The Royal Mile’s poster boards are layered dangerously thick. Performers have a wild, harried look. Quite a lot of people have gone home, and are tweeting smug things about it. We’re at the Edinburgh fringe’s frenzied mid-point, and our writers have seen a frankly terrifying number of shows. Here’s what they recommend, loosely grouped by theme.
Shows for the end of the world
A lot of new work is inspired by the world’s imminent collapse and honestly, fair enough – things were looking pretty gloomy even before the Edinburgh skies turned grey and thundrous. ThisEgg’s Unconditional is an offbeat spin on apocalyptic themes, following a mother-daughter pair of endangered rhinos: Ben Kulvichit’s review praised its “pure joy in yarn-weaving which offsets the horror of the real global crises to which it is always alluding.” No One Is Coming To Save You is full of a more intense kind of darkness. Ava Davies’ response describes its moody, doomy atmosphere thus: “It’s what would happen if Victory Condition and Nothing had sex and then both cheated on each other with Twin Peaks but then they all ended up living in a house share anyway.” Unfolding in the darkness of a shipping container, Flight is also soaked in fear of impending disaster: Ben Kulvichit’s review described it as “a perfectly programmed high-art theme park ride, a reminder of one’s closeness at all times to death that spits you out into the sunlight feeling palpably, certainly, alive.”
Shows that travel through time
“Time goes stretchy when you deal with the cosmos”, writes Ava Davies in her review of Signals, which is an enigmatic dialogue between two female astronomers that circles in on itself with a “slow, winding power”. Rosy Carrick’s Passionate Machine has a similarly complex, destabilising structure: as Crystal Bennes’ review explains, it’s a story of obsession that’s “saved utterly from the horrors of sentimental cliché by its clever and destabilising time-travelling framework, bags of wit and enormous heart.”
Shows to (softly) sing along to
It’s not quite as terrifying, but Eve Nicol’s gig-theatre piece One Life Stand was similarly exhilarating for Nicole Serratore: in her review, she writes that “The echoes of painful disconnection get sung out or strummed electric in this music-driven show.” Gig-theatre show What Girls Are Made Of is just as vivid: Hannah Greenstreet’s response writes that “Cora Bissett’s autobiographical show about her teenage brush with superstardom as lead singer of the band Darlingheart is relatable to anyone who’s ever flown too high and singed their wings.”
Shows to bring kids to
Duska Radosavljevic writes, in her review of Woogie Boogie, that “my four-and-a-half year old has grown up on a diet of British children’s theatre consisting mostly of adaptations of familiar storybooks”. Which is what makes the fringe’s cornucopia of experimental shows so full of joy for anyone with (or without) a kid in tow: Radosavljevic was especially sold on the aforementioned South Korean drawing show, with its “natural, mythical and comical creatures that morph into each other with as little as a flick of a hand”. She was also enchanted by Four Go Wild in Wellies, a dance show performed by an inclusive group of performers that’s inspired by falling autumn leaves. And similarly off-the-beaten-path of traditional kids’ theatre, the “resolutely, insatiably silly” Eaten has performer Mamoru Iriguchi “in some kind of perpetual digestion limbo, conversing with his most recent meal” as he explores all things edible.
Shows that explore unsettling truths
We probably could have seen this one coming but Breach Theatre’s It’s True, It’s True, It’s True is harrowing and beautiful in equal measure: Hannah Greenstreet’s response explores the images that unfold as the company dramatise Artemisia Gentileschi’s court case against the man who raped her. Many shows this fringe contain similarly uncomfortable truths, including Notorious Strumpet, Jess Love’s moving exploration of alcoholism, inheritance, and the danger her cabaret career put her in. Amongst this outpouring of painful, personal testimony, Hannah Greenstreet’s review of Claire Gaydon’s See-Through, a sharp multimedia exploration of vlogging culture, praises the way that the show “deftly articulates the need for self-care and boundaries for any kind of performer working autobiographically, from performance art to YouTube”.
Shows that get the fringe tears flowing
Is it really the Edinburgh fringe if you don’t get overwhelmed by a big fireball of feelings at least once, preferably while sitting in the dark on a plastic folding chair in the company of at least 20 strangers in rain macs? Hannah Greenstreet’s review of Sparks captures that moment, describing Jessica Butcher’s show about her mother, and grief, as “gentle and gently devastating”. (Even) Hotter is similarly powerful, an open, joyful exploration of having a body that Ava Davies responds to here: “you could hear people crying around you, barking with delighted recognition, dancing onstage, holding hands with their friends with tears running down their faces.” And finally, (insert slogan here) is more meditative in tone but there’s still something heartbreakingly intimate about Sam Ward’s exploration of advertising, and the intense interactions with audience members it’s built around. Eve Allin’s response to Ward explores its combination of beauty and artful cynicism, writing that “in a show so rooted in human connection it is strange to realise I don’t think you feel connected at all.”
Each show mentioned above comes recommended by Exeunt’s team of Edinburgh fringe reviewers. For more tips on what to see, read our Week One recommendations piece. Or click here for all our reviews of 2018’s festival so far.