Features Published 2 August 2016

What To See at the Edinburgh Festivals 2016

Exeunt's team of Edinburgh Festival reviewers pick the shows they're most excited about this year: whether they're returning champions, new works from old friends, or brand new adventures.
Exeunt Staff
Kill The Beast perform Don't Wake The Damp

Kill The Beast perform Don’t Wake The Damp

Cadging lifts, begging spots on sofas, scouring Gumtree, getting scalped by Virgin Trains: the annual struggle to get to Edinburgh’s festivals is upon us. But just before we all embark on a month-long theatre adventure, here’s a handy collection of some things that Exeunt’s writers are excited about seeing. A few returning favourites, a few new works from old friends, a few blind punts. We can’t wait.

Kill the Beast: Don’t Wake the Damp
This ridiculous sci-fi parody-cum-musical damp-based horror show from serial genre funsters Kill the Beast is sure to be a must-see. I was lucky enough to catch a sneak preview as part of Vaults Festival, and it was absolutely hilarious even all the way back in the winter. If my very very rough summation doesn’t pique your interest – WHY would you even GO to Edinburgh? It’s very wet there, you know. (Lauren Mooney)

How Not To Live In Suburbia

Despite having spent a lot of hours in my life writing about theatre, I tend to like to go in ‘unspoilt’ and rarely read reviews of things I haven’t seen yet. Something about Meg Vaughan’s write-up of this show must’ve caught my eye, then, because I’ve been desperate to see it ever since I read her blog in January. It’s important to talk about the housing crisis in these terms: nobody should have to choose between their financial security and their support networks. (Lauren Mooney)

Heads Up by Keiran Hurley

Heads Up by Keiran Hurley

Heads Up
New work from Kieran Hurley? Yes please. Using the combination of lyrical storytelling, poetry and live sound he exploited so successfully in rave coming-of-age story ‘Beats’, this new work is set in a city on the edge of destruction. (Alice Saville)
Bubble Schmeisis

Three years ago, I fell in love with Wot? No Fish!! at Summerhall (review here) – which displayed illustrations that performer Danny Braverman’s great uncle Abe had made for his wife on his wage packets, almost every week of his working life. it welcomed me, rainsoaked and sleep-deprived, into a bustling Jewish community with an almost unbearably sweet love story at its heart. This year, Danny Braverman will be directing another nostalgic dive into London’s history, inspired by East London’s last Jewish bath house, soundtracked by klesmer musicians. (Alice Saville)

Adler & Gibb
Another trip down memory lane: but I can’t deny that this performance utterly baffled me the first time round, at the Royal Court in 2014. Tim Crouch’s intensely weird story of an actor ramming her way into the life of a reclusive artist is muddied with layers of reality and formal creativity. But it was mesmerising, too – and I can’t wait for a second chance to work out what it all means. (Alice Saville)
Equations for a moving body by Hannah Nicklin

Equations For a Moving Body
This is a story about the power of endurance and the relationship between our mind and body as someone prepares to swim 2.4 miles, cycle 112 miles and run a marathon. As I’m training for a –comparatively tiny- half marathon next month, I’m hoping it provides a pep talk in order to carry me over the finishing line. (Kate Wyver)

Break Yourself, Ira Brand
My family have always been obsessed with Springsteen, but Ira Brand’s new show is taking obsession to a new level as she performs in male drag this show about a graphic designer wanting to be the Boss. After falling in love with Brand’s (and Andy Field’s) Put Your Sweet Hand in Mine several years ago at Battersea Arts Centre, I’ve wanted to see more of her work. (Kate Wyver)

Every Brilliant Thing
The warmth this show exudes has stayed with me all year but I’m desperate to see it again and have been telling anyone who will listen to go and watch Johnny skim around the stage making strangers smile with this beautiful story of love, loss and record sleeves. (Kate Wyver)

Once by Derevo

Once by Derevo

Derevo: Once
I saw this show in 1998 during my first proper Edinburgh. Didn’t know what to expect at the time but was thoroughly enchanted by its quirkiness, sentimentality and underlying rock’n’roll vibe. I remember a chase between characters taking place across the audience heads and everyone being sprayed with champaigne at the end. Over the years the Butoh-clowns from Russia and Germany Derevo have brought very different kinds of shows to Edinburgh and spawned a loyal following. I can’t wait to see how this show comes across now. (Duška Radosavljević)

Ontroerend Goed: World Without Us
The Belgian company Ontroerend Goed are probably best known to Edinburgh audiences for their exciting teenage shows and endlessly clever experimentation with theatrical form. Their work often comes in trilogies and though I have missed the other parts of this particular one, I am really looking forward to this collaboration between OG and another fascinating Flemish theatre-maker Valentijn Dhaenens. (Duška Radosavljević)

Greg Wohead's Celebration, Florida

Greg Wohead’s Celebration, Florida

 Celebration, Florida by Greg Wohead at Forest Fringe
This show was previously shown as a work-in-development at The Yard as part of NOW ’15. It’s the production I’m personally most excited about going to. So excited that I’m reading a book, The Celebration Chronicles: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Property Value in Disney’s New Town by Andrew Ross, in preparation (that’s also a pre-warning of the epically long review that might result from giving myself the equivalent of pre-term reading before seeing a piece of theatre).

