11 returning Fringe shows recommended by Scotsman critics

Looking for a safe bet? Check out these shows that already hit the mark at the Fringe in recent years

Angel by Henry Naylor

A Fringe First winner at its Edinburgh debut in 2016, Henry Naylor’s play tells the story of a mysterious crackshot sniper who shot more than 100 members of ISIS during the siege of Kobane in Syria. The play was written for the actor Filipa Bragança, who switched between 17 different characters for the role, a performance so extraordinary that it birthed a new annual Fringe prize, the Filipa Bragança award, created in her memory when she died soon after that year’s festival. The show returned in 2017 with Avital Lvova taking on the role; it’s back again this year as a companion piece to a new Naylor show, Afghanistan is Not Funny, showing simultaneously. If you’ve never seen Angel, you should.

Angel, Gilded Balloon, 4pm, until 28 August. Afghanistan Is Not Funny, Gilded Balloon, 4pm, until 29 August

Most Popular

    Sweet FA

    The return of this joyous play about the history of women’s football is certainly well timed, opening just days after England’s ‘Lionesses’ scored a record-breaking victory in the Euro 2022 final. Performed on a specially built stage in the main stand at Tynecastle Park, Sweet FA is set during the First World War, when women’s football is becoming the most popular game in the country. The show is being performed alongside another hit show by This Is My Story productions, A War of Two Halves, which also explores the history of football during the First World War, and is the story of Heart of Midlothian players who volunteer to serve together on the frontlines in France.

    Tynecastle Park, 1pm and 7.45pm, 3-11 and 19-23 August

    Mustard

    Apphia Campbell in Black is the Color of My Voice PIC: Peter Dibdin

    Eva O’Connor first performed her unforgettable solo show at the Fringe in 2019, winning a Fringe First and gaining a Mental Health Fringe Award nomination despite a relatively short run at the beginning of the festival. A tale of ‘heartbreak, cycling and condiments’ (you may never think of mustard in the same way again), it is finally getting a full Fringe run. Don’t miss it.

    Summerhall, 2.45pm, until 28 August

    Black is the Color of My Voice

    First seen back in 2013 (opening in Shanghai before its first Edinburgh Fringe run), Apphia Campbell’s stunning solo show inspired by the life of Nina Simone continues to run and run, buoyed – along with her follow-up, Woke – by audiences increasingly engaged in stories about Black civil rights. It’s back again this year.

    Sweet FA PIC: Simon Messer

    Pleasance at EICC, 3pm, until 20 August

    Horse Country

    As the blurb accurately puts it, “CJ Hopkins’ 2002 winner of everything returns”. CJ Hopkins’ intense two-hander about off-duty ‘regular guys’ who don’t know what to do after they lose the nine of diamonds from their deck of cards won a string of awards on its debut 20 years ago, including a Scotsman Fringe First, with Joyce McMillan describing it as “a new Waiting for Godot set in contemporary America”. Will it still resonate two decades on? Find out this month.

    Assembly George Square Studios, 4.45pm, until 29 August

    The Smile Off Your Face

    Ontroerend Goed’s Fringe debut was a sensation in 2007, with word of mouth rapidly spreading about this strange, disorientating experience at C Venues in which you’re blindfolded and tied up in a wheelchair. Pretty much everything the Belgian company has created since has been a big – and often divisive – talking point, from the provocative intimacy of Internal to the ingenious theatrical palindrome that was Are we not drawn onward to new erA. Now, Ontroerend Goed is collaborating with ten students at Belgium’s KASK School of Arts on a new version of that first show designed “to be relevant for 2022”. What does that mean? Go find out – and given that there’s only one audience member per show, book now.

    C Arts, various times, until 28 August

    Flight

    It wouldn’t be the Fringe without a show in an unconventional venue. Flight, be warned, plunges you and a small number of fellow passengers into complete darkness inside a 40ft shipping container designed to replicate the cabin of an Airbus 320. Will the plane land safely? Maybe, maybe not – it depends on quantum mechanics. “Tightly wound and tense” was the Scotsman’s verdict on its debut in 2018. “Not a full-on horror experience but absolutely unsettling.”

    Pleasance Dome, various times, until 29 August

    La Merda

    It also wouldn’t be the Fringe without a show performed stark naked, and this one is as powerful and provocative as that gets. La Merda won rave reviews and six theatre awards on its Fringe debut a decade ago, and has since toured across Europe as well as the USA, Australia and Brazil. To mark its tenth anniversary, Cristian Ceresoli’s original production now returns to Edinburgh for 12 shows only, with original star Silvia Gallerano once again performing. It’s even in the same venue.

    Summerhall, 4.50pm, 16-28 August

    Thunderstruck

    Pitlochry piper Gordon Duncan revolutionised bagpiping music – his version of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck is world famous – but he also died young of alcoholism. First seen at the Fringe in 2019, this rousing tribute to Duncan is performed by David Colvin, himself a champion bagpiper in his teenage years who would go on to star in the National Theatre of Scotland’s Black Watch. The story is partly Colvin’s, partly an appreciation of Duncan’s great talents – and Colvin’s own piping take on Thunderstruck is a memorable flourish.

    Scottish Storytelling Centre, 6.30pm and 8.15pm, until 29 August

    Blood And Gold

    First seen at the Fringe in 2019, Blood and Gold is a beautiful and disturbing one-hour monologue by Mara Menzies, one of Scotland’s leading theatre artists of African heritage. The imagery of the three or four stories she tells – which sometimes nestle magically inside one another like Russian dolls, making it hard to say exactly where one ends and the next begins – is African, rich with gods and demons and mysterious winds on which mothers can hear their children speak from thousands of miles away. If you missed it, then it’s a show well worth watching, for everyone who cares about the history of colonialism and Scotland’s complicity in it.

    Royal Lyceum Theatre Studio, 6pm, 11-14, 17-21 and 24-28 August

    Jack Docherty: Nothing But

    Not many people debuted new shows at last year’s Fringe – compared to a typical year, at least – but one highlight was this piece of solo theatre by the star of Absolutely, Scot Squad and more. Nothing But, now revived for a full run, revisits one magical night on the Fringe, four decades ago, that has somehow haunted Docherty’s life ever since. It’s a hugely engaging and beautifully shaped piece of personal reminiscence, or fantasy, about how the young Jack met the girl of his dreams one evening at the festival – an American student, set to return home the next morning – and how this impacted on the relationship he already had, culminating in an inevitable mid-life crisis.

    Gilded Balloon at the Museum, 8pm, until 19 August