Our critics pick the top shows to see at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019
The Stage’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe review team pick the shows they are most looking forward to see when the world’s largest arts festival opens next month
The Afflicted Summerhall, 7.30pm
Beyond the seam of true crime that’s running through this year’s fringe, there are also a few shows about fascinating true stories. This dance theatre piece looks at the real-life case of a group of schoolgirls who developed an inexplicable twitching disease. There will be ‘disrupted’ sound and video design, bits of horror and dance and loads more, digging into the idea of mass hysteria and how society views women. It comes from Finn den Hertog, director of last year’s hit Square Go, and Vicki Manderson.
Bobby and Amy Pleasance Courtyard, 12.45pm
I didn’t see Emily Jenkins’ Fringe First-winning Rainbow in 2012, the last time she brought a show to the festival, but this new play sounds great: a rural coming of age drama about two 13-year-olds, set in the 1990s against the backdrop of foot-and-mouth disease. A brief tryout at London’s Vault Festival was very well received.
Islander: A New Musical Roundabout @ Summerhall, 10.00am
It’s hard staging musicals at the fringe, even harder putting on new ones, but I suspect Islander will pull it off. The family-friendly show is a collision of myth and reality about a young girl who doesn’t want to move to the mainland with her mum, set to a Scottish folk-inspired score by Finn Anderson. The music is built up using loop pedals and sounds gorgeous.
Ane City Assembly Roxy, 2.20pm
There has been plenty of cultural celebration of Dundee over the last year, so I am fascinated to go a bit deeper with Elfie Picket, one of the city’s emerging theatre companies. Ane City is Taylor Dyson’s one-woman story of a working-class girl from Dundee, who has returned home for a bit of relaxation, drinking and self-discovery but first has to survive a night out. This promises something bold with a braw Scots voice that looks into places not usually seen.
Enough Traverse Theatre, various times
Stef Smith’s ability to create truth and depth in a script was evident in her first play in 2011, the Olivier-winning Roadkill and was also seen in her recent Ibsen adaptation, Nora: A Doll’s House. In Enough at the Traverse, she follows a pair of flight attendants, whose lives are unravelling, in a work that sets out to examine modern female friendship and unearth what happens when you can no longer be the woman people want you to be.
Tales from the Garden Assembly Rooms, 11am
Ameera Conrad, co-curator, co-writer and performer in Baxter Theatre’s The Fall – one of the most exciting, political and invigorating pieces of theatre at the 2017 fringe – returns with a self-penned solo show in 2019. Provoked by a set of a rapes of young women, in what should have been places of safety, Tales from the Garden explores the joys and traumas of being a young woman raised in a world that makes female-identifying bodies targets for aggression and violence.
Daughterhood Roundabout @ Summerhall, times vary
Rising-star writer Charley Miles enjoyed success at last year’s fringe with Blackthorn, a sad, sensitive two-handed love story about the collapse of rural farming communities – one of several superb shows in the Roundabout last year. Miles is back in Paines Plough’s pop-up venue again with Daughterhood, a story about two estranged sisters. An exciting show, in the fringe’s most exciting new-writing space.
The Incident Room Pleasance Courtyard, 4.30pm
New Diorama Theatre provided one of the shows of 2017’s festival with Secret Life of Humans, an adaptation of Yuval Harari’s Sapiens. David Byrne’s inventive, intellectual company returns this year with The Incident Room, a new show about the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper and how that investigation changed British policing forever. Written and directed by Byrne with Olivia Hirst and Beth Flintoff, it’s set to be the highlight of the true-crime shows.
Who Cares Summerhall, 6.20pm
Documentary theatremakers Lung have forged a reputation as an intelligent, incisive company thanks to shows about the Chilcot Inquiry, the Bradford City fire, the housing crisis, and – in last year’s terrific Trojan Horse – the alleged radicalisation of primary school children in Birmingham. New show Who Cares is about our failing social care system. Created by Matt Woodhead from real-life testimonies, it should be more vital, verbatim theatre from Lung.
Collapsible Assembly Roxy, 1.20pm
There was some seriously strong word-of-mouth surrounding Margaret Perry’s new play at this year’s Vault Festival. Perry is an exciting emerging Irish writer and her play, a monologue about uncertainty, loss and falling apart, is part of Disruption: The Future of New Theatre, a programme co-curated by HighTide and Assembly. Performed by Breffni Holahan, of the wonderful Irish company Malaprop, it looks likely to be one of the new-writing highlights of the fringe.
