With more shows that you will ever be able to see maximising your time at the Edinburgh Fringe is crucial. Whether you are descending on the festival city for the entire three weeks or just a couple of days we have taken the hard work away and selected the shows we think you shouldn’t miss. From comedy to circus, musicals to mime the Fringe has it all and here at culturised we have taken the hard work out and selected our must sees of the Festival.
This is set to be a show bursting with energy and science gags from one of comedy’s biggest talents. Samantha is infectiously funny and definitely one to watch.
Award-winning comedian Samantha Baines (The Crown, Sunny D, BBC Radio 4) returns to Edinburgh after a smash-hit, sell-out run in 2016. This year she’s exploring the lost women of science. Expect facts, puns and an ear trumpet attached to a whiskey bottle. It’s science meets funny.
Pleasance Courtyard, 2-14 16-28, 15:30
An intelligent blend of political comment and absolute hilarity. In today’s current political chaos this is just the remedy you were looking for. You can also read culturised‘s recent interview with Shah here.
In an age of global socio-political turmoil, Shah presents a show about freedom, fascism, complacency, complicity, resistance, and milk. Ahir’s last show enjoyed packed runs at the Edinburgh Fringe, the Soho Theatre, and a national tour. In it, he theorised that we were being tugged in contradictory directions by a potential brighter future and resurgent worst of the past. These days, the past appears to be winning. He’s got loads of jokes about it.
Laughing Horse at Cabaret Voltaire, 3-27, 14:00, 17:45
Ever wanted to dictate the adventures that Doctor Who gets into? Well now’s your chance as every day this charming improv troupe will be creating completely unique Doctor Who episodes live on stage based entirely on your audience suggestions.
Most fantastic improvised parody in all of space and time is back! Brand new episodes of Doctor Who created with your suggestions and a live radiophonic workshop. Featuring a troupe of highly experienced improv actors, we will whisk you away to the time of dinosaurs, a post-apocalyptic wasteland or even Slough! Now with a brand new live score and sound effects provided by our radiophonic workshop you can visit the end of the universe and be home in time for fish fingers and custard. Allons-y!
Sweet Grassmarket, 4-27, 16:00
Australia’s finest purveyors of high octane sketch comedy are back. When leaving an Aunty Donna show one is never completely sure what has just happened, but your sides hurt from laughing at whatever it was.
Professional entertainment consisting of jokes and sketches, intended to make an audience laugh. Over 12 subscribers and 21 million hits on YouTube. As this is an online blurb we’re allowed some extra words. These are a few we had lying around: rug, mat, poo, cantankerous, poop, robust, dastardly, rickshaw, come, to, the, show, it, will, be, good.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, 2 – 14, 22:30
First performed at the Fringe in 2014, The Canon returns to Edinburgh this year. Definitely a show to catch for any literature enthusiasts out there: a well-written and intelligent addition to the sketch comedy on offer at the Fringe.
‘The Canon, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. The – Ca – non: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. The. Ca. Non.’ The Canon returns in its second edition. An irrepressible sketch show featuring an all-star cast of literary favourites, from Shakespeare to E L James. We’re like SparkNotes, only funny.
Underbelly, Cowgate, 3 – 27, 14:40
Every year James Acaster returns to the Fringe he returns more famous than he was before. However despite his recent fame on shows like Mock the Week, he still knows how to do a fantastic Edinburgh show and this year her is recapping the past three shows into one. Definitely worth catching.
Undercover cops. Jury duty. Witness protection. Comedy. All this and more as James Acaster, Edinburgh Comedy Award Best Show Nominee (Recognise, 2014, Represent, 2015, Reset, 2016) brings a trilogy of shows back to the Fringe, beginning with Recognise. He doesn’t know who he is, he doesn’t know what he believes and he doesn’t know what he’s going to do with his life. He’ll probably do material from his first three shows as well. It’s going to be a huge recap.
Pleasance Courtyard, 2 – 27, 21:00
This duo are infectiously funny and instantly loveable. Their vocal abilities and different personas will have you in stitches. Catch them quick though as they are only doing a short run at the beginning of the festival.
Class of 2007, assemble! Now a Channel 4 Blaps series, Max & Ivan (BBC Two’s W1A, Radio 4’s The Casebook of Max & Ivan) reprise their critically lauded, Edinburgh Comedy Award-nominated show for 11 nights only. A bewitching narrative sketch comedy tale of love, loss and shatterproof rulers. Directed by Tom Parry.
