With less than two weeks to go until the Edinburgh Festival Fringe officially kicks off, we at Edinburgh49 have put our heads together to present our pick of shows we think are well worth a watch this year, including a few that may not have been picked up by the mainstream media – yet! Our list features lots of new work, returning work, personal favourites and ones to watch out for in the future. Enjoy!
Bright Young Things
Over the years we’ve seen some wonderful performances from young companies and performers, and it’s great to see them continuing to develop and produce work. I can’t start this section without first mentioning Stiff and Kitsch’s By All Accounts Two Normal Girls, so named after a comment I made about them in my 4* review of their debut show last year. I really enjoyed that production and have an inkling their second outing will be even better. Similarly, 201 Dance company, who we championed after seeing their blistering 5* Smother two years ago, are back with new work Skin, which looks set to be another powerful piece charting one boy’s journey through gender transition.
My joint-favourite show of the Fringe in 2015 was Luke Wright’s debut verse play What I Learned From Johnny Bevan (which went on to win A LOT of awards), and this very talented young man is bringing both that and his second, Frankie Vah, to this year’s Fringe. We expect these to be very hot tickets so grab them while you can!
Back, for good!
My other joint-favourite show of 2015 was Doris, Dolly, and the Dressing Room Divas, which is also making a very welcome return to the Fringe this year after its previous sell-out success. Another 5* favourite of ours from 2015 was The BookBinder by New Zealand company Trick of the Light and it’s great to see them back again this year with their enchanting family piece The Road That Wasn’t There.
My personal favourite show from 2014 is also returning: Thrill Me is a gripping musical based on the true story of the infamous Leopold and Loeb, and has a fresh new cast for 2017’s Edinburgh run. Its previous stars have since become leading west end names, so this could be a very good chance to have a “we saw them before they were famous” moment.
As an Edinburgh-based publication, we know the local arts scene very well, and we’re looking forward to some great home-grown work. We’ve never seen a bad show by Edinburgh University Savoy Opera Group (their 5* production of Spring Awakening in 2016 was really special), and they’re back again this year with the Sondheim classic Company. Disclosure Group, headed up by Robert Lucas, have been bubbling away for a wee while and are finally about to unleash not one but three world premiere musicals this Fringe. Expect catchy tunes and challenging points of view in Porn, Suicide and X.
A special mention also to Edinburgh People’s Theatre, who are celebrating their 60th consecutive Fringe with comedy Wedding Fever, which if their recent production of The Diary of Anne Frank is anything to go by, will be produced to a very high quality.
Just good theatre
Eleanor’s Story is a fascinating staged memoir about an American girl in Hitler’s Germany, and, sticking to the WW2 theme, Chamberlain: Peace in Our Time is an exploration of the man who led us into it. The artists amongst you will no doubt appreciate The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk (directed by Emma Rice), while fans of Ol’ Blue Eyes will be sure to enjoy Sinatra and Me – Again!, featuring the award-winning Richard Shelton.
There’s plenty of Shakespeare on offer (as always) though we think the highlight of these is the glorious return of the award-winning Richard III (A One-Woman Show) from the all-female pairing of director Kolbrún Björt Sigfúsdóttir and actor Emily Carding. Another all-female success story returning to the Fringe this year is Lucy Porter’s The Fair Intellectual Club, which I very much enjoyed in 2012; while Eleanor Bishop and Karin McCracken’s debut verbatim piece, Jane Doe, covering the subject of rape on US college campuses is also one to look out for.
For the little ones
There’s been something of an explosion in popularity in recent years of shows for families, some of which we’ve covered already. However for younger children, we think the best of the bunch include: perennial Fringe favourite The Amazing Bubble Man; a charming interpretation of David Walliams’ The First Hippo on the Moon; a magical, musical adaptation of the classic picture book The Gruffalo’s Child, and the imitable Hairy Maclary.
An international flavour
The Fringe is renowned for bringing artists from around the world to share their work here, and we’re always excited to be entertained and educated by those from far-flung places. Chill Habibi is a laid-back cabaret combining Middle Eastern and Scottish Voices, China Goes Pop! is set to be a visual feast of circus and physical theatre from (you guessed it) China, while Un Pojo Royo looks set to be a dazzling showcase of Argentinian contemporary dance. Oleg Denisov will be providing some alternative Russian comedy with a unique take on Putin’s leadership, while Otto and Astrid’s Eurosmash! looks set to encompass all our favourite things about Berlin in a rather mad hour of pop tunes.
And for something a little bit different…
We love the Fringe as there’s always something mad just around the corner, or voices you can hear that you wouldn’t normally come across. Our selection for those looking for something a little bit different this year includes: Breaking Black by Njambi McGrath, which explores mixed-race identity in post-Brexit Britain; The OS Map Fan Club (what’s not to love about a play about maps?); Guardians of Imperfection, which sees two disabled Dutch comedians discuss the need to be “perfect”; and The Gardener, which explores partner loss combined with the joys of gardening. Alternatively, how about an insight into an Absurdist Belgian Fleamarket or taking part in a 250-hour tabletop role-playing game?
There’s so much to experience at the Fringe, we hope you get to enjoy as much of it as we do!
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