Rich Kids: A History of Shopping Malls in Iran Traverse Theatre, various times
The Traverse line-up looks particularly enticing this year. This is especially true of this new show by Javaad Alipoor and Kirsty Housley, co-creators of the technically innovative The Believers Are But Brothers, a smart, sharp, multilayered exploration of online radicalisation and masculinity. Alipoor and Housley reunite for the second show in a proposed trilogy, a piece that sets out to consider climate change anxiety, power, wealth, nationalism and the behaviour of rich kids on Instagram, among other things. Alipoor also performs, opposite Peyvand Sadeghian.
Sh!t Theatre Drink Rum With Expats Summerhall, 8.05pm
Sh!t Theatre – aka Rebecca Biscuit and Louise Mothersole – follow up the exuberant DollyWould and their potent piece about the precarious nature of living as a renter Letters to Windsor House, with a new show inspired by an invitation to visit the 2018 European Capital of Culture in Malta. It promises to talk about home, life on this small island of ours and what it is to be European as we hurtle towards Brexit.
Friendsical: A Parody Musical About Friends Assembly Rooms, 1pm
Edinburgh usually throws up more than a handful of musical parodies every year, but this one caught my eye. Author Miranda Larson created this affectionate parody based on her own long-time love of the hit TV series. It features all the expected characters and has original songs such as (He’s Her) Lobster! and Richard’s Moustache. Larson’s previous work includes adaptations of Christmasaurus and The Night Pirates. While Friendsical may not have the darkness of James Fritz’s Ross and Rachel, it’s bound to appeal to fans who miss the landmark series.
Musik Assembly Rooms, 9.40pm
The Pet Shop Boys 2001 musical Closer to Heaven is currently enjoying a lauded revival at Above the Stag Theatre in Vauxhall. The show is narrated by retired rock icon Billie Trix, a role originally created by Frances Barber. Trix proved such a popular character, the writers have brought her back for Musik, a one-woman musical detailing the character’s backstory from post-war Berlin to a year in a Soho Square phone box. Barber is back in the role, which includes six original songs from the Pet Shop Boys and an outrageous script by Jonathan Harvey.
Sex Education Summerhall, 7.10pm
Harry Clayton-Wright will be recognised by many as part of the line-up from the internationally acclaimed boy-lesque cabaret Briefs. This Blackpool-born entertainer also has a huge online following, where he blends outrageous performance art with exhibitionism. This year, Clayton-Wright is taking his first solo show to Edinburgh. His queer, sex-positive outlook on life informs much of his work and this fresh piece of storytelling explores his own richly unconventional coming-out experiences. Expect a no-holds-barred interview with the artist’s mum and happy memories of vintage gay porn.
Bible John Pleasance Courtyard, 3.50pm
Poor Michelle’s Bible John explores the popularity of true crime media with young women. Four women with an enthusiasm for the genre bond together to solve the case of Bible John: a real-life unidentified, scripture-quoting 1960s Glaswegian serial killer. Writer Caitlin McEwan previously scooped the Samuel French award for best new play for Thick Skin in 2017. Billed as a “riotous, furious and joyful exploration of violence”, Bible John poses difficult questions about the ethics around presenting murder as entertainment.
Bost-Uni Blues Greenside @ Infirmary Street, 7.35pm
Liverpool’s female-led clown company Ugly Bucket has two shows at the fringe this year, both using its trademark verbatim interviews and whip-crack slick physical comedy. Fresh from Incoming Festival, Bost-Uni Blues is a starkly honest yet non-whingey look at leaving university and explores whether the university years truly are the best of your life. Currently in residence with Slung Low at the Holbeck, Ugly Bucket is one of the freshest companies to be debuting at the fringe this year.
Crocodile Fever Traverse Theatre, various times
The amazing Evil Dead-style chainsaw-wielding poster for Crocodile Fever should be enough recommendation alone. Winner of the Channel 4 Playwright’s Scheme this year, Meghan Tyler’s uncompromising and wickedly funny play – set during the Troubles in Northern Ireland – sees two sisters take on their fathers’ dark legacy. The 1980s-set play explores political and personal abusive relationships with a solid dose of dark comedy. Gareth Nicholls, who brought such energy to last year’s Ulster American, directs, making this likely to be a grotesque gut-punch of a hit.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe runs from August 2-28
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