The best of Edinburgh Fringe: what to see now

There is no place in the world quite like Edinburgh during August. For one month a year, the world’s top comedians and actors flock to the Scottish capital for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and the city’s cobbled streets burst with performers desperately vying to be the one show amongst thousands that audiences choose to see.

As the world’s largest arts festival, the city’s vibrant environment makes the Fringe an event that everyone should experience in their lifetime. That being said, the festival is also an expensive and overwhelming place for artists and audiences alike, as walking through the streets without attracting hundreds of flyers becomes a genuine and exhausting struggle!

Fortunately, by the time September rolls around, the festival’s biggest hitters have been snapped up for national tours or theatre residencies, allowing new audiences to experience the best of the fest (without the added stress!) Listed below are five of the most innovative, hilarious and thought-provoking shows from the 2018 Fringe: I highly recommend booking tickets ASAP and keeping an eye out for new dates.

Jessie Cave: Sunrise

Three years ago, illustrator and Harry Potter actress Jessie Cave burst onto the Edinburgh Fringe scene with I Loved Her, an excruciatingly honest depiction of relationship paranoia felt towards the father of Cave’s son, comedian Alfie Brown. Now it’s 2018: the pair have had a second child and subsequently gone their separate ways and Cave is doing everything in her power to focus on her new relationship and not stalk her ex’s post-breakup flings on Instagram. Cave lays herself raw to the audience as she tells her story, her total lack of self-pity embodied in the hand-embroidered pillow of Brown’s face which gazes out from the corner of the stage. Every heart-felt confession, imagined conversation and anecdote tiptoes the thin line between comedy and tragedy, making leaving the theatre with dry eyes a near-impossible feat.

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Soho Theatre, London: 12th November – Sat 1st December, £18-26. Buy tickets here.

Strictly Arts: Freeman

 An exploration of the relationship between institutional racism and mental health disorders, Strictly Arts’ Freeman is a sobering depiction of a seemingly progressive society with a long way to go. Intricately tracing the narratives of six real individuals – from William Freeman, the first black man to be born out of slavery in America, to Sandra Bland, who died in police custody in 2015 – Freeman sees mind-blowing physical theatre, song, spoken word and dance expertly used to express collective and individual anguish. The show is a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement and a demonstration of the systems that those who let ‘casual’ racism slide are complicit in enforcing.

Nottingham Playhouse, Nottingham: 13th – 14th September; The Place Theatre, Bedford: 22nd September; Canada Water Theatre, London: 28th – 29th September; The Lowry, Salford: 6th October; Curve Theatre, Leicester: 8th – 9th October; The Bay Theatre, Weymouth: 11th October; Pleasance Theatre, Islington: 16th – 21st October. Prices vary by venue.

Buy tickets here.

Kiri Pritchard-McLean: Victim, Complex 

The hardest working woman in comedy, you may know Pritchard-McLean from her ventures as a podcast host, compere or sketch group writer, all of which feature her sharp wit and killer sequin outfits. Victim, Complex is a personal, yet tragically universal story, with Pritchard-McLean unpacking the notion of “crazy” through the lens of a toxic past relationship. Painful, sidesplittingly funny and with a truly unpredictable plot, Victim, Complex sees Pritchard-McLean reclaim her narrative through a cathartic hour of comedy that finds humour in even the darkest of hours.

Aber Comedy Festival, Aberystwyth: 5th October; The Frog and Bucket, Manchester: 19th March 2019; Firebug, Leicester: 6th April 2019; Cambridge Junction, Cambridge: 7th April 2019. Prices vary by venue.

Buy tickets here.

Six

In a market saturated with Broadway exports and jukebox musicals, the big names in musical theatre have long been on the look-out for a new British smash-hit show. Then along came Six, a “histo-remix” retelling of the Tudor period that’s a little closer to Hamilton than Horrible Histories. Part pop-rock musical, part live gig experience, Six reimagines the wives of Henry VIII as a girl group performing “divorced, beheaded, live in concert”; complete with a kickass band of Ladies in Waiting, killer costumes and enough sass to make your head roll, it’s no wonder that the show has been nominated for five OffWestEnd Awards!

Arts Theatre, London: 30th August – 14th October; Rose Theatre, Kingston Upon Thames: 31st October – 4th November; Nuffield Southampton Theatres, Southampton: 13th – 17th November; The Lowry, Salford: 4th – 16th December; SEC, Glasgow: 20th – 30th December. Prices vary by venue.

Buy tickets here.

Lights Over Tesco Car Park

An alien has answered Robert’s Airbnb advert and is coming to stay in his spare room. Well, that’s what he told Poltergeist Theatre anyway. Lights Over Tesco Car Park is a jam-packed ‘docu-comedy’ investigating the world of conspiracy theories and alien abductions, seamlessly integrating multimedia formats and audience participation in a way that never feels stale. We gain snapshots into the minds of the seers, the sceptics and the actors and, as flying saucer sweets float through the air and light up the dark, we are encouraged to let go of our cynicism and just believe.

Pleasance Theatre, Islington: 13th – 14th November, £10-12. Buy tickets here.

Isobel Lewis

Featured image shows Jessie Cave, copyright Soho Theatre.

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