Sharjah Fringe touches hearts, traverses generations

Concludes after bringing the nation together in a unique 17-day celebration of art and entertainment

Sharjah Fringe touches hearts, traverses generations

Sharjah: As the debut edition of Sharjah Fringe Festival (Sharjah Fringe), presented by Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) in strategic partnership with Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), came to an end (Saturday) after a glorious 17-day run, the Middle Eastern rendition of the world’s largest art and entertainment festival has imbued fresh enthusiasm in the UAE for simpler, family-focused entertainment.

More than 1,100 performance hours fulfilled the festival’s objective of igniting imaginations, bringing awe, joy and laughter to the young and the old alike. Adding a big new feather to the emirate’s cultural hat, Sharjah Fringe was a true sensory treat of 600 shows including international Fringe hits as well as those that were added to the festival’s repertoire by a host of UAE-based artists.

A festival with truly universal appeal

Al Qasba resident of Bosnian origin, Sanela, said all she had to do was cross the street to go watch the Sharjah Fringe shows with her husband and young daughter. “We were here pretty much every night. It is great to be exposed to people from around the world through a festival like this,” she said, adding the great variety of age-appropriate acts ensured her whole family was entertained. “My kid really enjoyed the lady with the hoola-hoops, while my husband and I loved the street comedy acts well as well as a couple of plays we watched.”

For Alexi’s five-year-old son, Sharjah Fringe was his first theatre-going experience. “This is an amazing festival and a great opportunity to introduce children to the world of performance arts,” said Alexi who is also a UAE resident and hails from Russia.

10-year-old Zainab Fatima was not just left craving for sweets an artist was distributing to children during a performance, she wanted “to watch more of these shows”, the young culture enthusiast confessed. “It was so nice and funny; I enjoyed it very much!”, she exclaimed confessing she was sad about Sharjah Fringe coming to an end.

Bringing a new performance concept to the UAE – an artist’s perspective

It was interesting to see audience reactions to the hatting tradition in street performances; something that is very commonly practiced in the West, but not practiced in the UAE yet. This was the best part of my experience – to bring a new entertainment concept to this country,” said Samuel Penhastro from Spain who has been entertaining around the world for 20+ years with his artistic name Thelmo Parole.

Penhastro has been shifting his focus entirely to street theatre over the past few years, as “many people don’t go to the theatre or to the circus, so the street becomes a place where I can reach my audience.”

Muez, who would regularly bring his family to the Sharjah Fringe Festival shows in Al Qasba, said his 4-year-old daughter loved Parole’s show. “The street performances were full of surprises, which made the kids ecstatic. Other pluses were that they are no longer than 30 minutes and all the artists made their acts interactive giving children ample opportunities to participate in the various tricks.”

Event has strengthened the culture of theatre-going in the UAE community

Ahmed Obaid Al Qaseer, Chief Operating Officer, Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), noted the various ways which the debut edition of Sharjah Fringe was a success, saying, “It promoted the city as a destination of choice, exposed the culture of Sharjah and the UAE to artists, performers and other guests who visited us from across countries and continents, and finally, emboldened Sharjah’s status as a great cultural city while exposing it’s potential for hosting one the world’s biggest art and entertainment festivals.”

Al Qaseer added that family shows and street shows were most popular among audiences, which “gave us a clear indication that the event has strengthened the culture of theatre-going in the UAE community.”

“I extend heartfelt gratitude to our strategic sponsor, Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority, whose efforts were instrumental to the success of the festival, and to our valued sponsors Sharjah Archaeology Authority, Golden Tulip and Air Arabia, for providing end-to-end logistical support to artists and their teams. Finally, I would like to thank the volunteers of the UAE Creatives team, who dedicated themselves fully to facilitating visitor experiences and offered them guidance whenever they needed it.”

Sharjah’s cultural and family-oriented legacy made it an ideal Fringe platform

“Sharjah’s iconic cultural stature in the Arab world and beyond, and its thrust on family-oriented values ticks all the boxes that meets the needs of a fringe festival,” said Nobesuthu Rayi, Executive Producer of Sharjah Fringe Festival, describing why the emirate was chosen as the first fringe destination in the Middle East.

What made the Sharjah Fringe different was that the programming was carefully selected to focus on productions that were friendly for both kids and families.

“It is evident that families in Sharjah spend considerable quality time together – it is beautiful to see parents and children watching and enjoying the same productions. This is what makes the Sharjah Fringe special; that children are always in the theatres with their parents. This is not a common sight in other festivals where generally separate theatres for adults and children perform age-appropriate productions,” Rayi further noted.

For its cross-cultural appeal, for being able to successfully entertain audiences of all ages, for enhancing the cultural and artistic space of the UAE, for introducing a whole new world of performance arts and their creators to this part of the world – the first edition of Sharjah Fringe was successful in creating a great first impression on the UAE, challenging, inspiring and bringing joy to all who attended.


About Sharjah Fringe Festival

Sharjah Fringe Festival is the first-ever Fringe festival in the UAE and the Middle East, joining a global list of Fringes that are considered among the largest arts and entertainment events globally. Sharjah Fringe is a platform that brings the best of family and children's theatre and entertainment - which includes dance, music, mime, magic, puppetry, circus acts and other forms of interactive entertainment - from around the world to the emirate.

Sharjah Fringe will run from 16 January – 1February, 2020, with more than 600 shows staged by over 50 artists across four destinations: Al Majaz Waterfront, Al Qasba, The Flag Island and Al Noor Island, alongside roaming street performances.

Sharjah Fringe is presented by Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) in strategic partnership with Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority.

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© Press Release 2020

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