Pleasance Dome 2-8 10-13, 20:20
If you are looking for a show that will have you cackling with laughter then you should be heading for one of Edinburgh’s favourites. Pippa combines her Showstopper! musicality with razor wit that you won’t be forgetting in a hurry. Last year her shows had queues running down the street so be sure to book ahead.
What is going on? America is being run by a stroppy, orange teenager, new wars are starting every day and now the courgettes are running out. All’s not lost though. Olivier (Showstopper! The Improvised Musical) and Chortle Award winner Pippa returns with a new show less about how love will tear us apart and more about how the little things might keep us together. Have your joy levels optimised by the known pleasures of ‘a comic genius’ (Telegraph) and Radio 4 regular. As seen on Drunk History (Comedy Central) and Alan Davies: As Yet Untitled (Dave).
Pleasance Courtyard, 2 – 27, 14:40
Seeing the bard done blotto has become a proper Fringe institution thanks to the tireless efforts of this group of actors (and their livers). Fresh off a production of Much Ado About Nothing at London’s Leicester Square theatre (about which you can read culturised’s thoughts here), Shit-Faced Shakespeare are ready to perform one of the most famous tragedies ever written, as long as they can remain standing up.
The smash-hit, internationally acclaimed, award-winning, multi sell-out Fringe legends are back with an all new show for 2017: Romeo and Juliet. Shit-faced Shakespeare is the hilarious combination of an entirely serious adaptation of a Shakespearian classic with a single, entirely shit-faced cast member. What could possibly go right?
Underbelly George Square, 2 – 28, 22:15
Sid Singh is not a name with which most people will be familiar, but if you’re into stand-up comedy then this is not to be missed. If Singh can’t make you laugh, then nothing will.
You probably don’t know who Sid Singh is, but he’s really funny. Sid manages to showcase hilarious, well-crafted jokes that also happen to be great points. Don’t call him brave though, because although he has no problem speaking truth to power, power tends not to come to Edinburgh Fringe shows. He’ll settle for telling truth to whomever shows up, but don’t worry, he’ll make everyone laugh first. ‘Hilarious, really funny stuff’ (Wyatt Cenac, The Daily Show With Jon Stewart). ‘Love the sound of his voice, very charming’ (BBC Asia).
Laughing Horse @Dropkick Murphys, 3-27, 14:45
One of the Fringe’s strangest evenings. Seaward’s brand of high-energy eccentricity and silliness is unique, and the laughter it evokes is infectious.
The ghosts are back! Will Seaward’s legendary late-night torch-wielding vampire-flavoured witch-shaped comedy storytelling spookstavaganza returns for a fourth consecutive year! Ghosts! Cobwebs! Ruined castles! Zombie dinosaurs! Skeletons! Ghouls! Wailing! Warning: May cause audience members to melt with fear.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, 2-8, 10-13, 15-20, 22-28, 00:00
One of this year’s shows brought up by the National Theatre of Scotland this piece of brand new writing is very topical and demonstrates the power of shared humanity.
If you are born in a country where being yourself can get you killed, exile is your only choice. Adam is the remarkable, true story of a young trans man having to make that choice and begin his journey. From Egypt to Scotland, it charts Adam’s fight across borders and genders to find a place to call home. In a world first, Adam features a 120-strong international world choir of trans individuals from across the globe which has been uniquely integrated into this remarkable multimedia production.
Traverse Theatre, 5-6 8-13 15-20 22-27, times vary
This is not a play for the fainthearted but is a great opportunity to see one of Simon Stephens’ (Punk Rock) greatest plays and this company from Southampton look incredibly promising.
yt2 return with Birdland by the Olivier and Tony award-winning Simon Stephens. The last week of a massive international tour and rock star Paul is at the height of his fame. Everybody knows his name. Whatever he wants he can have. He can screw anybody he wants to. He can buy anything he desires. He can eat anything. Drink anything. Smoke anything. Go anywhere. As the inevitability of the end of the road looms closer and a return home becomes a reality, for Paul the music is starting to jar. Warning: strong language and sexual references.
theSpace @Surgeons Hall, 17-19, 10:50
A brand new historical play with serious potential and comes from a company dedicated to addressing the gender imbalance in theatre.
‘Something is happening to us, isn’t it? Something is coming for us. And I’m afraid that it doesn’t speak German…’ Underground and under fire, Hitler’s secretaries wait for the end of their world. As monumental events of history unfold around them, two young women huddle together, seeking to understand their place in it all. Downfall meets Waiting for Godot in Michael Punter’s (Paines Plough, Hampstead, National Theatre) darkly comic epic yet intimate story of friendship, betrayal and innocence.
theSpace@Surgeons Hall, 22-26, 15:05
Speak Up Theatre are challenging your thoughts on mental health in this exciting and sensitive piece of devised physical theatre.
