With over 800 shows listed in the Theatre section of the Fringe programme, it can be difficult to know where to begin in the search for the best work at the festival but there is previous form in a number of returning hits, not least the absurdist feminist fiesta ‘Godot Is A Woman’ at the Pleasance, which challenges Samuel Beckett’s diktat that all productions of ‘Waiting for Godot’ should be performed by a male cast.
The cast of NASSIM changes daily, with a different actor handed the script and instructions in an envelope at the start of the performance, charged with bringing exiled Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour’s moving story to life at the Traverse. New York duo Chloe and Natasha also return to theSpace @ Niddry Street with their 2022 Fringe First-winning cowboy fable ‘And Then The Rodeo Burned Down’ and new show ‘What If They Ate the Baby?’ which deconstructs another icon of American culture, the 1950s housewife. ‘Dark Noon’, meanwhile, offers a wider perspective on the American dream/nightmare, a US history lesson on mass immigration performed by seven South African actors at the EICC.
Belgian disrupters Ontroerend Goed have been responsible for some of the Fringe’s most memorable moments of the last two decades, from the intimate ‘Smile Off Your Face’ to the casino brinkmanship of ‘£¥€$’. Their new show ‘Funeral’, at ZOO Southside, looks at collective ritual and private grief. In the same venue, Polish Fringe favourites Song of the Goat Theatre present their latest work, ‘Andronicus Synedoche’, applying their trademark haunting musical approach to an adaptation of Shakespeare’s gory tragedy Titus Andronicus, teasing out the play’s resonances with the war in Ukraine. This is not their first Shakespearean adaptation – ‘Songs of Lear’ won multiple awards at the 2012 Fringe. The same composers, Maciej Rychły and Jean Claude Acquaviva, have written the incantatory music for this show.
From larger ensembles to sole traders in Summerhall…comedian and playwright Mark Thomas stars in ‘England & Son’ at Roundabout, the first play he has performed which he didn’t write himself. Ed Edwards’ script is informed by his time in jail and mixes the personal and political in its dark comedy. Emily Woof returns to the Fringe for the first time in twenty years with ‘Blizzard’, a new experimental show in Summerhall’s Anatomy Lecture Theatre, an ideal space for a show that begins as a lecture before literally unravelling. Eva O’Connor follows her messy award-winning ‘Mustard’ with the promise of “love, fate, delicious white meat and adventure” in her new play, ‘Chicken’.
Performance artist Lucy McCormick is also no stranger to the smearing of substances as well as other transgressive theatrical acts. Her new show, ‘Lucy and Friends’, at the Pleasance, is her attempt to mount a Fringe cabaret spectacular…without any friends.
As always, there are a number of biographical plays to choose from. Novelist Andrew O’Hagan has written ‘The Ballad of Truman Capote’, in which the eponymous writer, played by Patrick Moy, takes a break from another of his fabulous New York parties to impart some of his delicious, catty wisdom to the audience at theSpace @ Niddry Street.
The tragic life of Lena Zavaroni, one of the first casualties of reality TV, is recounted in ‘Lena’ at Assembly George Square. Shetland star Erin Armstrong makes her stage debut as Zavaroni, while impressionist Jon Culshaw will surely ace his portrayal of Opportunity Knocks host Hughie Green. The considerably less sympathetic Dominic Cummings, as played by Chris Porter, gets his right of reply in ‘Dom – The Play’ at the Assembly Rooms.
Kyle Falconer, frontman of Dundonian indie rockers The View, has nursed a not-so-secret love of stage musicals for years; now he has written his own, ’No Love Songs’, with his partner Laura Wilde, about new parenthood and dealing with post-natal depression, staged at the Traverse as part of the Made In Scotland programme.
Over at Gilded Balloon Teviot, ‘Bed’ is another two-hander musical with a domestic premise, following Alice and Ben from newlywed status through twenty years of marriage with their trusty divan for company.
At the International Festival, the Berliner Ensemble, founded by Bertolt Brecht, revive his all-time trailblazing cabaret classic ‘The Threepenny Opera’ at the Festival Theatre (18/19 Aug), following the exploits of Mack the Knife, Polly Peachum and Jenny Diver in its original German.
In contrast, the Greek tragedy ‘Trojan Women’ (9-11 Aug) receives a cultural makeover at the same venue from the National Changgeuk Company of Korea and Singaporean director Ong Keng Sen, using elements of the Korean pansori tradition of musical storytelling.
At the Lyceum, Brazilian director Christiane Jahaty collaborates with Swiss ensemble Comédie de Genève on ‘Dusk’ (5-8 Aug), an adaptation of Lars Von Trier’s highly theatrical film ‘Dogville’ about a young woman’s experience as a refugee. The company also presents ‘As Far As Impossible’ (11-14 Aug), a new work by writer/director Tiago Rodrigues inspired by the testimonies of Red Cross workers in disaster zones.
Closer to home, the National Theatre of Scotland present ‘Thrown’ at the Traverse, a likely riotous look at five women making their way in the world of Scottish back -hold wrestling.