This year marks 70 years of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. If you’re still deciding what to see, here are twelve last minute recommendations.
Goodness! Has it really been a year since my first Edinburgh Fringe Festival?! Well, I’m back for another round for a very special anniversary: the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is 70 years young! Furthermore, as I am moving to Poland at the end of August this may well be a big ol’ “last hurrah” for Grumpy Gay Critic and #FreshOffTheStalls: although more about that in another post. I’m honoured to be accepted back onto the Network of Independent Critic’s scheme yet again (who’d have thunk!) and will once more be mainly covering LGBTQI shows on at the world’s biggest performing arts event.
Because of a lot of very serious issues with my job and mental health this year (which is why I’ve been very quiet over the last few months), I have had to leave my planning for this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival to the last minute. So after frantically wading through this year’s programme, which is now officially thicker than the Yellow Pages, here’s my recommendations and “looking forward to’s” of both LGBTQI shows and less queer fayre. And yes, I’ve absolutely missed out loads in this distilling of the programme to just 12 shows, but there’s only so many paper cuts a person can handle! ;-;
Aug 21-25, 27, Underbelly Cowgate (Venue 61)
Aug 24, Underbelly Med Quad (Venue 302)
If you haven’t have noticed by now, I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS SHOW. After raving about MILK Presents stupendous and awe-inspiring show pre-fringe last year, it went on to win the Fringe First Award, and then enjoyed a blistering national tour this year. If you haven’t sampled the sheer adulation I’ve saturated this show with, read my 2016 ★★★★★ pre-fringe review or watch 2017’s #FreshOffTheStalls review.
JOAN retells the story of Joan of Arc with a queer cabaret tilt, with a star turn from award-winning drag king LoUis CYfer in the titular role. Expect rambunctious musical numbers collided with deep and poetic character writing from Lucy J Skilbeck. A genuine thing of glory.
How to Win Against History
Aug 3-13, 15-27, Assembly George Square Gardens (Venue 3)
Another fantastic show I had the privilege to review prior to last year’s festival, giving it a solid ★★★★★, before it simply blew Edinburgh audiences away. Edinburgh audiences have yet another chance to catch it before it’s winter run at the Young Vic later this year.
How To Win Against History tells the true life of Henry Cyril Paget, the fifth Marquis of Angelsey, who, despite being one of the richest men in the world, squandered his fortune by putting on lavish theatre productions where he would often be in drag. Ashamed of his sexuality and flamboyance, after his death Paget’s family went to great lengths to attempt to erase his very existence from history. However, under Seriol Davies’ off-kilter and winsome watch, Paget is beautified in this cheeky, witty, and outlandish operetta, resurrecting the memory of Britain’s most fabulous aristocrat.
Rosie Wilby: The Conscious Uncoupling
Aug 3-13, 15-27, Laughing Horse @ The Counting House (Venue 170)
Rosie Wilby is one of my all time favourite comedians, and I’m not just saying that because I’ve been on her radio show twice! From asking Is Monogamy Dead a few years ago, her recent show examines very modern break-ups, using emails and letters between her and her ex during their seemingly amicable split. The Conscious Uncoupling is full of wonderful wit and heartwarming/heartbreaking introspection that pricks as good a giggle as it does some very profound thoughts on relationships. Indeed, despite being locked in a basement on the Southbank with Wilby, I still gave The Conscious Uncoupling ★★★★☆.
Looking Forward To…
Aaron Twitchen: Curtain Twitchen
Aug 3-14, 16-28, C Venues – C South (Venue 52)
Aaron Twitchen is a fellow So So Gay alumni/collaborator. However, he has since moved on from posing in pants made from bamboo (honestly, that actually happened) to becoming an absolute dahling of the LGBTQI comedy circuit. However, how do you take stand-up to the next level? Well, by physically taking it up a level by combining it with aerial acrobatics, of course! Making this literally high-flying genre mash-up work, especially as getting the balance between the pacing of circus and that of stand-up comedy, may be tricky. However, Curtain Twitchen has already gotten some very good previews, because if Twitchen can pull off eco-friendly undies, he can certainly pull off literal comedy acrobatics making this one of the boldest, daring, and original comedy shows at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Jess and Joe Forever
Aug 3-6, 8-13, 15-20, 22-27, Traverse Theatre (Venue 15)
It’s a bit of a cheat saying I’m “looking forward to” this, because in truth, I’ve already seen it! One of the joys of having a partner who is also a theatre critic is that you get to tag along as a +1 and don’t feel obliged to write about it afterwards. Although, I should absolutely be slapped on the wrist for not following up this marvellous show with a review. But because of this, I can tell you right now that this really is a show worth seeing. It’s difficult to give a comprehensive synopsis without giving too much away, but Jess and Joe Forever is an amazing two-hander about friendship and growing-up, among many other themes. This is another production that has gone to show that the Orange Tree is a London fringe powerhouse despite being on the literal fringe of the London fringe scene all the way out in Richmond. Even if you’re not particularly interested in its LGBTQI element, Jess and Joe Forever is a gorgeously cockle-warming and unforgettable play.
