Edinburgh festival: 4 of the best shows to see if you're in a hurry

With the vast line-up of comedy, dance, circus, theatre and music shows on at all times of the day for a month, it can be hard to know what to see. Especially if you only have time to dip a toe in the talent pool. Now that the festivals are in full swing we asked our critics to handpick a few shows that you can catch in under an hour.

Along, C South Main Theatre, Edinburgh


The Hong Kong kung fu-cum-Cantonese opera acrobatic dance show Along (does that say it all? Not quite) is like plunging into a mental bath. Come to it from loftier Fringe fare, and you’re sitting bolt upright in a moment.Bare-chested men perform flying kicks and comic combat and leap from hand to hand, but to silly waltz music and a speeded-up version of what was probably Pachebel’s Canon. With no props except springy bars, they outdo the kind of physical tricks you see in certain over-heated circus shows, with no time wasted on build up or pauses for applause, and make it look almost easy. “We have only two hands and two feet. How can I express myself?” The philosophical voice-over is Bruce Lee, and the answer is, very well.

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Along was first developed as a solo work in 2017, when award-winning choreographer Hugh Cho was commissioned to expand it to a group work for the Hong Kong Dance Exchange Festival. It went on to tour Asia. There’s a re-enaction one of Lee’s iconic fight scenes in his self-parodying style. The TS Crew is a professional performing arts group with members from different backgrounds, from drama, dance, and martial arts to film industry stunting.But 2019 has brought a startling change of tone. Out of the blue, in this performance, a powerful film about the Hong Kong protests, with graphic media reports of savage beatings of peaceful marchers by police. It leads into a short, moving finale, a simple no-frills work of choreography, of vulnerable bodies clinging for support. “We do not want to challenge our government. We just want ask to government to talk.” A candidate for the Spirit of the Fringe award, if ever there was.

35 minutes - C South main theatre Until 13 August

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The Archive of Educated Hearts

The Fringe wouldn’t be the Fringe if there wasn’t something magical happening somewhere in a shed, and the tasteful, grey-painted shed at the back of Pleasance Grand is well worth seeking out. Here, writer and performer Casey Jay Andrews has created an intimate home for her story of families living with breast cancer. Her mother is one of four sisters who have an unknown form of the disease. Their battles inform her story, as do others such as Emma Cairns, Andrews’ drama teacher and a prominent campaigner for secondary breast cancer treatment. The Archive is not a campaign: it is more like a record of love and kindness and survival gathered in from remarkable individuals who happen to be affected by the disease.

Step into scrawled diary entries, answerphone messages blinking on an old landline, a shoebox of postcards and cassette tapes winding stories across years and continents. The Archive, which is a Fringe First Award winner, is a combination of poetic storytelling, verbatim interviews and a sprawling photo album chronicling the lives of the women. It's a precious library of memories, relics and keepsakes that allow a glimpse into stories of kindness, courage and heartache.

35 minutes - Pleasance Courtyard Until 25 August

Stuart Mitchell: Is it Just Me (Work in Progress)

Join the longest running panellist on BBC Scotland's Breaking The News as he runs through new material for his next tour. Endorsed by Hollywood superstar Will Ferrell! 'Work of genius'. Stuart recently followed in the footsteps of Dara O Briain, Paul Merton and Craig Ferguson after he was handpicked to perform in the Best of the Edinburgh Fest showcase at the Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne Comedy Festivals. Stuart has written for Mock The Week (BBC One), The News Quiz (BBC Radio 4) and The Now Show (BBC Radio 4).

50 minutes - Beehive Inn Until 24 August

Cello on Fire

Celebrated Viennese cellist Peter Hudler returns to the Fringe with his brand-new show Cello on Fire, which effortlessly connects seemingly disparate genres. A cellist whose repertoire has been known to range from Jimi Hendrix’s Little Wing to gems of the Italian Baroque, mingled with contemporary or folk-inspired material, is bound to make for an interesting recital. Hudler embraces different styles as he slaps and strums his cello like a contemporary guitarist: from baroque to rock, folk to jazz – a virtuoso, passionate, poetic and colourful. Cello on Fire will be a journey into different musical worlds, with pieces written by renowned crossover and jazz composers together with Baroque gems and simple folk tunes. From energetic to contemplative, Hudler is a performer who is bound to thrill his audience with his artistry and eclectic repertoire.

50 minutes - at theSpaceTriplex Big Until 24 August