It’s began. We’ve written a lot of reviews. We’ve lost a lot of sleep. We’ve been appalled, amazed and slightly frightened. And now, we’ve sifted through the dust of our first week of Edinburgh to present some of the treasures our reviewers have found so far.
The word-of-mouth favourites
The duo behind Eurohouse are back with Palmyra, an evocation of a destroyed city that’s one of the most talked-about shows of the festival so far. Read Chris McCormack’s review here, and rejoice that Summerhall have added a few extra dates next week – it’s not too late to catch it. Also at Summerhall, a late and very welcome addition to the programme is LANDS by Antler Theatre, a sparse, desolate evocation of loneliness. Read Hannah Greenstreet’s review here. BlackCatfishMusketeer is as exuberant as LANDS is sparse, and just as compelling – it’s an endlessly witty, inventive exploration of trust and online dating. Exeunt review here. And Mouthpiece is a virtuoso exploration of how language aids and betrays its speakers, particularly young women: Hannah Greenstreet’s review is here.
The intriguing international seasons
Perhaps because it’s the fringe’s 70th anniversary year, several countries have launched ambitious seasons that are well worth sampling. South Africa’s Baxter Theatre has made a particularly strong showing. This includes Karoo Moose, a nuanced mix of magical realism and abuse narratives: Exeunt’s review is here. And The Fall is an unmissable insight into the #RhodesMustFall movement, written and performed by student activists from University of Cape Town. As another statue sparks violence in Virginia, it’s painfully relevant. Korea’s season is less immediately accessible (the contents of the bright pink programme read like cut-up poetry) but is full of form-breaking, unconventional work: read Rosemary Waugh’s review of Medea on Media here. And Big in Belgium are back with their usual chocolate box of surprising delights (with the odd tooth-shattering horror): we were pretty keen on On Ice, a moving story of heartbreak and wilfully squandering arts grants. Exeunt review here.
Sharp explorations of gender
It feels like the year that questions about gender have finally spread from Twitter, from academia and from tactless newspaper editorials, and into theatre. It’s a welcome move, particularly when shows are as sensitive as Adam and Eve, two personal, moving stories of trans experience: Hannah Greenstreet’s Exeunt review puts them in conversation. Lilith is messier, but no less intriguing: Exeunt review here. And Argentinian dance performance Un Poyo Rojo is “categorical proof that deconstructing gender norms can actually be, you know, fun” – Exeunt review here.
The shows we hoped would be good, and are
Ontroerend Goed have done it again: their new show Lies is a sharp game that explores financial markets. Exeunt review here. You’ll also be pleased to know that after many many years of documenting their Edinburgh successes, this editor can finally spell their name without looking it up. Equally predictably, Sh!t Theatre have aced their new show, DollyWould, a wonky homage to the queen of country. Exeunt review here. Oh, and this is even less of a news flash, but if you can get a ticket to Yael Farber’s Mies Julie, you really, really should.
The shows that are sticking with us
Everyone I know who’s been to Selina Thompson’s salt. talks about the lump of rock salt that’s still sitting on their shelf or bedside table, a hard, glistening reminder of a moving exploration of slavery’s legacy. Exeunt review here. Hear Me Raw is full of emotional weight for anyone who’s struggled with their weight, and the right way to eat – so pretty much everyone, I’d guess. Exeunt review here.
The joys to come
One of the lovely things about this year’s fringe is the way that plenty of companies (particularly student ones) are making an appearance in week two. I’m looking forward to Celebration, the big hit of this year’s National Student Drama Festival. Barrel Organ have just arrived with their new show Anyone’s Guess How We Got Here (my money’s on either a train or a van). Read the company chatting about the show in Exeunt here. Oh, and the free performance line-up at Cameo Cinema is following Deborah Pearson’s History History History with more great programming in a very, very comfy and dark setting: I’m particularly looking forward to The Foley Explosion and hearby swear that I’ll be awake for its duration.