From chicken coops to caves, Edinburgh is full of surprising storytelling corners. Lita Doolan discovers five of the best new venues this year
The Greenhouse is built from recycled material in response to the amount of waste generated at the Fringe. Its programme of nine plays, all produced by BoxedIn Theatre, explore environmental issues including How to Save a Rock, which is a carbon-neutral comedy, powered by bike and solar power. The team assembled this 30-seat immersive space meticulously out of small pieces of wood last week, and with cushioned chairs placed in the round and natural light coming through the roof, the Greenhouse feels welcoming.
Zoo has launched a fresh hub for new writing near Cowgate. It is set up for ground-breaking new work – such as the utopian narrative Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow by Anorak Theatre Company. The smallest studio, Playground 3, which seats 20, is dedicated to experimental work. James Mackenzie, artistic director of Zoo, says: “Playground is a space for emerging and mid-career artists and companies to play and discover.” Its courtyard bar has a lawn with pockets of tall plants, perfect for reflecting on the work.
Opposite Charlotte Square, a small door leads through to a large space, adding a new name to the list of venues on George Street. Inside, Spain’s Concha Vidal explores Jackson Pollock’s relationship with the canvas in Wet, alongside many other international artists performing here. The compact cellar studio helps build tension in works including the edgy talkback radio station of Arguing On-Air, produced by Australian company THSGD Productions. Fringe staple Shakespeare for Breakfast performs here at 10am, bringing a new type of breakfast treat to the elegant Georgian Kimpton Hotel, where C Viva is based, with its welcome air-con, posh loos and comfortable sofas.
The alleyways around Makars’ Court have become part of a wider performance space as the audience find themselves at the heart of an inventive outdoor show. With instructions on the venue website to meet at the lamp-post in the centre of Makars’ Court, the audience start to play out a role from one of 39 Steps author John Buchan’s novels. Standfast is a site-specific show performed here by Not Cricket Productions that encourages a deeper connection to Buchan’s literature. The audience’s mission is to stop the actions of German spies.
This renovated building in the heart of Leith has been empty for years and has now been reinvented as a venue. The work staged here this year includes Silent Canvas Theatre Collective’s physical theatre show No Words, which looks at the subject of emotional and physical abuse, and MacPherson’s Rant, a musical about Scottish outlaw James MacPherson’s tragic hanging. The site was home to the old Leith Victorian swimming pool.