Established in 1947 Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the world’s largest arts festival. Part of the beauty of the festival is that it doesn’t have a jury, meaning each year features a huge range of experimental shows that might be excluded from a more traditional arts festival. This year no less than 3,314 shows are featured. For starters here are 20 that are guaranteed to impress.
1. Touretteshero: Backstage in Biscuit Land
Video credit: Touretteshero/YouTube
For Jess Thom life with Tourette’s involves saying “biscuit” 16,000 times a day. Her two-woman solo show Backstage in Biscuit Land combines song, comedy, puppetry and, of course, tics, to deliver Thom’s unique perspective on life — made all the more entertaining and wonderful by the fact that she’s incapable of staying on script.
Pleasance Courtyard; Aug. 24 to 30; 5 p.m. Tickets from £9 (concessions from £7).
2. Jo Bannon: Alba
Video credit: Unlimited/YouTube
Performance artist Jo Bannon has albinism and her performance revolves around being pale, fitting in and standing out from the crowd. Alba weaves together imagery, sound and light to explore the stories we tell about ourselves and those others tell about us.
Forest Fringe; Aug. 24 to 28; 6 p.m. Free admission.
3. Sh!t Theatre: Women’s Hour
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The multi award-winning Sh!t Theatre company gives Women’s Hour the feminist treatment and, if previous performances are anything to go by, it will be hysterically funny and shocking in equal measure.
Summerhall; Aug. 5, 7, 9 to 10, 12, 14, 16 to 17, 19, 21, 23 to 24, 26, 28, 30; 2 p.m.Tickets £6 (group discounts available).
4. Barrel Organ: Some People Talk About Violence
Barrel Organ are an award-winning young company who have followed their hugely successful debut show Nothing with Some People Talk About Violence.
Summerhall; Aug. 5 to 23; 10:40 a.m.Tickets £10 (concessions £8; 2 for 1 tickets available).
5. Tim Crouch: An Oak Tree
Video credit: British Council/YouTube
A truly ground-breaking, award-winning production by Tim Crouch, one of the U.K.’s most innovative theatre-makers, An Oak Tree is a complex tale of loss, performed by the playwright himself and one other actor. This second actor is a different person at each performance — who hasn’t seen or read a single word of the play until they’re on the stage in front of the audience.
Traverse Theatre; Aug. 4, 8 to 9, 11 to 16; times vary. Preview tickets £14; full price tickets from £20 (concessions £15; unemployed £8).
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6. Bryony Kimmings: Fake it ’til you Make it
Video credit: Bryony Kimmings/YouTube
Edinburgh Fringe First winner Bryony Kimmings and her partner Tim based Fake It ’til you Make it on their real-life relationship. This show deals with love, clinical depression and what it means to be a “real man.”
Traverse Theatre; Aug. 6 to 9, 11 to 16, 18 to 23, 25 to 30; times vary. Tickets £18 (concessions £13; unemployed £8).
7. Baby Wants Candy: Thrones! The Musical
Thrones! The Musical is racy, gory, smart and hysterically funny. Whether you’re a fan of the hugely successful Game of Thrones, or sick of all the hype, you’ll enjoy this parody. Be prepared for impossibly beautiful people wearing next to nothing and possibly some incest.
Assembly George Square Studios; Aug. 5 to 31; 5 p.m. Preview tickets £10, regular tickets £14 (concessions £13).
8. Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing
Video credit: The Corn Exchange/YouTube
Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, for which she won the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, is adapted for the stage and directed by Annie Ryan. It stars Aoife Duffin as an Irish girl trying to come to terms with her fragmented childhood. It’s being hailed as one of the best stage adaptations of a novel of all time.
Traverse Theatre; Aug. 6, 8 to 9, 11 to 16, 18 to 23, 25 to 30; times vary. Preview tickets £14; regular tickets £20 (concessions £15; unemployed £8).
9. The Money
The Money is a show with a difference. No actors, no script, simply a very compelling premise: audience members spend the entire show debating what to spend a stack of cash on, with the aim of reaching a unanimous decision. Participants can choose to be either a Benefactor (and have a say in how the money should be spent over the next two hours), or a Silent Witness (with the option to “buy in” if they decide to chip in at any point). If an unanimous decision is reached the audience get to spend the money; if not, it rolls over to the next show.
City Chambers; Aug. 27 to 28; show times 10 a.m.; 2 p.m.; 6 p.m. Silent Witness tickets £13 (£11 concession); Benefactor tickets — donate a minimum of £10 or up to £100.
10. Katherine Ryan: Kathbum
Video credit: BBC/YouTube
You’ll have to move fast if you want to catch Katherine Ryan at this year’s Fringe. The razor sharp Canadian, who has just completed a sell-out tour in the U.K. and Australia, premieres her brand new show, Kathbum, at The Stand.
The Stand; Aug. 6 to 16, 18 to 22; 4:25 p.m. Contact venue directly for tickets.
