Note: This review is from the 2018 Fringe

Gilded Balloon will again be operating three major venues at the Edinburgh Fringe, with its main hub at Gilded Balloon Teviot, a base at the National Museum of Scotland (Gilded Balloon at the Museum) and its most recent addition to the roster, the Rose Theatre on Rose Street in the heart of the West End.


Having spent a quarter of a century away, iconic Scottish comic Jack Docherty finally returns to the Fringe for a full run. His return to the Gilded Balloon will see him unite two of his best-loved comedy creations, Scot Squad’s stoic Chief Commissioner, Cameron Miekelson, and the fiercely patriotic McGlashan from the critically-acclaimed, award-winning Channel 4 shows, Absolutely and Scotland in a Day.

Flying in straight from Las Vegas comes the anarchic, unparalleled and wholly unique The Miss Behave Gameshow. Part wild Friday night, part political upheaval, Miss Behave and her glamorous assistant Tiffany promise new games, new acts and new prizes in the age of Trump and disinformation. Judah Friedlander, star of 30 Rock, follows on from his critically-acclaimed Netflix stand-up film, America Is the Greatest Country in the United States, with an all-new hour promising to eviscerate American exceptionalism and the USA’s volatile standing in the world.


A digitally-enhanced, millennial cabaret, Anya Anastasia: The Executioners attacks the very fabric of modern Western culture and the algorithms dictating it. Gamarjobat, the shut-up comedy from Japan, are back with the very best of their world-conquering, fast-paced humour. Infusing rap with the rural life comes Alex Cofield: Supernova, a hip-hopera detailing his attempts to escape his hamlet hometown. It’s Hot Fuzz meets Hamilton – a lyrical League of Gentlemen performed entirely in rap and spoken word.

Scottish Theatre and new writing

Gilded Balloon is also featuring some of the very best of Scottish theatre and new writing. Morna Young’s Aye, Elvis comes straight from the Òran Mór’s A Play, A Pie & A Pint. It’s a story about downtrodden escapism, identity and a Doric Elvis; Ruaraidh Murray writes and stars in The Junkies alongside Edinburgh institutions Grant Stott and Andy Gray, a Steptoe and Son-esque love letter to a forgotten trade; David Belcher & Bryan Gray bring The Pieman Cometh, a cautionary, comical tale journeying through the murky, monetary mayhem lurking behind the scenes of Scottish football; Kier McAllister premieres The Bench, directed by Jojo Sutherland and starring Vladimir McTavish and McAllister as two isolated, lonely men battling it out to establish the true purpose of the eponymous bench; whilst David Cosgrove’s In For a Penny is based upon the real life of star Libby McArthur, who went to prison over unpaid parking tickets, and the various women she met on the inside who had been exploited by a judgemental system.

Yet more theatre

Gilded Balloon’s stellar theatre programme continues with NZ’s Not in Our Neighbourhood, a rumination on domestic violence and the ramifications it has upon three women. Niall Ransome’s FCUK’D is the brutal and heartfelt story – performed entirely in verse – of a working class teenager who kidnaps his brother in pursuit of a better life, and Limerence Productions’ Marmite is a study of the difficulty that monogamy presents gay male relationships in a sexually-saturated world. Katherine Parkinson, the BAFTA award-winning star of Humans and The It Crowd, premieres her debut play, Sitting, a production from BBC Arts that finds three people sitting for a painting, each yearning for connection. Parkinson is joined by husband-and-wife Rob Rouse and Helen Rutter, who perform in Rutter’s autobiographical play about a tumultuous point during their own marriage, The Ladder. And I predict Henry Naylor’s latest play Games will be winning lots of prizes too. Based on a tragic, true story, written by Naylor and performed by Avital Lvova, the duo deservedly shared the Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Award 2017.More comedy

On the comedy front, Ayesha Hazarika is back with a brand new hour, an interrogation of where feminism finds itself in the wake of Weinstein and #MeToo; the Fringe’s oldest double act, Barry Cryer & Ronnie Golden, take to the Museum for only a couple of performances for some pre-hysterical comedy; Australian musical comic Grant Busé puts the lessons he learnt from teaching Sex Ed to special needs kids to good use, as his award-winning The Birds and The Beats dares to give adults the Sex Ed they need – all set to an original looping score; and Gary Meikle makes his Fringe comedy debut, laying bare his remarkable, true story of surviving children’s homes and the care system to raise his daughter as a teenage dad.

These shows join the likes of Luisa Omielan, Rhod Gilbert, Hot Brown Honey, Esther Rantzen, Janeane Garofalo, Stuart Mitchell, Maisie Adam, David Baddiel’s AniMalcolm, Jon Culshaw & Bill Dare, Jay Lafferty, Christopher Macarthur-Boyd, Edd Hedges, Chris Forbes, Ben Hart, Murray Hill, Gareth Waugh, South Bend, Late Night Lip Service and the infamous Late’n’Live where a good night is always guaranteed.

Musical theatre

If musical theatre is your bag, then the Basement Theatre on Rose Street will be showcasing the finest from Captivate Theatre with Rent, Annie, Thirteen,and Les Miserables (school edition). If their production of Oliver last year is anything to go by, you’re in for a treat.

An accessible Fringe

Gilded Balloon is committed to making the Fringe an accessible arts festival. Ray Bradshaw, the first comic to perform his set in English and BSL simultaneously, returns with his award-winning and ground-breaking show, Deaf Comedy Fam, a hilarious, heart-warming hour detailing life growing up with deaf parents. Singing Hands is a fully-inclusive, interactive and multi-sensory show in Makaton and English where children can sing, sign, dance and express themselves, regardless of age or ability. Having recently wowed the judges on Britain’s Got Talent, Lost Voice Guy embarks upon his sixth Fringe. The first comic to solely rely on a communication aid to perform, Inspiration Porn sees him examine the pressures placed on those with disabilities to fulfil an impossibly high, motivational ideal.

Other attractions

Be sure to catch photographer Steve Ullathorne’s Annual Photo Fest at Teviot. It’s free and is found in the cafe area.

And finally, don’t miss, Boss Wummin, the brand new podcast from the mother and daughter team that head Gilded Balloon, Katy and Karen Koren. Featuring guests from the world of comedy and inspiring female leaders, Boss Wummin delves into the depths of Karen’s mind, and the vision both she and Katy have for the future of the venue. Expect stories like the time when Sean Hughes locked Karen in a closet for four hours.

Full Gilded Balloon programme at

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