Critic's Picks of the Fringe
Theatre critic Mark Fisher, author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide, gives his personal tips for the 2013 programme.
THE MORE times you visit the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the more you realise it's impossible to predict where every hot show will be. The event is so vast, with over 2800 shows to sift through, you have to keep yourself open to the possibility that the next performance you take a punt on, chosen just because you liked the sound of it, could turn out to be the hit of the festival.
The uncertainty is part of the excitement and the best way to enjoy the Fringe is just to throw yourself into it and see what happens. So I make the following recommendations with the caveat that I'll be leaving myself open to the possibility that something even more remarkable will be happening just around the corner.
A good way to start is by looking for curated programmes. Made in Scotland, for example, is a government-funded scheme to promote homegrown theatre, dance and music. Everything in the line-up is selected by a specialist panel. I've seen and can highly recommend Anoesis, a show about the exam system by the remarkable youth group Junction 25; One Giant Leap, a children's show by Wee Stories about scientific jumps into the unknown; and Whatever Gets You Through the Night, a theatre-music fusion about life in the wee small hours.
Other shows in the Made in Scotland programme I'm looking forward to include Chalk Farm, about the 2011 London riots; Long Live the Little Knife, about a hare-brained art forgery scam; and the award-winning Ménage à Trois, about a woman's intimate relationship with her crutches.
If you head down to St Stephen's Church in Stockbridge, you'll find a similar programme of work from the north of England. I've previously enjoyed the work of Chris Thorpe whose play There Has Possibly Been an Incident for the Manchester Royal Exchange is about major turning-points in people's lives; and director Lorne Campbell who is curating The Bloody Great Border Ballad Project in which a host of top artists make daily contributions to an ever changing "ballad".
A similarly enterprising venue is Summerhall, housed in a former veterinary school, where the classrooms and lecture theatres are being commandeered for an international programme of performance and visual art. Sounding particularly promising is the Big in Belgium season of four theatre companies from the Flemish-speaking part of the country (plus the remarkable Ontroerend Goed at the Traverse). I'm also intrigued to catch up with a season of Italian children's theatre and I can give a big thumbs up to The List by Stellar Quines, an award-winning hit on last year's Fringe that boasts a formidable performance by Maureen Beattie as a woman neurotically obsessed with imposing order on her life.
Back in the New Town, the Hill Street Theatre has rebranded itself as the home of solo shows, offering a great opportunity to catch up with acclaimed work such as Claire Dowie's Why is John Lennon Wearing a Skirt? and Daniel Bye's The Price of Everything, as well as a double-bill from Donal O'Kelly, Fionnuala and Skeffy.
Look out also for French-themed work, such as Adam Smith, le Grand Tour, at the Institut français d'Ecosse and, of course, no Fringe theatre lover's festival would be complete without several trips to the Traverse, Edinburgh's home of new writing. Among many promising shows at this venue, I'm looking forward to Ciara, a new play by David Harrower in which Blythe Duff plays the grown-up daughter of a Glasgow gangster; The Events by David Greig, a study of how a community reacts to a horrific tragedy; and I'm With the Band by Tim Price, an allegory of the changing face of the United Kingdom in which a rock group teeters on the verge of breaking up.