It’s that time again when all eyes look North to Scotland’s capital city and the world’s biggest arts festival. The Edinburgh Fringe 2023 is offering performances by acts from across the globe; from homegrown talent to international artists.
248 venues will host 45,182 performances from dance to comedy, theatre to cabaret. With so much on offer, how do you choose what to see? Rest easy – we at The Recs have been thumbing through the brochure and here’s a selection of some of the shows we’ve circled with our highlighter pen…
Homegrown - Scottish Artists and Companies
Lena The Play
In the 1970s, and a 10-year-old Scottish girl has shot to fame on one of biggest shows on television. Lena Zavaroni became an overnight sensation singing on Opportunity Knocks.
BAFTA and Olivier award-winner Tim Whitnall has written a play with music that looks at Lena twenty-five years on, for whom the glory days are now long gone. What happened in those years in between?
Erin Armstrong plays Lena with Jon Culshaw as (and we mean this most sincerely) TV’s original Mr. Starmaker, Hughie Green.
A must-see tale of showbiz rise and fall!
Assembly George Square, Gordon Aikman Theatre – 03-28 Aug
Terre by Aurora Engine
Aurora Engine is a composer, harpist and pianist based in Edinburgh. Sound Scotland commissioned her as their Emerging Composer and at the Fringe 2023 she will perform Terre, a sonic exploration of the Scottish landscape.
Blending harp, voice, piano and French horn with collected sounds of nature, her soundscapes will evoke a sense of home and roots.
Something wonderfully unique at the Fringe.
Summerhall – 16-19 Aug
Stuntman is an explosive physical performance by two men exploring the relationships between violence and masculinity through stunts and satire.
Such a look at violence and its implications for, and impacts upon, masculinity that it provides could be dour, even alienating, in some hands. Yet the obvious chemistry between the piece’s two performers and their empathy with the importance of the themes under exploration mean the show is both dynamic and thought-provoking.
The Recs hailed it as “a thoroughly exhilarating 60 minutes that certainly pulls no punches”.
Part of the Made In Scotland Showcase
Summerhall TechCube 0 – 2-6, 8-13, 15-20, 22-25 Aug
Myra DuBois - Be Well
The People’s Empath, Myra DuBois, returns to the Fringe (whispers – maybe for the final time) to impart her manifesto for mental health to her ever-increasing set of fans, the AdMyras.
Expect mindfulness and tough love in equal measure from one of the funniest comics on the circuit.
Enter sick, leave well. And catch her while you can!
Pleasance Dome KingDome – 2-13, 15-27 Aug
And in an expansion of the MDU – the Myra Dubois Universe – the Fringe will also be ‘treated’ to the yin to Myra’s yang, club comic Frank Lavender in his own show, Be Funny.
Just the Tonic at La Belle Angele – 3-13, 15-27 Aug
Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story
Linus Karp brings his brilliantly chaotic theatrical tribute to the late Princess of Wales to Edinburgh. Speaking from Heaven (the celestial realm, not the gay nightclub), Lady Di narrates the events of her life with the help of puppets, video messages and an assortment of characters from her life who luckily happen to be sitting in the audience.
Caution: may contain traces of Camilla!
Pleasance Dome KingDome – 2-14, 17-20, 22-28 Aug
And if that was not enough to satiate your appetite for the queer Swedish comedy performer, there’s another chance to catch How to Live a Jellicle Life: Life Lessons from the 2019 Hit Musical Cats.
Caution: may contain the worrying and distressing use of Comic Sans font!
Pleasance Dome AceDome – 17-20, 22-27 Aug
Drag Queens vs Vampires
Sometimes shows by queer artists aren’t that queer. That cannot be said of Drag Queens vs Vampires!
The dynamic drag duo of Kate Butch and Crudi Dench have been chosen as the UK’s entry for the Eurovision song contest – which happens to be in Transylvania… Their Airbnb host turns out to be Dracula. Sexy Dracula. You’re getting the picture that this is quite camp, aren’t you?
