As an Edinburgh resident, I’ve had the pleasure of attending the world’s largest performing arts festival for three straight Augusts.
With over 2,000 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.).
What to see at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival:
in order of start time; updated live throughout August
Roundabout, 12:00 (18-20 August only)
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.
Underbelly George Square, 13:30
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.
Assembly Rooms, 15:15
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.
I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous and embarrassed to be going to a musical about vibrators. I was quickly won over by the spirit, humour, and intelligence of the production, which, through song, questions the shame surrounding the subject.
It has the pep, wit, and female empowerment of Legally Blonde: The Musical, but with the history of the vibrator instead of law school. Hilarious and self-aware, Buzz is non-stop fun from start to finish.
Counting House, 19:00
A thoughtful yet not-too-serious voice on mental illness and wellness, Dave Chawner gives me hope with the way that his shows raise awareness for the topic. This year his free show is about vegan.
Will 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. Like a cup of tea, but a show. An enlightening and relaxing hour.
Incredible, beautiful. I have never felt a play so physically, and this is precisely the point: to describe the indescribable, to illustrate the ‘shape of the pain’.
Pleasance Grand, 20:00
Colin Cloud is a master showman who plays death, much to the audience’s horror and delight. His show leaves me speechless. Or more precisely, his show leaves me going “whaaaaat? how did he do that?”
Last year’s show revealed more explanation of his methods, which made me even more in awe of his ability to carry them out. This year is more of a mystery – an impressive, manipulative mystery, that even manages to slip in some powerful inspiration on living life on your own terms.
Assembly Roxy, 21:00
The ultimate party against the patriarchy. If your flavour of rebellion (like mine) is less ‘shouty musical protest’ and more ‘sit quietly and read and write in the corner’, then just know what you’re getting you’re self into. It is fierce in every sense of the word: empowering talent and biting aggression, and you’re encouraged to cheer nonstop. Sound like your idea of fun? Then party on!
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.
Summerhall, various times
I have yet to see this year’s show on Dolly Parton, but Sh!t Theatre’s clever, comedic, and poignant 2016 piece on London’s housing crisis has stuck with me all year. While I left their 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.
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.
This guide is filed under RAVENCLAW for featuring thoughtful shows that will expand your mind.