11. Holly Burn: I am Kirsty K
Video credit: holly Burn/YouTube
Her portrayal of Victoria Beckham in a corner shop went viral but Holly Burn is so much more than that. A natural physical comedian, she’s most definitely one to watch in I am Kirsty K.
Just the Tonic at The Mash House; Aug. 6 to 17, 19 to 30; 6:20 p.m. Tickets £5.
12. Gilded Balloon 30th Anniversary Gala
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the famous Edinburgh venue a range of stars who made their names there are back to entertain en masse, including Alan Davies, Johnny Vegas, Sean Hughes, Jason Byrne and Greg McHugh, with Adam Hills and Fred MacAulay playing host.
Playhouse; Aug. 15, 8 p.m. Tickets from £23.
13. Neil Pearson/Something for the Weekend: The Missing Hancocks
Video credit: twinnedwitherlangen/YouTube
Neil Pearson’s show is based on four newly rediscovered Tony Hancock plays from 1955 and 1956, featuring a stellar cast led by Kevin McNally as The Lad Himself. Show A is made up of “The Winter Holiday” and “New Year Resolutions;” Show B consists of “Prime Minister Hancock” and “The Three Sons.”
Assembly Rooms; Aug. 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29 (Show A); Aug. 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 30 (Show B); 4:15 p.m. Tickets £16 (concessions £13).
14. Seabright Productions: What Would Spock Do?
Seabright Productions promise What Would Spock Do? is an “uplifting new comedy about love, Star Trek, and learning to accept who you are — no matter how much of a loser it makes you.”
Gilded Balloon; Aug. 5 to 11, 13 to 18, 20 to 25, 27 to 31; 12:30 p.m. Preview tickets £6, regular tickets £12 (concessions £11).
15. Sofie Hagen: Bubblewrap
Video credit: BBC Radio 1/YouTube
She’s been making a name for herself on Russell Howard’s Stand-Up Central, BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 4, been named Time Out‘s One to Watch and won Chortle Best Newcomer 2014. If you want to witness Sofie Hagen’s debut show Bubblewrap before she hits the big time this is your chance.
Liquid Room Annexe; Aug. 7 to 31; 7:10 p.m. Free admission.
16. Fundamental Theater Project: One Day When We Were Young
Stars of U.S. drama The Following, Valorie Curry and British actor Sam Underwood, star together in this romantic WW2 drama One Day When We Were Young by British playwright Nick Payne. Focusing on the themes of love and fate, the play follows the story of two people as their paths cross throughout their lives. It’s a heartbreaking tale that is stopped from being overly sentimental by Payne’s trademark wit.
Assembly George Square Theatre; Aug. 6 to 16, 18 to 23, 25 to 31; 1:45 p.m. Tickets £10.
17. Jenny Bede: Don’t Look at Me
Video credit: BBC Comedy/YouTube
Jenny Bede is the Observer‘s 2015 rising star and winner of the 2013 Musical Comedy Awards Best Newcomer. “You’re not a soprano, stop trying,” her singing teacher reportedly told her. Nonetheless she’s being tipped for stardom, thanks to the pop culture-inspired songs and stand-up of Don’t Look at Me.
Pleasance Courtyard; Aug. 6 to 7, 9 to 23, 25 to 30; 3:30 p.m. Preview tickets £6; regular tickets £11 (concessions £9).
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18. Sarah Stribley Productions in association with AHP and the Pleasance: The Titanic Orchestra
Performing on stage in his home country for the first time in 25 years, John Hannah (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Sliding Doors, Touch of Cloth) appears in comedy production The Titanic Orchestra, playing a mysterious illusionist who leads a group of tramps to believe that he is the Great Houdini.
Pleasance Courtyard; Aug. 5 to 16, 18 to 23, 25 to 31; 5:25 p.m. Preview tickets £9; regular tickets £17 (concessions £15).
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19. Stellar Quines: The Jennifer Tremblay Trilogy Part III: The Deliverance
Video credit: Stellar Quines/YouTube
The Deliverance is the highly anticipated premiere of the final instalment of Quebecoise writer Jennifer Tremblay’s award-winning trilogy. As in the first two instalments (The List and The Carousel), Maureen Beattie is the performer, playing a woman trying to fulfil her dying mother’s last wish: to be reunited with the son who was taken from her at a young age.
Assembly Roxy; Aug. 6 to 11, 13 to 17, 20 to 24, 27 to 31; times vary. Preview tickets £10, regular tickets £15 (concessions £13).
20. DBS Productions: 101 Reasons Why I #@%$ Katie Hopkins
Most of us can probably relate to anyone ranting about Katie Hopkins. This one-woman show makes the audience examine their reactions to the TV personality who just won’t go away and answer the question: what four-letter word suits the title 101 Reasons Why I #@%$ Katie Hopkins best?
Sweet Grassmarket; Aug. 6 to 11, 13 to 18, 20 to 25, 27 to 30; 6:35 p.m. Tickets £8.
All information correct at time of publication.
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