As an Edinburgh resident, I’ve had the pleasure of attending the world’s largest performing arts festival for three straight Augusts.
With over 2,ooo shows to choose from, even a day trip to the festival is full-on. This year I’m limiting myself to two shows per day; pacing is important.
One of the best things about the festival is that you can sample the entire spectrum of what performing arts has to offer.
Through seeing lots of shows here, I’ve been able to identify what kind of theatre I like most: inventive and multi-genre storytelling, insightful and clever comedy, performers who radiate passion, and theatre that gives you food (as in literal, edible food. Not just food for thought.).
Here are a few of my favourites, and their 2017 shows:
The first year I saw Austentatious at the Fringe, I ended up going three times, which is huge for my carefully curated Fringe calendar. This group performs an improvised Jane Austen novel, inspired by an audience-generated title drawn out of a top hat. I’m picky about my Austen, and they live up to her wit.
The quippiest way to get you to see Chris Turner is to rave about his signature improvised raps, but I return to his shows every year for the life insights woven into nerdy comedy. Plus this year he’s doing a show about cats.
A thoughtful yet not-too-serious voice on mental illness and wellness, who gives me hope with the way that his shows raise awareness for the topic. This year his free show is about vegan.
Pickvance at the piano is magic – not only because of his incredible ability, but for the passion and attentiveness that he has for his art, and how he monologues about his life as an artist while he plays. An enlightening and relaxing hour.
They call him the real-life Sherlock Holmes, and it’s true – he is an artist in deduction. Colin Cloud is a showman and a mindreader. His shows are packed, and you can feel the awe and terror in the air of the crowd.
Their clever, comedic, and poignant piece on London’s housing crisis has stuck with me all year. While I left Sh!t Theatre’s two-woman show laughing and feeling entertained (they have great props, and there were some musical theatre bits), the facts surrounding important issues really sunk in. This year, they are presenting a show about Dolly Parton.
The premise is fascinating: a bill is going through parliament that would limit each citizen’s daily spoken word count. The latest piece of new writing to really excite me lately, Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons is about love, articulation, and human rights.
The last show I saw last year was Tago, a Korean drumming performance. It is loud, energetic, and powerful, and the performers are so joyous and present. An even better finale to the festival than fireworks.
Plus a few more on my list this year:
- Hot Brown Honey was SO hot last year that I didn’t get a chance to grab a ticket, so I’ve already booked for the preview.
- At the International Festival, I’m looking forward to Rhinoceros, Meow Meow’s Little Mermaid, and Flight.
- From my extensive research, it looks like the best theatre + food option are the Breakfast Plays at the Traverse. If you find anything else with food, get in touch!
Further places to research:
When in doubt, consult Summerhall‘s progamme. – their curated events calendar often includes the most thoughtful pieces, and narrow your shortlist from ‘super overwhelming’ to ‘almost manageable’.
Lyn Gardner, my favourite theatre critic has led me to many a good play. Consult her Fringe preview for suggestions, or look up reviews for your favourite play and see which critics are on the same page as you with their opinions.
Ed Fringe Review – the student-run publication that brought me to my first Fringe as a writer (so am I biased? Maybe. But I still think they’re great) – catch some of the smaller, ‘fringier’ events that might not get covered by bigger names in press. They send two reviewers to each show, so you can get multiple opinions at once. Great for spotting hidden gems.
P.S. I’ll be posting my favourites during the festival on Twitter. If you’re looking for something to see, get in touch! I love helping people pick out shows.