The Wee Review has been reviewing at the Edinburgh Fringe since 2010, and some of the team since before that, so a huge collective store of knowledge has been amassed inside our Fringe-befuddled brains. Here, thoughts from a selection of those brains have spilled out in digital form as our writers’ share what they’re most looking forward to seeing this Fringe…
As always, the thing that I’ll enjoy most I’ve not heard of yet, so I’ll mainly be wandering the Free Fringe searching out the weirder stuff. That said, I’m also looking forward to seeing what my two favourite comedians of last year – Kieran Hodgson and Spencer Jones – come back with this year. (Co-incidentally, both have ended up in the BBC’s Upstart Crow in the interim.) Hodgson has produced outstanding autobiographical character pieces for the past two years, and the critic in me is sceptical as to whether this classical music themed show, Maestro, might be a result of scrabbling round for material. The fan in me, on the other hand, hopes he pulls off the hat-trick. Jones’ David Brentisms in the aforementioned Crow were a weak point of the series, but he was deliriously daft as idiot-savant The Herbert in last year’s Proper Job (back again) so I’ll be seeking out his Eggy Bagel.
Trying to pick my what to see from over 3,000 shows is a challenge but I’ve broken the programme down for the 10th year and picked my top 125. Don’t worry, I’m not going to list them all now! A good place to start is with line-up shows and I’ve put in for my tickets for BBC Radio Scotland’s Janice Forsyth, which brings you a variety of guests from across the Fringe in a radio show format. And now in its 25th year, Mervyn Stutter, formerly of the Flying Pickets, bring us his line up show, Mervyn Stutter’s Pick of the Fringe. In 90 minutes, you get a legendary daily showcase of some of the top acts of the Fringe. [Read our interview with Mervyn here].
There’s some really exciting dance happening at Dance Base, Zoo Southside and even at Greenside on Royal Terrace, which I’m excited to see. Former Scottish Ballet principal Eve Musto is on at Dance Base and Éwoyn Emerald Dancers is returning to the Fringe following her acclaimed 2014 run with a new programme. Finally, two shows I’ll not be missing in the Cabaret and Variety genre are Briefs, which can only be described as “burlesque with balls” and Hot Brown Honey, which has been winning loads of awards across the Australian festival circuit. It promises to serve up dance, poetry, comedy, circus, striptease and song!
I’ll be excitedly joining an audience of thirty-somethings for the return of Knightmare Live, as we collectively reminisce this cult kids’ TV show through the lens of retro adulthood. I first saw the hilarious stage adaptation in 2014 and went on to describe to all my friends how great it was (their responses quickly defining which of them, like me, had been geek children). This year I’m also looking forward in particular to experiencing some really interactive and immersive theatre and comedy – especially anything with an interesting use of technology. [See our preview of Digital at the Fringe]
I was over the moon to discover The Handlebards last year (Shakespeare, beautifully acted, with jokes, and various bits of bike paraphernalia), a band of travelling players who cycle far further across the country than is strictly necessary. Which is why I’m extremely glad they’re back with not one but two troupes, putting on Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing, Richard III AND The Taming of the Shrew. It’s exhausting just thinking about it.
Last year during MagicFest I set off to review Colin Cloud having little knowledge of who he was and what he did. He knew who the audience were and what they did though, as he is a Sherlockesque mind reader who I could give nothing but five bombs to after being mesmerised by his skill, talent and on-stage charisma. I am therefore both excited and intrigued to see this year’s show Exposé and encourage you to check him out if you want a taste of the unexpected at this year’s Fringe.
My favourite pastime come August is to lounge around in the Pleasance or Gilded Balloon courtyards, beer in hand, and wait for the flyer-peddling promoters to come to me. A general rule of thumb that I’ve found is that those who flyer their own show tend to put more heart and soul not only into the whole promotion schtick, but also the show itself. With that in mind, I intend to keep tabs on the progress of last year’s favourite, the Bagman, while sniffing out some more fresh blood this time round.
One of the comics I’m keen to see return is Felicity Ward, who drew packed audiences with her memorably-titled 2015 show, What If There Is No Toilet? Her new show 50% More Likely To Die focuses on mental health, and will hopefully continue to demonstrate Ward’s skill at making serious issues hilarious – even if it lacks last year’s prop of toilet roll pyramids.
For those jaded by the Fringe, I’d recommend Niteworks and Inyal at the Queen’s Hall as an invigorating way to finish off the month. Mixing traditional and electronic influences to intense effect, Niteworks will enable you to pretend that you’re at a summer rave on Skye, rather than trapped in Scotland’s overcrowded capital.
I’m a sucker for a good dystopia, especially those that directly reflect issues cropping up today. None seem more relevant at this year’s Fringe than Lago Theatre’s No Help Sent. If you’ve spotted the abbreviation, you’ll know this is a tribute (or swansong) for our NHS. It will explore what happens when the UK’s government cancels the NHS: the human suffering involved and the lengths that people will go to to help their terminal friends. It has received glowing reviews so far, with London Theatre 1 noting the play’s dark humour that makes the it (like the NHS) so quintessentially British.