All the Scotsman critics' 5-star reviews from the Edinburgh Festivals so far

On the hunt for the best shows across the Edinburgh Festivals? So are our critics. Catch up on every single one of our five-star-rated shows below.
If you're looking for a five-star show, you're in the right placeIf you're looking for a five-star show, you're in the right place
If you're looking for a five-star show, you're in the right place


“I cannot imagine where the progress of this work might take it. It is already a beautiful, funny and frankly unforgettable thing.”

“Ellis does a stunningly convincing turn as an embittered failing comic who cynically crowbars his personal history into an emotional button pushing perfect hour. His failures and childhood traumas are exploited to the max until the whole spectacle becomes utterly absurd. It’s an astonishing performance which is both simultaneously believable and yet utterly fake. Ellis, as a character, is both completely likeable and absolutely appalling.”

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Crystal Rasmussen presents The Bible 2 Live!Underbelly - Cowgate (until 25 August)

“This is the most affirmative, queer-positive show you will see and it does it with club anthems, a light-up storybook and a fabulous queen with a heart as huge and beautiful as her voice.”

“There is not a speck of fat on any part of the hour – not on the lip-synch extravaganzas, the hilarious game of Dickhead Bingo, the introduction to the six ‘friends’ every man will need, the radio phone-in, or even the spoken word. The show is sculpted like the abs on a comedy Zac Efron.”


“It’s unlikely, though, that any show in Edinburgh this year will confront themes of colonialism more directly, or bring them together with more power, than the Sydney Theatre Company’s mighty Australian epic The Secret River, based on the best-selling novel by Kate Grenville, adapted by Andrew Bovell and directed by Neil Armfield.”

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“In Until The Flood, the subject is the 2014 killing of young black man Michael Brown by a young white policeman in Ferguson, Missouri, which helped inspire the Black Lives Matter movement, and exposed bitter and frightening racial fault-lines in American society.”

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Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019 for kids: 9 shows aimed at children

"Brilliantly told by a cast of just five actors, including Dritan Kastrati himself, the play charts the decline of Dritan’s part of Kosovo into post-civil-war devastation, and his father’s heart-wrenching decision to send 11-year-old Dritan on the perilous journey to join his brother in England. It takes us through the journey itself, and then, perhaps most tragically, through Dritan’s sometimes shocking experience at the hands of the British “care” system."

Noise Boys, Assembly George Square (until 25 August)

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“Four tap dancers, two beatboxers and two musicians, each with top notch credentials, have been recruited for this show. They’re the ‘Boys’ of the title, with wonderful rapper/narrator RoxXxan the lone female.”

Bryony Kimmings: I’m a Phoenix, Bitch, Pleasance Courtyard (until 25 August)

“The number of shows in which performers lay bare their personal mental health struggles has steadily increased in recent years. Bryony Kimmings’ Fake It ‘Til You Make It, about living with a depressed boyfriend, was an early and notable example, and its influence can be felt all over this year’s Fringe.”

A Very British Lesbian, Gilded Balloon (until 26 August)

“This is not just good, it is writing of such skill and precision that it could have been done with a diamond cutter. There is not one single wasted word, not one phrase that does not play perfectly – and sometimes painfully – its part in this extraordinary story of love and life, fear and finding yourself.”

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Lucy McCormick: Post Popular, Pleasance Courtyard (until 25 August)

“So unfolds a ridiculous romp through several millennia of female empowerment, from the Garden of Eden to the Suffragettes, realised through formal approaches ranging from comic monologues and preposterous choreography to bin-bag couture and splattered condiments. It’s part Karen Finley, part National Theatre of Brent. McCormick’s persona is the heart of the show, unabashedly self-aggrandising and charismatically domineering yet flecked with insecurity and self-loathing.”

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Rowan Rheingans: Dispatches on the Red Dress, Scottish Storytelling Centre (until 26 August)

“But there remain glimmers of hope amid the darkness: the village and its legions of ghosts may be laden with unspeakable sorrow, but there is still dancing. And as the red dress’s true origin unfolds, the revelation will leave you quietly breathless.”


West Side Story, Usher Hall “To say that Bernstein’s West Side Story has “an evergreen quality”, as conductor John Eliot Gardiner rightly claims in a written introduction to this synopsised Festival presentation, is to understate its visceral, timeless, gut-churning impact.”

Steven Osborne, Queens Hall“Nobody in the audience had chosen to hear Osborne’s programme of visionary Schubert and Messiaen – but then an unexpected encounter can, as in this case, be unforgettable.”

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“The unusual line-up for his oratorio All the Hills and Vales Along, a setting of five poems by Charles Hamilton Sorley, killed in the First World War, featured the National Youth Choir of Scotland, Whitburn Band, Quatuor Mona and tenor Gwilym Bowen”

Keyboard Concertos 3, St Cecilia’s Hall

“To hear Bach played on an instrument from the world-class collection at St Cecilia’s Hall offers a privileged glimpse into how the composer’s music might have sounded at the time.”