‘I have them too. Faulty cognitions.’ This newly devised piece examines the effect of bipolar disorder on family life, as Joanna and her daughter Niamh face every challenge together. A play about co-dependency, relationships and learning to be OK on your own. A sell out show selected by NSDF.
Greenside Infirmary Street, 4 – 19, 18:40
Taking up residency at Summerhall this is set to be a fascinating piece to watch. If you are looking for something a little different, this is definitely for you.
This is a show about girls and guns. It’s a show that asks a woman and an unprepared male performer to take to the stage and play out a film script in front of you. It wonders what the difference might be in watching something on screen and experiencing something live. It is a show that asks what it means to be a hero, what it means to be a plot device, and what it means to watch. Expect gun twirlin’, play-actin’, Nancy Sinatra-dancin’. And me. And you.
Summerhall, 2 – 27, 18:00
This could be your chance to see this critically acclaimed show after first being seen at the Fringe two years ago. It is tightly crafted and excellently executed. A truly unique show.
Walrus’ award-winning show returns to Paines Plough’s Roundabout for two weeks only. The average person will speak 123,205,750 words in a lifetime. But what if there were a limit? Oliver and Bernadette are about to find out. This two-person show imagines a world where we’re forced to say less. It’s about what we say and how we say it, about the things we can only hear in the silence, about dead cats, activism, eye contact and lemons, lemons, lemons, lemons, lemons.
Round-a-bout at Summerhall, 4-20, 12:00
Beckett plays are a staple of the Edinburgh Fringe experience but this production by Jess Thom is set offer something very different. Only on for a limited run towards the end of the festival so be sure to leave time to catch it.
Jess Thom has Tourettes, a condition that means she makes movements and noises she can’t control, called tics. Following the award-winning Backstage in Biscuit Land, she takes on Samuel Beckett’s short play in a theatrical experience that explores neurodiversity and asks who is allowed to perform what and who gets the final say. All performances are relaxed. This means that if you tic, shout or move about, you’re more than welcome.
Pleasance Courtyard, 22-26, 12:00
This is going to be one of Edinburgh’s hidden gems. Combining puppetry and physical theatre this talented company re-imagine Tim Burton’s poem in an unique and captivating way (see our Spotlight).
It’s the 1950s and chorus girls are doowapping, everyone is jiving and Italian ice cream seller Jim and young Alice fall in love whilst strolling along the beach in a whirlwind romance. Their lives are soon turned upside down by the arrival of their first son, born with an oyster shaped head! This award-winning show mixes puppetry, harmony singing, clown, physical storytelling and dance, and is ‘delightful… for all ages’. Inspired by a Tim Burton short story and devised and written by the company.
Assembly George Square Theatre, 3-16 9-28, 12:40
This is set to be a smash-hit of a show if their previous audiences are anything to go by, an imaginative reimagining of the bestselling book.
Inspired by the Yuval Harari’s international bestseller, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. In 1949, Dr Jacob Bronowski installs a secret, alarmed room in his house. Fifty years later, his grandson discovers his secrets, unearthing echoes from across six million years of human history, told from the perspective of a century in which every year is a revolutionary year. Following their sell-out production of Down and Out in Paris and London, multi award-winning New Diorama return to Pleasance with a World Premiere.
Pleasance Courtyard, 2-13 15-28, 18:30
Imagine If Theatre are bringing a piece of punchy new writing to the festival this year in a real life tale. This company are famed for their high-quality mesmerising productions and this one doesn’t look set to disappoint.
‘And in the end, we were all just humans, drunk on the idea that love, only love, could heal our brokenness’. Rosa lives with her grandma Lily. She’s just finished college and can’t wait to leave Yorkshire… until she meets Niko. They fall head over heels in love, but their love is tested to the limit when Rosa leaves for London, Niko ends up in prison and Lily won’t stop baking cakes. Inspired by real-life events, this ‘raw and compelling’ play asks: how can falling in love hurt so much?
Pleasance Courtyard, 7-28, 13:00
We’ve all had those thoughts in the middle of the night, and Idiot Child’s latest venture makes you realise that you are by no means alone. They take a deeper look at what causes fear from social awkward scenarios like smiling at someone on the tube to the larger existential crises.
