From Belgian physical theatre to Taiwanese circus arts: national showcases at Edinburgh Fringe 2022

Ever since American student theatre companies began arriving in the 1960s, the Edinburgh festival has become the largest multi-arts trade fair in the world. National showcases on the Fringe this year visit from as far afield as Finland, Canada, Switzerland and Taiwan, writes David Pollock.

The Edinburgh festival isn’t just the largest arts festival in the world, it’s also the largest multi-arts trade fair. The Fringe has been a player in this regard ever since American student theatre companies began arriving in the 1960s and Richard Demarco started sourcing artists from behind the Iron Curtain soon after.

Especially since the turn of this century, and the arrival of the internet and its new connection possibilities, the number of countries from around the world showcasing their finest performing arts in Edinburgh has ballooned. Now returning en masse after the COVID years, the following organised showcases will feed audiences’ appetites for international work and a flavour of what’s happening closer to home. Follow the links for full listings.


Programmed by Wallonia-Brussels Theatre Danse, this modest slate of four shows involves the physical work False Start, about the act of running and our obsession with speed, We Should Be Dancing, in which five adult actors recreate the playful physical movements of children, and two dance works; Serge Aimé Coulibaly’s Fitry, which draws on African and European influences, and the third part of Alessandro Bernardeschi and Mauro Paccagnella’s ‘Memory Trilogy’, Closing Party.


Five shows from one of the Fringe’s most involved and enduringly high-quality showcases: Lion (Assembly Rooms), an outlandish circus show for adults and young people; The Receptionists (Summerhall), a physical comedy about customer service; the dance piece Kvartetto (Summerhall); Johnny Got His Gun (Zoo Southside), a monologue based on Dalton Trumbo’s challenging novel; and Raging Mother (Zoo Southside), a piece about motherhood.


Gabriel Byrne in Walking with Ghosts. Photographer: Ros Kavanagh.Gabriel Byrne in Walking with Ghosts. Photographer: Ros Kavanagh.
Gabriel Byrne in Walking with Ghosts. Photographer: Ros Kavanagh.

Alongside some Book Festival appearances, Culture Ireland is supporting fiddler Martin Hayes and the Common Ground Ensemble’s Edinburgh International Festival appearance at Leith Theatre, and national treasure Gabriel Byrne in Walking with Ghosts at the King’s Theatre. A slate of seven Fringe shows includes the work-in-progress King by Pat Kinevane and multiple Fringe First winners Fishamble.


Following its pilot year in 2021, this first of a new showcase of English work presents ten challenging and exciting pieces, including Fringe favourites RashDash’s Look At Me Don’t Look At Me, about the Victorian artist and model Elizabeth Siddal, the car park-set piece about Islamophobia Peaceophobia, Sonia Hughes’ outdoor performance piece about race and migration I Am From Reykjavik and Marikiscrycrycry’s He’s Dead, about racial injustice and mental health.


The Book of Life. Photographer: Dahlia Katz.The Book of Life. Photographer: Dahlia Katz.
The Book of Life. Photographer: Dahlia Katz.

In addition to its work with Edinburgh International Festival on Odile Gakire Katese’s The Book of Life at Church Hill Theatre, about letters collected during the Rwandan genocide, the Canada Council also presents five shows in the city; Old Trout Puppet Workshop’s Famous Puppet Death Scenes, the multimedia piece about gender diversity Something in the Water, Haley McGee’s meditation on life and death Age is a Feeling, and two dance pieces at Dancebase.


This compact selection of Danish work is focused on a number of dance pieces at Dancebase, including three works by the Granhøj Dans company and Asterions Hus’ experimental interpretation of Romeo and Juliet. Elsewhere look out for Fix&Foxy’s Rocky!, a challenging piece about politics and political correctness, Don Gnu’s physical show Walk-Man and the virtual experience Tuesday Night Sleeping Club, all through Zoo venues.


Nearly forty shows by artists with Italian birth or heritage, from comedy to spoken word, including comedy from Ania Magliano, Anthony DeVito (his show is named ‘My Dad Isn’t Danny DeVito’), Luca Cupani and Fringe regular Nina Conti, music from Mediteranneo at Summerhall’s Nothing Ever Happens Here and more traditional forms around the city, and a tenth anniversary return for La Merda (The Shit) to the same Summerhall room where it all began.


With Korean popular culture in the midst of a Western boom, one of the Fringe’s oldest and most involved national showcases continues its tradition of taking largely non-vocal performance pieces beyond language. Highlights include the family-friendly puppet show about outer space Mary, Chris, Mars, outdoor puppet piece Klaxon and Are You Guilty?, which explores the bystander effect.


A bumper selection of 28 homegrown music, dance, theatre and performance works, including the National Theatre of Scotland’s major new play Exodus at the Traverse, Annie George’s tale of Empire and Migration Home is Not the Place, Jo Clifford and Maria MacDonell’s ‘play for grownups’ The Not So Ugly Duckling, and queer stories from James Ley (Ode to Joy) and Craig Manson (Gayboys).


Five theatre shows and one spoken word piece arrive from Northern Ireland, including Rosemary Jenkinson’s Billy Boy, about young bonfire builders in East Belfast; In the Name of the Son, about the Guildford Four’s Gerry Conlon; Two Fingers Up, about Northern Irish sex education; and Myra’s Story, about a homeless Dublin woman.


Three shows at Summerhall, including the provocative audio walk about incel culture and male violence Guide to Masculinist Territory, a Swiss/Russian exploration of national shame called Shame On You! and Mama Love, a piece about motherhood against the backdrop of the 2020 vote on allowing Swiss fathers two weeks’ paid paternity leave.


Alongside an online and in-person Taiwan Symposium on 15th and 16th August, the Taiwan Season also presents circus piece Light of Life, a physical theatre show about imminent disaster named The Whisper of the Waves, Hung Dance’s See You and the feminist dance work Tomato.


Québecois artists take to the stage across the Festival, including First Nations artist Nadia Myre’s exhibition Tell Me of Your Boats and Your Waters - Where Do They Come From, Where Do They Go at Printmakers, circus from Cirque Alfonse, rotating comedy showcase We’re Sorry (Best of Canada) at Laughing Horse at Three Sisters, appearances by pianist Bruce Liu and conductors Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Bernard Labadie at the Edinburgh International Festival, and much more.


Over five days toward the end of the Festival, three distinctive shows arrive from Wales for brief runs. Common Wealth’s Payday Party is a comment on the economics of art, with six artists demonstrating their skills in the hope the audience will pay them, Double Drop is about growing up in Wales in the ‘90s, and The Rest of Our Lives reunites an older dancer and clown in their later years.