The Amsterdam Fringe Festival is bursting with energy, vulnerable performances and undisguised hedonism

Dance Theater Road: Unintentionally I Hide 3.0.Picture Annelies Verhelst

Fringe theater festival is hosted in 250 cities worldwide and continues to grow in popularity. The most famous and largest edition, the Edinburgh Fringe in Scotland, revolves mainly around the great comedians of Great Britain. Amsterdam Fringe focuses more on contemporary dance companies, musical solo performances or just classical theater (can be seen in thirty locations). The festival has been surprising us for years with new talent, rebellious spirits and bold performances, and this year is no different.

On the opening day, Danstheater Road overflows with Accidentally hiding 3.0. Six formidable dancers examine how shame is expressed among young people. Four women and two men first play short and sharp scenes in which poverty, social exclusion and the feeling of failure are disguised. To music by Dylan Kuyper, which ranges from pumping hip-hop to fluid trip-hop, at a certain point one of the dancers gets caught up in his emotions. It’s wonderful how she tries to carry on with robotic movements while the others walk past her in slow motion from all sides of the stage. The image of loneliness grabs you by the throat.

Romy Stark (who also dances) and director Adanma Okoro have developed an earlier, short performance into this deeply moving performance, making their dancers rise powerfully at the end, leaving the audience in good spirits. It is a pity that there were so few people in the nice CC Amstel theater hall to witness this.

On the second day, it was again proven that hip-hop and theater are an excellent combination. In the cozy Bijlmer Parktheater we are greeted before the start Crow instructed to stand around the actors. When we enter the hall, we are surprised by a pianist and three boys miming that they are throwing a ball; not exactly what you expect from a hip hop theater performance. As the musician hands over the microphones behind his DJ booth, the three men in the foreground play their raps, now and then interrupted by playing (‘Damn, that damn smile looks too good on your face bro’). These four young men’s quest for contentment and success gnaws constantly.

The young director Joris Buizer knows how to hold our attention from start to finish, for example by directing simple but striking spots on an actor breaking into an energetic dance or rap. Meanwhile, the audience cannot stand still during his musical performance full of youthful élan, which could have lasted a little longer.

Night swimming is an experience that will stick in your head for a long time.  Picture Annelies Verhelst

Night swimming is an experience that will stick in your head for a long time.Picture Annelies Verhelst

A show that takes all the time to explore the depths of nightlife is the experimental and witty night swimming in the Flemish cultural center de Brakke Grond (near the Red Light District). Actors and theater makers Jarne van Loon and Lieselot Siddiki have created an absurdist ode to the night, where everything is possible and permitted. After a bizarre opening with a chorus of eight actors dressed in white robes, a techno DJ crawls out of a giant cake on stage. The actors start as a couple henchmen imitate sex positions and end up in a kind of ‘sex train’.

After this, the party really starts; in an hour and a half, various nocturnal animals pass by to hardcore music, French chansons and even Amsterdam tearjerkers. Everyone knows the drag queen by now, but a terrifying drag ‘clown’ or two naked people crawling across the floor on a dog leash can be a bit shocking to people who don’t know the ins and outs of queer nightlife. Time flies in this burst of hedonism, with so much happening on stage at the end (is there a priest running around? And a pizza delivery guy?) that we seem to be on some kind of LSD trip. night swimming is an experience that will stick in your head for a long time and will give you reason to visit the Amsterdam Fringe again.

Amsterdam Fringe Festival, until 11/9 various locations.

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