Orfeo ed Euridice, Usher Hall

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“It moved like the wind, Labadie often treating the cadence of one number as a direct springboard to the next. But never in a way that rocked the music’s composure and stability. Pin-sharp detail counted as much as eloquent paragraphs. The dances danced.”

“It was a gratifyingly packed Queen’s Hall – and an expectant one – that had turned out to greet the Scottish unveiling of one of James MacMillan’s newest works. His hour-long Stabat Mater was premiered in London last October by crack choral group The Sixteen under Harry Christophers, and in the months since, this searingly intense, sometimes harrowing piece has clearly seeped into the singers’ souls – their Edinburgh performance, joined by the strings of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, was thoughtful, assured, and often overwhelming in its power.”

Angela Hewitt, Usher Hall

“Naturally, we’ll never experience the thrill of hearing Bach’s music the way 18th century ears did. But pianist Angela Hewitt’s two-parter covering the 48 Preludes and Fugues of the Well-Tempered Clavier comes as near as dammit to transporting us into the composer’s mind.”

“This is an orchestra whose sound is tight, exacting and shaped with the finest precision by conductor Sir Antonio Pappano without losing a moment of vibrant spirit. Ranging in age from 16 to 19, the players also bring a poised sheen to their sound, heard with brilliant effect in their subtle and perfectly balanced orchestral accompaniment to American mezzo Joyce DiDinato in Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été.”

RSNO, Usher Hall

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“Written for the 1999 Proms, and performed on Saturday in a freshly revised version for his 60th birthday celebrations, James MacMillan’s Quickening has an astonishing capacity to be both completely contemporary and fundamentally ancient at the same time. A complex and – at 45 minutes long – substantial score, it is deeply emotive, mystical music which grips at the core of the heart.”

“Her performances, accordingly, were sublime: fresh, spontaneous, lithe, with each sonata occupying its own sound world and with its own vivid character.”

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“Rattle delivered a rapturous performance that teased meaning out of even the most innocuous phrase, and which showcased the LSO musicians to wonderful effect – none more so than principal clarinettist Chris Richards, beguiling slow movement. Quite simply an exceptional evening of breathtaking music making.”

Breaking the Waves, King’s Theatre

“This gripping drama was depicted powerfully in Lars von Trier’s 1996 film Breaking the Waves before composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek saw its raw potential as opera. Their adaption was first performed in Philadelphia three years ago. This new Scottish Opera production by Tom Morris – the work’s European premiere – confirms the view that Mazzoli and Vavrek struck operatic gold.”

Manon Lescaut, Usher Hall

“For all its non sequiturs – between certain acts you feel as if you’ve missed an episode – Puccini’s Manon Lescaut is as compelling an emotional adventure as his later, greater successes.”

“In a breath-taking performance, the Amatis Piano Trio, joined by Aleksey Semenenko on violin and Eivind Ringstad on viola, presented a work that deserves to be made more familiar.”


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Scottish Ballet: The Crucible, Playhouse “Scottish Ballet has many achievements to celebrate in its new production, but perhaps the biggest is this – in less than ten minutes we’re fully invested in the characters.”

Atomic Saloon Show, Assembly George Square (until 25 August)

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“There’s so much talent on stage here, and McCrystal knew exactly what to do with it. Clever, hilarious, gorgeous to look at, and without a single second of padding, Atomic Saloon Show is heading to Las Vegas for the next year – they’re in for a treat.”

Havana After Dark, Pleasance @ EICC (until 25 August)

“It’s a title that conjures up images of late-night salsa bars, Cuban rhythms and ­sultry dance moves. All of which this hugely entertaining new show has to offer, and more. But Havana After Dark has two meanings – and the second speaks more of the Cuban people’s resilience than their recreation.”

“Every now and then, a show comes along that you know you will remember for the rest of your life. Trisha Brown: In Plain Site always had the potential to join that special list, and happily it doesn’t disappoint.”

Blizzard, Assembly Hall (Until 26 August)

“Snowballs are juggled and thrown, strong yet graceful hand balances are executed with absolute certainty, and bodies career around the stage like snowflakes, winding around each other in a flurry of acrobatics. People towers are grown from the ground in new ways (never easy, when all troupes are essentially doing the same thing) and the whole thing comes together in a gorgeous, snowy hour of top notch circus.”

Juliet & Romeo, Dance Base

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“It’s not often you’re doubled over with laughter and wiping away tears of sadness during the same show. Given the components that come together in Juliet & Romeo, however, it’s no surprise.”


Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo, Underbelly - Bristo Square (Until 26 August)

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“Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo is gentle and funny with space to think amid the perfect Saturday morning soundtrack of soft exotic bird noises.”