(Holly Williams’s article appeared in the Independent, 8/2.)
It’s nearly that time again: when crowds descend on Edinburgh for the world’s biggest arts festival, where every pub basement and street corner becomes a stage, and flyers and pints alike spill over the cobbled streets. The festivals are an absolute feast for theatre fans, a chance to watch the best international work, to catch up-and-coming young companies, and to see so many heartfelt solo shows that you finish the festival performing your own earnest inner monologue. It’s always a good idea to leave time (and budget) for a punt on a random show you overheard excited chatter about in the loo queue, but in order not to feel totally overwhelmed, it helps to book a few in too. Here’s a whole host of suggestions to get you going…
Increasingly, if something is an Edinburgh hit, it returns. It would be entirely possible (if not quite in the spirit of things) to see only work that’s already been a success. Chris Thorpe’s Fringe First award-winning exploration of nationality, Status, returns, and as we heave slowly towards Brexit will surely only feel more relevant; another Fringe First holder, Square Go, is also back in the ring at Roundabout. Last year’s much-acclaimed dressed. only has a short run, but promises to break hearts all over again, while What Girls Are Made Of, Cora Bissett’s exhilarating look at growing up while playing in bands, returns to the spotlight. Fringe favourite James Rowland brings back his trilogy of storytelling plays – Team Viking, A Hundred Different Words for Love, and Revelations. You can even see all three back-to-back if you’ve got a big enough hanky.
Three of my favourite shows from the last year are in Edinburgh: Frankenstein, a mind-blowing performance by the Battersea Arts Centre’s young beatboxing academy, is electrifying and really not to be missed. Kieran Hurley’s Mouthpiece is a clever, heartfelt look at class and culture, art and appropriation, while It’s True It’s True It’s True – Breach’s powerful, defiant piece about the rape trial of artist Artemisia Gentileschi – returns for a third year. All are well worth your money.
Other hits heading north include War of the Worlds, Rhum and Clay’s admired, twisty adaptation of HG Wells’s classic; the ever-watchable and always punchy Bryony Kimmings in I’m a Phoenix, Bitch, and a new production of My Mum’s a Twat, Anoushka Warden’s very funny play about losing her mother to a cult, which she is now performing.