The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world, with over 3,000 shows. This year, Playbill will be going to Edinburgh in August for the festival and we’re taking you with us. Follow along this summer as we cover every single aspect of the Fringe, aka our real-life Brigadoon!
With a festival as large as Edinburgh Fringe, it can be difficult to figure out where to start. Thousands of shows fill the listing choices—how do you pick when there's so many to see? Playbill has sifted through programming from many of the different venue operators at the festival to offer you a handy guide to some of the best at the Fringe.
One of the more traditional venues at the festival is Traverse Theatre. Traverse focuses on new writing, and looks to cultivate raw talent—particularly those that are Scottish-based. Founded in 1963 by Cambridge Footlights, Traverse began in an abandoned brothel as a theatre club. The name actually reflects a misunderstanding of the staging term "transverse" as "traverse" by its first Artistic Director Terry Lane. By the time he realized his mistake, the name had recognition and so it stuck.
While operating as a club, its membership-only status allowed Traverse to circumvent censorship by the Lord Chamberlain for depicting works containing nudity, sex, liberalism, and more. It has since moved locations and now operates in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle. The following 10 Fringe shows (and 1 being staged as part of the Edinburgh International Festival) will be staged across Traverse's spaces this August.
The Grand Old Opera House Hotel
Making its world premiere, The Grand Old Opera House Hotel follows Aaron, a shy newcomer to the hotel's staff. Amidst the drama of the guests, the rumored hauntings by singing ghosts, and the echoes of the hotel's glorious past as a magnificent opera house, Aaron becomes enraptured by a mysterious voice. To find who it is, Aaron will have to go into battle with the magic and chaos of the hotel. Written by Olivier winner Isobel McArthur (Pride and Prejudice* (*Sort of)), the world premiere will feature a number of popular opera songs.
Thirty-something Zara is trying to build a life for herself while running her own business. The business? A brothel operating out of a number of Edinburgh's anonymous AirBnBs. And a new client happens to be one of Zara's old teachers. The new black comedy by Kieran Hurley explores intragenerational dynamics, the futility of blame culture, and each generation's responsibility to make things better for the next.
Sean And Daro Flake It 'Til They Make It
This new comedy will take audiences on a journey across the west of Scotland. Straight-laced Sean and the much less straight-laced Daro have geared up with big plans to successfully build an ice cream truck business. In their van, they set out on the streets through the seasons, soon realizing that their dreams may be harder to make happen than they originally thought. Bills pile up and brain freezes abound the new play by Laurie Motherwell.
Lauryn Redding's queer gig musical returns to Traverse after selling out its strictly-limited run at the theatre last year. Bloody Elle tells the heart-warming love story of Elle and Eve, filled with "those stomach-flipping-time-stopping moments" familiar to those who have felt that first blush of love. It also uses looping technology to transport audiences to the story's different spaces, from an intimate pub to a packed arena.
After The Act
Using verbatim transcripts of interviews conducted by Breach Theatre company, After The Act explores the effects of Section 28, a series of British laws oppressing LGBTQIA+ individuals by outlawing the "promotion of homosexuality" from 1988-2003 in parts of the U.K. Organizations supporting LGBTQIA+ youth were heavily affected, leaving adolescents to suffer while debates raged in Parliament and demonstrations filled the streets. Section 28 was fully repealed in Britain two decades ago, and this production celebrates that moment by showcasing the voices of students, activists, and teachers who lived through that time. After The Act is written by Ellice Stevens and Billy Barrett with an original score by Frew.
No Love Songs
An autobiographically-inspired work created by Kyle Falconer and Laura Wilde, No Love Songs is a new musical about being a new parent and the weight of postnatal depression. The heartfelt work features a book by Wilde and Johnny McKnight, and reimagined songs from Falconer's second solo album.
Eugene O’Brien's Heaven arrives in Scotland following a run in Dublin and another Off-Broadway. Set in Ireland over the course of a wedding weekend, Heaven follows Mairead and Mal as they struggle to save their marriage. Jim Culleton directs the work, presented by three-time Fringe First-winning and Olivier-winning Irish theatre company Fishamble. Fishamble has also crossed the Atlantic as part of its partnership with Off-Broadway's Irish Repertory Theatre on the Transatlantic Commissions Program to develop new works.
Faye is plagued by insomnia and a fear of ducks. Desperate to find relief, Faye turns to her brother Naoise to help her try exposure therapy—except Faye isn't the only one currently weighed down. Naoise has an explosive secret, and it's about to come to light. Ciara Elizabeth Smyth's new dark comedy is directed by Oisín Kearney.
Things Hidden Since The Foundation Of The World
Two-time Fringe First winner Javaad Alipoor brings an interactive show to Traverse 1 that tries to solve an over 30-years-old murder case. Created with Chris Thorpe, Things Hidden Since The Foundation Of The World is a fast-paced investigation into the brutal murder of Fereydoun Farrokohzad in 1992. Farrokhzad was an Iranian pop sensation and refugee who played sold-out shows internationally, including London's Royal Albert Hall. Just six months later, he was found dead in his home in Germany. Is there enough information available now online to get justice? Or are there still limits to search engines in a post-colonial world?
Iranian playwright and Fringe First winner Nassim Soleimanpour has a new theatrical experiment. There's no rehearsal or preparation. Just a script in a sealed envelope handed to an actor—read for the first time live in front of an audience. An autobiographical work, the show explores language's place in uniting and dividing us by featuring a different performer onstage each show alongside Soleimanpour.
Thrown follows five women who gather in the mud of Scotland’s Highland Games circuit to compete in backhold wrestling. The amateurs try to work together as a team to win the championship, but must also face how they may be getting in each other’s way. The funny new drama uses the backdrop of the traditional Highland Games to explore belonging and identity in Scotland. (Read about its tour around Scotland as a production by Scotland's national "theatre without walls.") Johnny McKnight directs the play by Nat McCleary, who recently starred in former Fringe show The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart. Thrown will play at Traverse 2 August 3-27 technically as part of the Edinburgh International Festival, another arts festival that runs concurrently with Fringe. (In fact, the Fringe began as a rebellion against the curation of the EIF.)
Hungry for more recommendations? Check out Playbill Goes Fringe to keep up with our coverage before, during, and after the festival! For more information about Traverse Theatre's programming, visit Traverse.co.uk.