What if how I feel about myself and the world at 4am is the truth? What if people really do think I’ve got a disappointing face? What if I take off all my clothes and my lover just politely turns away? Join residents of Fear Camp as they tackle their sense of impending doom with gleeful enthusiasm and complimentary in-flight drinks. A tender, funny and unusual show for anyone who has ever felt absolutely dreadful.
Pleasance Courtyard, 2-28, 16:20
It’s the Fringe and Sondheim is seemingly inescapable. However Assassins is one of his lesser performed musicals as well as arguably being one of his best. Full of catchy music and dark satire if you haven’t seen this before you are in for a treat.
Thirteen people have tried to kill the President of the United States. Four have succeeded. Stephen Sondheim’s musical Assassins presents a darkly comic vision of the lives and characters of these men and women and attempts to understand their actions within the context of an America that marginalised, mistreated and emboldened them. In our modern political climate of divisive and radicalised discourse, Assassins holds more relevance than ever before and yet manages to present its message alongside majestic melodies, captivating dance numbers and ferocious humour. This Fringe, roll up to the presidential shooting range and try your luck!
The Space @Venue45, 21-26, 19:05
Guaranteed hit for any theatre lover as this talented team bring the musical you have always wanted to see alive before your very eyes. The Showstoppers are seriously talented and will leave wondering how on earth they do it.
The Edinburgh must-see, Olivier Award-winning (Best Entertainment and Family 2016) West End hit returns for its 10th anniversary year! A brand new musical comedy is created from scratch at every performance of this multi award-winning show. Each night audience suggestions are transformed into all-singing, all-dancing productions, with hilarious results. A Fringe favourite; your Edinburgh is simply incomplete without it.
Pleasance Courtyard, 2-14 16-27, 18:00
A new musical written by the writer of Rotterdam which is set to take the festival by storm. This could be your chance to catch something really special this August.
A fun, silly and sad show for anyone whose brain isn’t always on their side. Sally’s a happy person. She doesn’t let little things get her down and almost never cries. But she’s got an illness. It makes her feel like she isn’t the person she wants to be… But she doesn’t want anyone to know about it. Written by Jon Brittain (Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho) with music by Matthew Floyd Jones (Frisky and Mannish), the show mixes storytelling, live music and sketch comedy.
Pleasance Courtyard, 2-28, 14:20
Casus Circus are fresh from their performances on London’s Southbank in one of the physical shows of the summer. Family friendly and daring to the max.
Edinburgh audiences can’t be wrong. ‘Casus have taken up permanent residence in the hearts of Fringe goers and rightly so’ (Scotsman). Returning with Driftwood, the multi award-winning Australian company Casus Circus aren’t afraid to take risks or embrace the intimacy of human contact. Their choreography is creative and tests the limits of their strength and flexibility, with a few moments of edge-of-your-seat nervousness.
Assembly George Gardens, 3-28, 16:45
This is Oliver Twist like you have never seen it before. Presented by dance powerhouse The Place the Avant Garde Dance Company are pushing the boundaries of dance and storytelling.
‘High energy, precision crafted choreography creates a dark twist on a classic tale’ **** (Stage). ‘Daring, dynamic and hugely enjoyable rethink of a much loved Victorian tale’ **** (Times). A tale you think you know unravels and explodes. Fagin’s Twist is a high-energy, contemporary hip hop reimagining of Dickens’s Oliver Twist. Taking the classic as its starting point, choreographer Tony Adigun presents an evocative story of Fagin’s youth, corrupted by greed and worn down by poverty. Commissioned by Theatre Bristol, East London Dance, Pavilion Dance South West, DanceEast and The Place. Part of British Council Edinburgh Showcase 2017.
Zoo Southside, 20-27, 13:00
John Scott Dance are performing a reimaging of the Shakespearean classic. This should definitely be one of your dance must sees.
John Scott’s Lear is a deeply personal and riveting interpretation of Shakespeare’s masterpiece. King Lear is portrayed by New York legendary dancer/actor Valda Setterfield, 82, who has worked with Mikhail Baryshnikov, Woody Allen, David Gordon, Pick Up Company and as a soloist for Merce Cunningham. Setterfield gives a profoundly moving performance that explores the unraveling of a universe, parental love, fear of death, personal transformation and enlightenment. Toppling the hierarchy, Goneril, Regan and Cordelia are portrayed by three outstanding male dancers: Kevin Coquelard, Ryan O’Neill and Mufutau Yusuf. Lear was commissioned by Kilkenny Arts Festival 2014.
Dance Base, 23-27, 16:15