Shows from far-flung lands
“Are you going anywhere nice on holiday?” is the perfectly reasonable request that rings out regularly at this time of the year. ‘Perfectly reasonable’ unless you’re asking someone who works in theatre, because while everyone else heads abroad for Fun in the SunTMthe theatre industry head to Scotland for a month of Vitamin D deficiency from living like auditoria troglodytes. So I like to turn Edinburgh into an opportunity to watch theatre from all the countries of the world I’d like to visit, were money, time and odd career choices not a factor. For 2018, I’m going to watch dance and theatre from Taiwan, Korea, Canada, Belgium (courtesy of my old friends Big in Belgium, who have brought such joy to my life in previous years) and, most of all, Finland. A good friend of mine recently moved to Helskini, and she regularly sends me photos of the fires she builds for the regular saunas she now takes. I won’t lie, it makes me intensely jealous. So I figure the best way to cope with this envy is to vicariously experience this cleansing ritual via The Sauna at Summerhall, a story of old lady distracted from dying by the sauna elf. (Rosemary Waugh)
Shows to geek out over and/or have a giggle at
Edinburgh is always great for indulging my not-so inner geek so I’m looking forward to seeing how Lovecraftian comedy Providence (Assembly Rooms) has developed since I saw it at Vault festival. I never miss the MMPORG show (Laughing Horse), an interactive live role-play show that’s subtitled Scruffy Looking Nerd Herder, though I am yet to ever get on stage. Improv comedy is a hard-sell for me at the Fringe as there’s just SO MUCH of it, but you can’t go wrong with Baby Wants Candy (Assembly) who’ve been churning out musical hilarity for aeons. Ditto *shudders* magicians, but again if you simply must then don’t settle for less than #Dave: Literally the Best Magician (Voodoo Rooms). John Robertson, who I once described as an ‘enigmatic cult leader’ has a new stand up show that features a live blues band: Sweaty, Sexy Party Party (Just the Tonic), which I imagine will be exactly what it says on the tin. The brilliant Bethany Black, who really should have her own Netflix show by now, is also back with Unwinnable, about her recent autism and agoraphobia – that will be much funnier than it sounds.
Come evening you’ll find me drunk on overpriced Fringe booze as Laurie Black’s Bad Luck showcase (Underbelly), or at Jonny Woo’s All Star Brexit Cabaret (Assembly, George Square). And finally, you always need to take a punt on at least one ridiculous sounding show purely from its listing (hallo 2014 – being the only person watching a weird disco-DJ show in an actual cupboard). Let’s all pop down to C Venues for late night Bubble Show for Adults Only that promises ‘a soapy concoction of kinky, in-your-face theatrics’. Now if that doesn’t sound better than another acapella group made entirely of white people singing Snoop Dog, I don’t know what does. (Francesca Peschier)Shows that surprise me
The best shows are the ones you don’t expect. I want to be surprised by [insert slogan here] by YesYesNoNo theatre at Zoo Venues, where people are adverts and adverts are everything. I love the ones that shouldn’t stick with you, but still do. I think that could be Katie and Pip at Summerhall, where we see the bonds that connect a dog and a young woman. That pull the rug out from underneath you: Theatre Uncut’s Women on Power at the Traverse – fiercely political and current, this collection of new plays by female authors might just be my favourite thing this year. (Eve Allin)
New takes on the canon
Growing up in the US, my stereotype of a Fringe show was whatever local rich kids’ high school would brag about taking their production of Shakespeare there (we didn’t know at the time you didn’t have to audition to get your show in). While I do not plan to attend any Shakespeare put on my American high schoolers, I’m always interested in takes on classics. To that end, I’m excited for Cry God For Harry, England, and St. George, a devised piece by Mulberry Theatre Company, who worked with the Donmar Warehouse on their acclaimed Shakespeare Trilogy. While I’ve taken a vow against ever watching The Taming of the Shrew again, I’m actually liking the sound of EDP Soonchunhyang’s adaptation, which resets Shakespeare’s patriarchal drama into a Confucian framework and also, somehow, traditional Korean dance and hip-hop. Finally, reaching further back into the canon, I’m intrigued by Company of Wolves’ one-man Achilles, another song-and-dance inflected adaptation, but this time in a darker key.
