plates I’m cleaning become part of the instrument.
I end up doing a battery solo that rivals any major band. But we also spend months perfecting choreographies with around eight performers, where the gist of it all is to do it perfectly all the time. It’s a real challenge with every performance.
You say the body is used as an instrument?
Oh, yes. You have to see it to understand it, but we make music with our whole bodies. We tap, clap, beatbox to the beat, do acrobatics, sing and tell a couple of funny jokes. It’s actually the essence of our investigation as artists.
Reuben Dot Dot Dot, acrobat
What’s the highlight of your show?
A one-handed balance that I perform 16ft up in the air.
Have you fallen much?
I’ve had maybe two falls, but both were lucky: one was from the top, although luckily I landed on grass. But I’m not performing on grass over here…
A burst baker’s cyst [build-up of fluid] in my calf muscle. I ripped the fibres and couldn’t walk for three months.
If you weren’t an acrobat, you’d…
Magic Brian, magician
Your show involves ‘a record-breaking escape from 40ft of chains and a regulation straitjacket.’ How on earth did you get into tying yourself up in chains?
I used to just escape from a straitjacket, then I added about 20ft of chains. Once I’d mastered that, I decided to double it. I’d add more, but they’re so damn heavy to carry around and a big hassle at all the airports…
Basketball Jones, basketball trickster
Most impressive basketball trick?
Juggling five basketballs. It’s taken me 10 years to develop this trick and it lasts about 10 seconds on stage. [See it online at www.myspace.com/basketballjuggler.]
How often do you play actual basketball, or do you spend your whole time doing tricks?
I play basketball whenever I can. It’s tough to fit organised basketball into my travelling lifestyle, so I usually play pick-up games at local playgrounds or ask teams if I can join them for training sessions. I like to incorporate basketball drills into my juggling practice sessions. When it comes to playing basketball, I am strictly fundamental: no flashy stuff.
Favourite basketball player?
Michael Jordan is my favourite player and biggest inspiration. He’s the reason I used to go to school early to play ball and didn’t stop until dark.
Sam Wills, funnyman
The press release says your show involves stupidity. What kind of stupidity are we talking about?
A flying glass of orange juice, a nail hammered four inches into my head and a rubber glove.
What’s New Zealand’s national sense of humour like?
Self-deprecating, but I’m sure another comic would have something funnier to say about this question.
If you weren’t a comic, you’d be…
In your house, stealing your stuff.
Pedro Tochas, clown
How did you get into clowning?
I was trying to be a juggler but I dropped stuff a lot, so I decided to be a clown.
What is a ‘sculpture clown’?
It’s a clown that sculpts the emotions around him.
What will your Dubai tale be about?
Love. Dubai is the perfect place for a love story, I think.
If you weren’t a clown, you’d be...
A chemical engineer.