Whether it’s a four-hour audience participation dance theatre piece or a drag comedy musical about Margaret Thatcher, the sheer volume and variety of experiences at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival grows more mind-blowing every year. The biggest arts festival in the world, now in its 67th year, is once again set to swamp every spare stage, school hall, pub back room and alleyway in the Scottish capital. With over 3000 shows in 299 venues and performers from 47 countries, Edinburgh is an exciting place to be in August.
There are some fascinating and timely theatre productions, big-name comedians like Jimmy Car and Jack Dee return and at least a dozen shows inspired by the independence debate are included in the 406 page programme. Actors, dancers, comedians and musicians from Northern Ireland make up quite a few of those pages themselves.
Owen McCafferty returns to the Fringe after his play Quietly gained critical acclaim and won the Belfast playwright Scotsman Fringe First Award celebrating the best new writing in the festival. His new play Unfaithful examines the relationships of two couples struggling to comprehend love for one another.
( Traverse Theatre from 1 Aug – 24 Aug )
David Ireland’s new play I Promise You Sex And Violence premieres at Northern Stage under Lorne Campbell. Born out of a desire to write a play that wasn’t specifically set in Northern Ireland or about Northern Irish politics, Ireland has focused his attention to the wider issues permeating twenty-first century life and identity. “This play is really about sexual politics… sex, violence and the big compelling, ugly problems deep rooted in our society’s psyche: misogyny, homophobia, racism, all hatreds and violence come from a place of fear and ignorance, and this play features three very flawed, ignorant characters who say terrible things and do terrible things – and are incredibly funny while they do them.”
(Northern Stage from 2 Aug – 23 Aug)
Chatterbox Productions return for their third Edinburgh Premiere at the Underbelly with BBC award-winner Seamus Collins bringing Edward Lear’s much loved nonsense poetry to life in his dark and magical piece of new writing Little Jokes. Collins also joins forces with Paris-based international theatre company Theatraverse to present the world premiere of its bilingual (French and English) Great Artists Steal. Comedian and playwright, Nuala McKeever is all pink slippers, pink wine and pink pills as she takes her one-woman show In the Window about loneliness and burglary to the Assembly Hall. Award-winning Traverse Artistic Director Orla O’Loughlin joins forces with local actor Richard Clements for Portadown writer John McCann’s take on Scottish independence in his play Spoiling.
Comedy as always dominates the Fringe programme and this year funnyman Micky Bartlett leads a strong contingent of local comedians to the fringe, all hustling for their big break. The BBC’s Monumental star makes his solo Fringe debut with his show I’m Not Even Sorry at Cowgate. Fringe veteran Paul Currie returns with his Release the Baboons show which has been described as the most inventive and hilarious comedy act in years. Finalist of the 2014 Chortle Student Comedy Award, Alan Irwin brings his conversational anecdotal show Party Hard to the Laughing Horse in Grassmarket whilst self confessed computer nerd Matthew Collins explores the funny side of his consistent procrastination with his storytelling/standup routine My Favourite Waste of Time.
Although the spoken word category still only makes up 4% of the Fringe programme, the 124 shows this year includes a personal journey by Irish actor-director, Larry McCluskey exploring the work of the late Seamus Heaney through a dramatic readings, commentary and live music. Awhile with Seamus Heaney runs at the Royal Scots Club from 5th – 9th August.
You could probably stick a pin in the Fringe programme and find a performer with some connection to Northern Ireland and whilst this is merely a first glance at what’s going on at the Fringe this summer I know I’ll have missed lots of shows, all worthy of attention.
In the meantime do let me, and everyone else, know about the shows that have caught your eye.