Aug 7-13, theSpace @ Surgeon’s Hall (Venue 53)
Another one of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival’s boldest outings just happens to be another LGBTQI show. Based on the real story of Armin Meiwes, Sweetmeat is set to take a bite (sorry, not sorry) out of modern gay romance by adding a peppering (sorry, not sorry again) of consensual cannibalism! Whether the fact that the play is being performed at the Surgeon’s Hall was a deliberate decision or not, it’s probably one of the most shocking premises for an Edinburgh Fringe Festival show this year. How this is going to play out is anybody’s guess, but it’s one of this year’s productions that I’m genuinely most excited about, and can’t wait to sink my teeth into it (OK, I’m done).
If you grew up watching the children’s role-playing TV game show, Knightmare, you absolutely must see this. If you didn’t and ever wondered what all the fuss is about, you absolutely must see this. This show is not just a riot-a-minute homage to a cult piece of TV history, but also a brilliant piece of interactive comedy/improv that is just as fantastic if you’ve no idea what the original show was about. The German guy who sat next to me last year, who’d never even heard of Knightmare before let alone seen it, couldn’t have enjoyed himself more if he’d put a towel on his seat two hours prior. It’s only making three appearances this year, so this will be a real hot ticket, especially with rave reviews like my ★★★★★ #FreshOffTheStalls video where I loved this show so much I went home and put a bin on my head! If you can’t make it, definitely go and catch the all new version of ★★★★☆ The M.M.O.R.P.G Show from Knightmare Live’s creator Paul Flannery.
Aug 2-8, 10-15, 17-22, 24-27, Venue150 at EICC (Venue 150)
It’s becoming difficult to imagine an Edinburgh Fringe Festival where Trainspotting Live is not showing, but there’s good reason that it’s back for yet another year. This immersive and highly visceral production of Irving Welsh’s infamous and iconic novel got ★★★★☆ from me when it crash-landed at the King’s Head Theatre back in 2015, whilst also managing to shock the author themselves in how grimy (watch out, Corbyn) and highly charged In Yer Face Theatre’s adaptation is. Expect plenty of fake poo being flung about, have actual Buckfast spat over you, and worse, in this no holes barred civility-smashing show. However, for all it’s gory glory, Trainspotting Live is also an intense exploration of Welsh’s novel that, I dare say, does better at getting into the real dirt of the narrative than Danny Boyle’s legendary film adaptation ever did.
Your Ever Loving
Aug 3-20, Underbelly Cowgate (Venue 61)
It’s impossible to avoid politics in fringe theatre, and Theatre N16’s astounding production of Your Ever Loving has pride and place at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The Northern Irish “Troubles” don’t seem to be going away anytime soon, especially with the Conservative Party making a frankly unholy pact with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Yet, Your Ever Loving isn’t a play about the future of English/Northern Irish politics, but about a very dark past.
In 1974 Paul Hill was sent to jail for the IRA bombings of a pub in Woolwich, along with three other men: better known as “The Guildford Four”. Yet, there was literally no evidence to convict them except for confessions extract from torture. Your Ever Loving has been put together by playwright Martin McNamara from actual letters sent from Hill to his family during his fifteen years of false imprisonment. Infuriating, shocking, and at points unbelievably harrowing, Your Ever Loving is a domineering harbinger of politics past and present. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “political” person, Your Ever Loving MUST be seen for the sheer force of theatre and humanity it embodies. How I only gave it ★★★★☆ and not five when it premiered at Theatre N16 last year, I’ll never know.
Looking Forward To…
Anna Mann in How We Stop The Fascists
Aug 2-13, 15-27, Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)
Colin Hoult’s chimeric creation, Anna Mann, is back with a brand new self-help show. After tackling mental health last year in ★★★★★ Anna Mann: A Sketch Show for Depressives, it’s time to punch some Nazis instead as Anna Mann tackles the most pertinent and important issue to date: the re-rise of fascism. Hoult’s creation of ego-maniacal faded TV actress Anna Mann first appeared on Radio 4’s Carnival of Monsters and stormed last year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This year, Anna Mann is likely to be one of the funniest things you’ll see at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival once again. Can she trump Trump? Can she foil Farage? Will there be time for tea with Mussolini? (No. Because he’s dead, and a fascist.)
Queen of The F*cking World
Aug 6-15, 17-26, The Street (Venue 239)
Marysia Trembecka, the figure behind the ingenious The Singing Psychic, brings a whole new show to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Drawing from Chekhov, Shakespeare, and RuPaul, Trembecka explores femininity, feminism, and sexual politics, as an exotic dancer becomes Queen of the F*cking World. If Trembecka’s ability to “hear the music in your heart” is anything to go by, this should be a f*cking hoot!
Trembecka is also performing as her clairvoyant alter-ego in The Singing Psychic Game Show at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, should you fancy some 1970s party games and songful supernature.
Aug 2-13, 15-20, 22-28, Underbelly Med Quad (Venue 302)
The Unmarried is another brilliant piece of theatre that was shown in development at the inaugural HerStory festival, which I missed then, and has since gone on to enjoy a huge success at Camden People’s Theatre this year, which I also missed! It’s been impossible to ignore the sheer rave reviews about this show about being a modern, unapologetic, and deviant girl. The Unmarried promises sharp observational prose and a literal 1990s rave (which might account for the aforementioned “rave reviews”).