I only had two days in Stockholm to see performances at the STOFF Fringe, so I tried to cram in as much as I could! Here is a bit about each of the pieces saw.
Jesus: The Guantanamo Years from Abie Philbin Bowman (Ireland)
Abie is a little bit stand up comedy, but he makes his stand-up into a show, with themes, and characters, so it's a bit more fringy than just plain old stand up. This particular show he plays Jesus. Jesus wanted to go to the United States but he gets stopped at the border and because he is a middle eastern man who wants to die as a religious martyr, he gets sent to Guantanamo Bay. He is dressed in an orange jump suit with a wreath or thorns around his head. He is wonderfully funny and does an incredible job of telling his story while also spinning off into separate stories and jokes.
Sex, Lies & The KKK from Abie Philbin Bowman (Ireland)
A second show from Abie, this one a little less themed, he plays himself, but he still focuses a bit on US culture and the KKK. I thought this show to be equally as hilarious and filled with talent. Maybe it's because we were two of a handful of US citizens in the audience, but his VERY liberal views and jokes about the US resonated pretty perfectly with me. I think he would do very well in Cincinnati and I've invited him to apply for next year!
This show was mostly a musical performance. A guy on a guitar and a dancer with a microphone. She danced lightly while she was singing and occasionally put the microphone down to dance a bit more. They are a fun pop rock duo who were fun to watch as well. Most of the songs were titled in English but the words were in Swedish so I had no idea what they were about, but they sounded pretty. Above is a picture of her in angel wings singing.
traFika (Finland, Netherlands, Israel, Sweden)
This was the best performance I saw at STOFF. Listed in the 'Dance & Performance' section of the guide, the show incorporated dance, puppetry, and visual theatre into one wordless hour. It's a bit hard to explain, a couple is sitting around a table using little circular traffic sign cards to communicate with each other and tell a story of this couple. At one point they are using big and little spoons to demonstrate a story of a family and another time they are on the floor having murdered each other. Not a single word was spoken other than grunts or murmurs but everything was communicated beautifully. Very well done!
Mattress Circus (Denmark, Portugal)
This show occurred on the Segels Torg stage outside of the Kultureheuset. Basically the town square with hustle and bustle occurring around it. The three clowns (of three very differing heights) began their show, or were trying to begin their show by asking the gathered crowd to either sit down or move forward. They constantly harassed the passerbys and asked them to join, losing some and gaining some. For about a half an hour they said, "Ok, we're going to start the show now." At some point I thought that this must actually be their show. I'm still not sure. Eventually they did start doing some flips (pictured above) and clowning things, but by that time, we had to make another show so we departed. What I saw was fun!
Vit gestalt (Sweden)
I was sitting on a couch facing the windows on the fourth floor of the Kultureheuset checking my email and getting some work done between shows when a woman, covered head to toe in white paint (hair, hands, face, everything), wearing a big white skirt that dragged along the ground, no shirt, and she was croaking and squeaking. She passed through the Kultureheuset, looked at me as she croaked by, and wandered off. So I guess I saw this show. Fun.
R I S K (Sweden, Scotland)
I saw this show on accident. I had sat down at the outdoor rooftop stage to see a show called 'The Fakir' which I later found out was cancelled. R I S K was performing instead. I didn't really understand the show. It seemed like a university experiment/class project that took a look into the minds of teenagers and their angst. Ok. They were flinging post-its around, giving them to audience members, taking them from audience members, playing loud music, sitting, standing, and saying short phrases about love and identity over and over. Maybe I didn't get it. Maybe they didn't get it. The world will never know.
Red Light Songs of Lust, Love and Death (Austrailia)
At first I really enjoyed Eric's performance. I would compare him to Kevin Thornton with all original music, but he is in no way as good as Kevin Thornton. He tells little personal stories and then sings sons that mostly focused on sex, sex, death, sex, drugs, sex, sex, and sex. It got a little old over the hour, but I did admire his passion and bravery. His rendition of Edith Piaf's Non, je ne regrette de rien was really unique and I couldn't get the song out of my head for a long time afterwards.
Random contact improv show
Again, I was sitting in the Kultureheuset Fringe hub area minding my own business, and my chair is slammed into by two ladies in black suits and ties rolling around the floor. They practically crawled over me as they rolled around the room and over and under furniture. How nice. I don't know what show it was, but I saw it! That was perhaps the best part of having this festival so condensed and contained within this large building. Even when you didn't intend to see a performance, one was intended to see you!
Great job to all of the staff at STOFF on a fantastic third year. I see this festival continuing to grow and become something very unique in Stockholm and amongst Fringes of the world.
My new friend Adam from team STOFF hopes to come and visit us in Cincinnati for the festival next year so I hope you all get to meet him too!