With biting humour, audience interaction and their own Eurovision single(!), we are certain that this show won’t suck.
Underbelly, Cowgate Belly Button – 3-13, 15-20, 22-27 Aug
Kieran Hodgson - Big In Scotland
Kieran Hodgson is a gifted character actor. He played Ian Lavender in the BBC comedy-drama We’re Doomed! The Dad’s Army Story. He wrote and starred in the title role of Prince Andrew The Musical on Channel 4. And he is perhaps best known for playing Gordon, Ian’s vegan boyfriend, in the much-loved sitcom Two Doors Down.
In his new Fringe show, Big In Scotland, Kieran is talking about his big move to Scotland in 2020 and how it’s going for him and the Scots. It did amuse us that in May he tweeted “That moment when it’s the end of the week and you’re 7,500 words into the new version of your show and you realise you absolutely hate it and it’s the worst version yet.”
We’re sure it’ll be alright on the night!
Pleasance Courtyard Forth – 2-27 Aug
We are big fans of Mark Thomas here at The Recs. We described the award-winning human-rights activist, author and playwright’s show at last year’s Fringe as “probably the best 60 minutes of politically-charged humour on this year’s Fringe”
So we are very happy to get a double dose this year. His stand-up show Gaffa Tapes is likely to be his usual mix of songs, swearing and his trademark excoriating critique of UK and world politics.
The Stand Comedy Club Stand 1 – 13-17, 20-24 Aug
And then he is starring in a one-man play written for Thomas by award-winning playwright Ed Edwards. Expect dark laughs in a tale where stolen wealth and stolen youth merge.
Roundabout @ Summerhall – 2-7, 9-14, 16-18, 20-21, 23-27 Aug
Gyles Brandreth - Can't Stop Talking
There’s a slight irony in the title of This Morning regular Gyles Brandreth’s Fringe show considering the recent…ahem…”difficulties” and alleged corporate silence regarding who knew what and when on the ITV morning show (ED. Keep it light…)
Moving on quickly, the irrepressible and comedy-jumper-loving broadcaster returns to the Fringe with a one-man show exploring his life as an award-winning raconteur, No 1 best-selling biographer, wordsmith and much-loved verbivore.
Assembly George Square Gordon Aikman Theatre – 2-27 Aug
What do you mean that’s not a proper heading? We like wine and there are shows featuring wine… look, it’s our list so we’ll include what we like, however niche. So there!
Drag Queen Wine Tasting
First to pop the cork of Fringe Fizz is Drag Queen Wine Tasting starring internationally-ignored superstar, Vanity von Glow, and wine expert, Beth Brickenden. Last year the show served over 3,000 glasses of wine to over 1,000 audience members!
Expect three delicious wines with top notes of mischievous humour and a lingering hint of camp fun. And a singalong! Did we mention a singalong?
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Edinburgh City Centre Monboddo – 9-13, 16-20, 23-27 Aug
Perfect Pairing: A Wine Tasting Dancegustation
Your first thought about a dance and wine combo must be ‘surely they’ll spill it?’
Fortunately Attitude Dance Company has anticipated that potential hazard and the tipples are yours while they take care of the dancing.
Why not pair prosecco with pop and lock? Or a merlot with their mambo? We’ll drink to that!
Greenside @ Infirmary Street Olive Studio – 6-12, 14-19
Le Wine Club
First rule of Le Wine Club is you don’t talk about Le Wine Club. (ED you are literally talking about Le Wine Club). Oh well – in for a penny, in for a pinot.
Cabaret performer and qualified wine geek Anna Lou Larkin is ready to uncork a heady brew of music, Merlot and mystery as she tries to solve her lover’s death.
Murder, She Drank if you like.
Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose Nip – 2-15, 17-27 Aug
Of course that is just our first skim of the 3,013 shows at this year’s Fringe – there are so many to choose from. Keep your eyes peeled for more recs from us in the run up to the Edinburgh Fringe 2023 or check out what’s on offer at The Official Fringe site