Unbridled enthusiasm for something you really know nothing about is also an appropriate emotion for this show. Celebration, Florida looks at ideas of nostalgia for non-existent places and other strange yearnings for the unreachable and unknowable. Known unknowns and all that. It was also interlinks with Greg Wohead’s other work, Comeback Special, in exploring the concepts of stand-ins and surrogacy. (Rosemary Waugh)

Infinity Pool: A Modern Retelling of Madame Bovary by Bea Roberts – Bedlam Theatre

I’m going to be unashamedly biased and give a shout out to West Country women north of the border this August. The Devonian playwright’s And Then Come the Nightjars was one of my theatre highlights of 2015, combining foot and mouth with dodgy discos, and in doing so very accurately recreating life in rural Britain. Infinity Pools are where people often dream of going to recover from the Edinburgh Festival, but Bea Robert’s play is actually a re-take on Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (the original sex and shopping novel, as I-forget-who once said). It’s not actually new (sorry) but it does include party rings, therefore justifying its inclusion on this 2016 list. (Rosemary Waugh)


Diary of a Madman

Diary of a Madman
Last year Christopher Haydon put a local gospel choir onstage with William Gaminara and Lucy Ellinson for Luke Hnath’s The Christians. This year – Haydon’s final Edinburgh premiere for the Gate before he leaves the theatre early next year – has also got a local flavour, as Edinburgh University graduate Al Smith sets his reimagining of Diary of a Madman in Scotland, and makes it a family affair – about the spectre of mental illness passing from generation to generation. (Dave Ralf)
Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons
There’s no paucity of reviews and love for this show, a hit of last year. What it lacks in sci-fi logic is more than made up by the compelling domestic and political questions through the simple limiting of speech to that pointed 140 words a day. Is the personal being seen through the political, or the other way around, or both? A big play hiding inside a tiny one, it’s a must-see if you’ve missed out. I’ll be going again, for Beth Holmes and Euan Kitson’s Prince of Bel-Air rap if nothing else. (Dave Ralf)
RashDash: Two Man Show

We Want You To Watch was one of those shows that completely flummoxed most critics. There was something fascinating in there, but it wasn’t the play we thought we’d come to see – a playful dissection of pornography as a complex problem. Rather it was an emotional burst of energy and frustration. RashDash return to another huge question with Two Man Show, looking at masculinity through a feminist lens. Will it be this year’s Fake It ‘Til You Make It, or another compelling curveball? (Dave Ralf)


Jessica McKerlie performs Gender Spanner

Jessica McKerlie: Gender Spanner
I saw Jessica at a scratch night recently. She came onstage, she plucked a ukulele. She sang a couple of really funny songs about gender. It was great.

But then she came back in a leotard. She plucked out her bleeding ovaries, which turned into a hand puppet, and then performed a lip-synced, frenzied dance to Taylor Swift’s ‘Bad Blood’ whilst simultaneously writhing in blood.  And it was really, really great. So if gender-defying, subversive, experimental, hilarious burlesque/cabaret is your thing (and to be honest, I never really knew it was mine) GO AND SEE THIS SHOW. I can’t wait to see it in full. (Chris White)

I’m really excited to see ‘Goggles’ by ThisEgg – this will be their fourth Edinburgh show after collaborating with Gardyloo last year on The Dream Sequentialists, and previously taking up two really poignant and funny shows, Everything’s Elsewhere and Please Don’t Cry (At My Funeral.) The latter won Entertainment Wise’s ‘Best Hidden Gem,’ and was shortlisted for the NSDF Emerging Artists Award. They’re an explosive all-female theatre company, and I reckon this year we’ll see them emerge from hidden-gem status into a shiny, glistening diamond. Their new show’s about dead fish and friendship, and I’ve heard it’s a belter. (Chris White)

The EU will be a big topic at this year’s Fringe; there’s no getting away from it. Thankfully, one of my favourite companies – FellSwoop – is tackling the issues head-on with their new show, Eurohouse. Co-produced by FellSwoop, Greek theatre-maker Nasi Voustas has teamed up this year with FellSwoop’s French director, Bertrand Lesca, to create this piece which sets out to explore and discuss the merits and actualities of The EU – and the real impact of the Brexit vote, from the perspective of two Europeans. Bertrand is the guy who created FellSwoop’s amazing Ablutions, and last year brought Toshiki Okada’s sinister and surreal ‘Current Location’ to the Fringe. (Chris White)

Christeene, created by Paul Soileau.

Christeene, created by Paul Soileau.

Christeene: Trigger
I’m looking forward to the return of the den mother of destruction, Christeene.  Having seen Paul Soileau perform two of his stage personas as well as unmasked as himself during the LADA’s Just Like a Woman last year, my love for his work has only grown stronger.  He speaks to the outsider in all of us.  His loud, raucous, and wild performance style should not make me emotional but the tender heart behind all this work does.  I may be drifting into fangirl territory for Paul & Christeene but I don’t feel bad about that one bit. (Nicole Serratore)
Letters to Windsor House
Fell hard for Sh!t Theatre last year with their show Women’s Hour.  Their blend of politics, activism, humor, and zaniness was the levity I needed last year at the Fringe and their honest, feminist perspective was refreshing.  This year’s show is about landlords, politics, and songs.  I’m open to whatever they have on offer. I’m still a little sad I didn’t get hit in the head with a crumpet at last year’s show. (Nicole Serratore)
Daniel Kitson has a new show.  Thoughtful heartbreak and a mouse or something.  You never know exactly what you are going to get with Kitson but it is almost always a laugh/cry triumph.  Do I need to say more? Fine.  Daniel Kitson’s Number One American fan (TM) will be in attendance at Mouse and you should be too. (Nicole Serratore)


Exeunt Staff is a contributor to Exeunt Magazine



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