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!
Still deciding what to see at Fringe this year? Not to worry. Playbill is rounding up the shows not to miss across the major venues of Edinburgh Fringe to make exploring the thousands of shows on offer a little less daunting. With several of the festival's venue operators running several locations across Edinburgh, check out Playbill's round-up guides by location as you plan out your experience of the world's largest arts festival.
Assembly was founded in 1981 when Artistic Director and CEO William Burdett-Coutts established the Assembly Rooms as a Fringe venue. It was a move that pioneered the use of a producer occupying several venues across the city of Edinburgh. It made Assembly practically synonymous with the festival. Assembly operates throughout the year at its Roxy space, maintains several hubs during the festival, and tours some of its productions as well. It is well known for presenting a vast number of international shows and artists, and presented the official debuts of Broadway's The Shark Is Broken and STOMP.
Check out nine of this year's highly-recommended shows playing Assembly Roxy and Assembly Checkpoint, located a five-minute walk apart around the centrally located Bristo Square.
Taiwan Season: #Since1994
Making its European premiere, this female-led, under-30 circus troupe is using acrobatics to explore the journey of self-discovery while maintaining balance in today's society with all of its expectations. "Spectacle isn't the top priority" in this work which features sometimes competitive and sometimes mutually supportive moves to tumble, contort, and more within a symbolic frame. Performances will run at Assembly Roxy's Central.
The Umbilical Brothers: The Distraction
Also playing Assembly Roxy's Central will be this Adelaide Fringe winner for Best Comedy. Using both stage and screen, The Distraction calls out its audiences (who are likely to discover this show via a screen) for spending so much time opposite a rectangle of blue light with this work which blends live performance and cinema.
Larry Owens Live
Known to New York City theatre-goers for leading A Strange Loop Off-Broadway, Owens is performing original music with stand-up comedy in Larry Owens Live. Owens will also be familiar to fans of ABC's Abbott Elementary, Max's Search Party, HBO's High Maintenance, and Hulu's Life & Beth. Larry Owens Live plays Assembly Roxy's Upstairs.
Of Moonset and the Milky Way
Stuart Bowden is bringing a new creation to Edinburgh. Described as "a musical feast of ethereal melancholia," the work centers on the idea of 30 candles for 30 cakes to celebrate someone who never arrives. It's a "celebration of the other bit, of a cold, crisp departure." Performances will be Downstairs at Assembly Roxy.
2023 Adelaide Fringe winner for Best Circus and Physical Theatre blends cirque, theatre, and drag for a macabre production. Mixing high-level circus with dark comedy, this show features dismembered limbs and ghosts alongside hilarious and jaw-dropping acts to bring both a little boo and a lot of bang for your buck. "It's not for the faint of heart." Party Ghost will play Assembly Checkpoint.
K-pop, meet K-comedy. Kokoon is a new kind of boy band that recently debuted with their TV comedy show Comedy Big League after gracing stages and screens across Korea and Japan. This group, which won the Best Music Award at the 2023 Adelaide Fringe, is delivering musical performances, big dance moves, and laughs at Assembly Checkpoint.
30 Minute Musicals: Top Gun
30 Minute Musicals is returning to Fringe, this time with a parody musical of the iconic '80s film Top Gun. Despite the name, the show has a 50-minute runtime to get to the essence of the Hollywood classic: singing, homoeroticism in the locker room and on the beach, and fight pilots flying high in the sky. Report for duty at Assembly Checkpoint if you want to join the (fictional) United States Navy on its latest adventure.
The Kaye Hole
Fringe favorite Reuben Kaye is returning to Assembly Checkpoint with his variety show The Kaye Hole, which is billed as “queer, messy, and f*cking hilarious.” (He's also bringing back his semi-autobiographical cabaret show The Butch Is Back at Assembly George Square.) The drag performer often sells out at the festival every year. Check out this Playbill interview with him to dive into how he created his persona as a form of protest.
Want to check out some more recommendations? Check out Playbill Goes Fringe to keep up with our coverage before, during, and after the festival! For more information about Assembly's programming, visit AssemblyFestival.com.