The Budapest Fringe, which took place this past weekend, has a misleading name. Unlike the Edinburgh Fringe, it’s not an alternative theater blowout. Unlike the New York Fringe, there’s no faux-edgy musicals desperately seeking a big producer. The Budapest Fringe is more like a smorgasboard of local theater, dance and music from semi-professional groups. It’s just one weekend, and most acts are 20–30 minutes long. It’s free, which is sweet. Even sweeter is the venue: the incredible “House of the Future.”
It's a complex of old factories converted into theaters, complete with cozy pubs, reflecting ponds, fountains and grassy knolls, plus a technology museum/exhibition space.
We saw a lot of performances:
-A bland klezmer group with an extremely short, very butch clarinet player who who looked like a white female Reverend Run. In the middle of the last song, she grabbed the mike and busted. I caught the words “klezmer” and “kosher."
- A really serious Hungarian folk/rock band that glared at the audience like we owed them money.
-A charming gyspy fusion band.
-A political satire about Hungary and Europe (which I couldn’t understand), stylistically identical to a French satire I once saw about France and Europe (and couldn’t understand).
-The mandatory dreadlocked hippies tossing around burning devil sticks at twilight.
-A good but too-brief set by Balkan brass outfit Adje Braco.
-Last but not least, experimental theater: “thirty-four separate scenes of metaphoric images connected by the fullness of human existence.” I’d describe it for you, but if you’re the type of person wants to hear about it, you’ve probably already seen it at other fringe festivals, by other groups, under other names.
That sounds like a lot on paper, but Rick and I still had time to get French fries, beer and ice cream, and sit around in the sun.
Budapest is a small town. We ran into about 6 different people we know over the course of the day: the ex-metalhead mandolin player from my bluegrass band, a couple Moroccan musicians I have cordial but awkward French conversations with, a Guatemalan filmmaker/poet with a Hungarian girlfriend who looks exactly like Maggie Gyllenhaal, and a couple of Extreme Circus School Dickheads from Schenectady. You know, jokes about exploding avocados and child molesting clowns --ugh, I’m over it.
Afterwards we peeked into the giant Mammut Shopping Center and discovered a bowling alley…with no music. I really wanted to play a game but Rick felt it was sacreligious to bowl without listening to “Fly Into the Danger Zone.” But I have faith I'll win him over.
3 months ago