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Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017: drop everything and book these

Luke Wright in Frankie Vah at Norwich Playhouse. Photo: Idil Sukan

The 2017 Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme has landed. We’ll be diving in to its pages deeper at a later date, once we’re suitably armed with highlighter pens, snacks and emergency gin – but here are our top 10 picks following an initial, somewhat excitable, skim-read.

Jess Thom and Jess Mabel-Jones in Backstage in Biscuit Land. Photo: James Lyndsay
Jess Thom and Jess Mabel-Jones in Backstage in Biscuit Land. Photo: James Lyndsay

1. Not I – Pleasance Courtyard, 12.00

Jess Thom, the theatremaker, campaigner, and creator of the celebratory Backstage in Biscuit Land [1], returns to the fringe with her take on Beckett’s notorious, verbally intricate monologue, Not I. Thom has Tourettes and a friend of hers once described her as a “crazy language generating machine”. She tics the word “biscuit” hundreds of times a day. Her work explores neurodiversity but she also speaks eloquently about the barriers to art that can exist, both as an audience member and a theatremaker. It’ll be fascinating to see her take on Beckett.

2. Frankie Vah – Underbelly, 21.20

Luke Wright’s 2015 Edinburgh Fringe hit What I Learned from Johny Bevan was his most potent show to date, a poetic play about friendship, politics and disillusionment. This year he returns with a second play in the same vein, Frankie Vah [2], a poetic monologue set during the 1987 election but “burning with even brighter contemporary political relevance”.

Middle Child's Weekend Rockstars
Middle Child’s Weekend Rockstars

3. All We Ever Wanted Was Everything – Summerhall, 20.45

Hull-based company Middle Child, the company responsible for gig-theatre excellence in the form of the raucous, but also unexpectedly moving, Weekend Rockstars (pictured), brings its new show to Paines Plough’s Roundabout space. All We Ever Wanted Was Everything has a story spanning three decades. You can also catch it in Hull until June 17.

4. Dollywould – Summerhall, 21.15

Sh!t Theatre, the company behind one of the funniest and most timely of last year’s show, Letters to Windsor House, a piece about the emotional, social and psychological impact of the housing crisis. This year Rebecca Biscuit and Louise Mothersole are back at Summerhall with a show inspired by Dolly Parton – but will it contain anything as stupidly catchy as their Rob Jecock song?

Monica Dolan

5. The B*easts – Underbelly, 18.00

BAFTA-winning screen and stage actor Monica Dolan (recently seen in Christie adaptation Witness for the Prosecution and W1A) has written a new solo play, her first, The B*easts, a dark piece about the sexualisation of children in our culture.

6. Salt – Summerhall, 14.30

Selina Thompson’s show, Salt, about her experiences retracing the Transatlantic Slave Triangle and the intersection of racial and gender identity, was first glimpsed at Bristol’s Mayfest last year. The completed piece is part of Northern Stage’s progamme at Summerhall.

Playwright Gary McNair. Photo: Jassy Earl
Playwright Gary McNair. Photo: Jassy Earl

7. Locker Room Talk – Traverse Theatre, times vary

Made in response to Donald Trump’s pussy-grabbing comments during the US election campaign, Glasgow-based theatremaker Gary McNair’s Locker Room Talk is one of the most intriguing shows on this year’s Traverse roster, an exploration of what men say about women when they’re in private.

8. Start Swimming – Summerhall, 14.40

James Fritz is a huge talent. He’s one of the most exciting new writers around at the moment. His past work includes the inky, unsettling Ross and Rachel [3] and the majestically tense Four Minutes Twelve Seconds, and a new play of his, Parliament Square, has just been announced as part of the Royal Exchange’s autumn season. if his name is attached to something, consider me interested. This Young Vic Taking Part production is about “revolution and the future of our youth”.

9. Nocturnes – Zoo, 17.00

Zoo venues are always worth keeping an eye on. There’s always work of interest on the programme. One that jumps out this year is Imitating the Dog’s new show, Nocturnes, a Cold War spy thriller of sorts in which three performers voice a film being projected on to a screen above them. It’s part of the 2017 British Council Showcase, so will be on between August 21-26.

Felix Scott and Ayesha Antoine in Dirty Great Love Story at Arts Theatre, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton

10.  Todd and God – Pleasance Dome, 14.50

Following his trilogy of poetic-plays about relationships, and to an extent about growing up and growing older, the highlight of which was the Fringe First-winning, ridiculously uplifting Dirty Great Love Story, poet, playwright and performer Richard Marsh returns with new show Todd and God.

And the rest…

As ever with the fringe, there are a lot of returning shows. All of the below should deliver the goods: Kneehigh’s The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk [4], Walrus’ Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons [5], Milk Presents’ drag king cabaret Joan [6], Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s acclaimed monologue Fleabag [7], performed this time around  by Maddie Rice, Paines Plough’s ever-brilliant Every Brilliant Thing [8], and the glittery magnificence that is How to Win Against History. [9]