The show will go on: Paris Fringe theatre festival goes online

Paris Fringe returns online only this year as a consequence of the coronavirus.
Paris Fringe returns online only this year as a consequence of the coronavirus. © Paris Fringe

The Paris Fringe theatre festival returns with its fourth programme in June. But this year, as a result of the coronavirus lockdown, it will all be streamed online and for free.

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The curtain will still rise on the 20 performances of Paris Fringe next month after it devised an innovative way to overcome the lockdown in France: it has moved its performances online.

This means it now has the potential for a global audience for the festival when it starts on Saturday June 6. “People don’t have to come to a theatre in Paris this year, they can watch us from any country in the world,” says programme director Anton Bonnici.

It will take place over all four weekends in June, with performances starting each Saturday and Sunday on their website at 2.30pm Paris time and running into the evening.

Paris Fringe was established in 2016 and has enjoyed three successful previous outings. It is now run by Bonnici and a team of volunteers.

“We had already started planning this year’s festival, we were working with the same venue we’d used last time in 2018 and had launched the application process for companies, when the coronavirus crisis hit,” explains Bonnici, speaking with FRANCE 24.

Many major international theatre festivals have been forced to cancel as a result of the pandemic, including Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Avignon Theatre Festival.

“We had the choice to postpone it, cancel it or put it online, but even postponing was tricky. So we decided to try a new thing and make the whole thing virtual.”

Bonnici contacted all of the theatre companies who had already applied and asked whether they would be interested in being involved in this innovative concept. Twenty companies soon replied to say they were up for the challenge.

'See it or miss it'

The productions involved in the 2020 festival come from Australia, Brazil, Albania, Canada, India, Italy, Belgium, the UK, USA and France itself.

There will be children shows, family shows, grown-up shows... There will be world premieres, works-in-progress and award-winning shows. While most of the performances are in English, one is in French and one is a mime. Nearly all of them will be performed twice over the course of the festival and every weekend there will be a different programme.

Bonnici wanted the shows to be performed live, but for logistical reasons this will not be possible for all of them.

“Some of them are in countries where the lockdown situation is quite severe and it is not possible for people to get together to make a show. It was very important that we could be flexible.”

As a result of this flexibility, a number of companies will be performing in an actual theatre space and others have adapted their show to fit in their own living room. Bonnici says 80 percent will be completely live.

“We wanted to keep that sense of being at a live event, as if you are in the room with the performers, so we don't have any plans to put the performances up on streaming platforms," says Bonnici. "You come, you see it or you miss it.”

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