Conversation-starting feminist shows
I’m looking forward to my week at the fringe as a bus(wo)man’s holiday. I’ve been spending the last 9 months of my PhD watching and thinking about feminist theatre – what it is, what forms it takes, the kinds of questions it asks. Gender in theatre is pretty topical at the moment – sexy, even. I’m particularly interested in shows that not only start these conversations, but also push the boundaries of established theatrical forms to challenge how we have these conversations. After seeing Tank in 2016, I’m excited to see Fringe First winning company Breach’s show It’s True, It’s True, It’s True, which uses surviving 17th century court transcripts to dramatise the 1612 trial of Agostino Tassi for the rape of female baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi. At the International Festival, I’ve booked my ticket to see Katie Mitchell and Alice Birch’s latest collaboration, La Maladie de la mort, an adaptation of Marguerite Duras’s novella that incorporates Mitchell’s trademark live cinema work to explore the male gaze. For site-specific theatre, activist theatre company Power Play are taking over Arthur Conan Doyle’s old house to stage four new plays by women with all-female casts. They’ll be combining the plays with a data-driven campaign to highlight the systemic, gendered imbalances of power in UK theatre. I’ll also be sure not to miss What Girls Are Made Of, a coming of age story about being in a band by Cora Bissett (director of Glasgow Girls and my favourite show of last year’s fringe, Adam), which will be performed with live music at the Traverse. I’ve also heard great things about Koko Brown’s spoken word show WHITE about her experiences of growing up mixed race. For even more feminist and/ or woman-led show recommendations, take a look at Bechdel Theatre’s blog post. I’m going to try and see all of them and, as they’re definitely relevant to my PhD, I’m totally working. Please tell my supervisor! (Hannah Greenstreet)
Theatre by people of colour
As always at Fringe, searching for shows created by people of colour tends to be a case of how to find a non-white needle in a pasty haystack. The whole month tends to feel like a sticky sea of whiteness – but there are a few pieces I’m looking forward to, little spikes of hope amid the Caucasity. TripHazard’s Love Songs, written and performed by Alissa Anne Jeun Yi, is a mix of spoken word, rap and (inevitable) audience interaction, a show which explores being a young, biracial woman on the dating scene. I can’t wait to see one of New Diorama’s Untapped Award winners, Nouveau Riche’s Queens of Sheba, which explores misogynoir in the UK, triggered by an incident at a London club where four women were turned away for “being too black”. Koko Brown’s White is a show I saw at VAULT this year, and is an exhilarating, emotional blend of spoken word and gig theatre tackling how it is to grow up mixed race, a topic close to my heart. And finally, this year will be the year that I belatedly catch Hot Brown Honey at Gilded Balloon, a cult audience favourite mixture of cabaret and circus, performed entirely by women of colour. (Ava Davies)
Queer romcoms (and tales of heartbreak)
My feelings are reliably a bit closer to the surface at the Edinburgh fringe: something about the daily barrage of theatre-induced emotional highs and lows, of late nights, gin hangovers, and semi-traumatic encounters with flyerers. So I look forward to shedding the odd gin tear to Love Song to Lavender Menace, which is a romcom set in a radical bookshop in ’80s Scotland. Or indeed to the rather more intense-sounding The End of Eddy, staged by the excellent Stewart Laing and Pamela Carter, which is based on the memoir of a teenager fighting to escape poverty and homophobia in a small French town. I’m probably not going to get emotional about the fact that Hannah Gadsby has cancelled her wonderful-sounding new show No Bones About It (Nanette is still on Netflix, thank heavens). Because there’s so much enticing sounding work to fill the void: including LaJohn Joseph’s A Generous Lover, her follow-up to Boy in a Dress, which follows the author as she guides her partner through mental health services, in an hour full of music and swirling, psychedelic prose.