Edinburgh Fringe Festival: 28 surefire hit shows

OVER the next three weeks the Scotsman’s critics will review hundreds of brand new Fringe shows. But here are 28 we already know are worth the ticket money

TAM O’SHANTER

What is it? A stage adaptation of Robert Burns’s iconic folk poem.

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Where we saw it: Stirling Castle, 2009.

Where you can see it: Assembly Hall, Mound Place, until 26 August

What we said: “This ambitious venture produces a loud, fascinating and vibrant version of the poem, which not only pays full respect to the rhythms and language of Burns’s original text, but also takes seriously Burns’s final warning to men like Tam, who just can’t grow up.”

JOYCE MCMILLAN

JOHN PEEL’S SHED BY 
JOHN OSBORNE

What is it? Through his collection of John Peel records, Osborne shares his love of radio and music.

Where we saw it: Fringe 2011

Where you can see it: Underbelly, Cowgate, 8-12 August.

What we said: “We crane to hear every word of his beautifully written, funny, and poignant tale of everyday life. We are stuck to our seats, nobody wants the show to end, nobody wants to leave.”

CLAIRE SMITH

KIN

What is it? A powerful play showing the difficulties between middle-aged children and their ageing parents.

Where we saw it: Cumbernauld Theatre, 2011

Where you can see it: The Playhouse on the Fringe, until 27 August.

What we said:“The show is as gentle and caring an exploration of a difficult subject as can be imagined. And the strange thing is that its very gentleness, combined with its visual richness, gradually unleashes a terrific depth of emotion.”

JOYCE MCMILLAN

MACBETH IN SCOTS

What is it? A reimagining of Shakespeare’s Macbeth translated into Scots.

Where we saw it: St Ninian’s Hall, 2012

Where you can see it: St Ninian’s Hall, 6-18 August.

What we said: “The production features a cast of 17, a simple, austere design and a range of performances of great concentration and dignity.”

JOYCE MCMILLAN

SWAMP JUICE

What is it? A mad and creative take on shadow puppetry.

Where we saw it: Fringe 2011.

Where you can see it: Underbelly @ Bristo Square, 14-27 August.

What we said: “From a washing line filled with what appears to be bits of rubbish, Jeff throws together his unusual characters and their offbeat world with all the wry humour and cross-generational appeal of the best kind of animated films.”

SALLY STOTT

PAPERBELLE

What is it? Frozen Charlotte creates a vibrant world of colour for toddlers.

Where we saw it: Church Hill Theatre, 2012.

Where you can see it: Assembly Royal Botanic Garden, 10-27 August.

What we said: “It’s a simple concept, beautifully worked out; and I’ve rarely seen a toddler audience so happy.” 
JOYCE MCMILLAN

HITLER ALONE

What is it? A one-man show portraying the last hour of Hitler’s life.

Where we saw it: Fringe 2007

Where you can see it: Inlingua, 9-23 August.

What we said: “You do ask yourself what drove the actor to want to impersonate the great monster of the 20th century. But it’s undeniable, Webster’s Hitler is chillingly real.”

CLAIRE SMITH

THE IDIOT AT THE WALL

What is it? A chilling and haunting dramatisation of a traditional Scottish ballad.

Where we saw it: Pleasance, 2012

Where you can see it: Bedlam Theatre, until 25 August.

What we said: “The play has some immense assets, not least a confident, gripping dramatic narrative, and a magnificent score of Hebridean song and music.”

JOYCE MCMILLAN

CASABLANCA - THE 
GIN JOINT CUT

What is it? A funny and charming adaptation of Michael Cutiz’s classic film.

Where we saw it: Tron Theatre, Glasgow, 2011.

Where you can see it: Gilded Balloon Teviot, until 27 August.

What we said: “The secret of the show’s success lies in its combination of anarchic stage send-up and real passion for the essence of one of the greatest screen love stories.”

JOYCE MCMILLAN

BUZZCUT

What is it? An ambitious art collective bring a range of unusual and raw performances to the Fringe.

Where we saw it: Old Hairdressers, Glasgow, 2012.

Where you can see it: Summerhall, today and tomorrow.

What we said: “The work ranges from the near-nonsensical to the brilliant; but a glance round the bar on the opening night offers a glimpse of how rich and strange the Buzzcut experience is set to be.”

JOYCE MCMILLAN

BULLET CATCH

What is it? Rob Drummond combines the infamous “bullet catch” illusion with the complex and intriguing story behind the dangerous stunt.

Where we saw it: The Arches, Glasgow, 2009.

Where you can see it: Traverse Theatre, until 26 August.

What we said: “With the help of a dazzling assistant recruited from the audience, Rob Drummond performs weird tricks involving cards and floating tables, and finally prepares to attempt the most daring of all, the trick where the illusionist catches a bullet between his teeth.”

JOYCE MCMILLAN

BELT UP’S THE BOY JAMES

What is it? Inspired by the life of children’s writer JM Barrie, Belt Up return with their dark story of a boy who is forced to grow up.

Where we saw it: Fringe 2010.

Where you can see it: C Venues @ C Nova, until 27 August.

What we said: “Compton is riveting as the boy and his devastated expression, the last thing you will see before being made to leave the room, with stay with you for a long time after.”

SALLY STOTT

BELT UP’S OUTLAND

What is it? A tale of childhood dreams influenced by the life and works of Lewis Carroll.

Where we saw it: Fringe 2011.

Where you can see it: C Venues @ C Nova, until 27 August.

What we said: “The lively script is filled with witticisms that slowly give way to moments of real poignancy as Carroll stares into the abyss of his own mortality.” SALLY STOTT

ANGELS

What is it? A surreal monologue about a suspicious death and the feelings of complicity that follow.

Where we saw it: Oran Mor, Glasgow, 2011.

Where you can see it: Traverse Theatre, until 26 August.

What we said: “Often foul, sometimes heartbreakingly beautiful, and always edged with an almost hallucinatory sharpness of vision, touch and smell.”

JOYCE MCMILLAN

HANGMAN

What is it? A look at crime and punishment through a combination of theatre and contemporary dance.

Where we saw it: Fringe 2007.

Where you can see it: Assembly Roxy, until 27 August.

What we said: “The whole show represents a magnificent masterclass for Festival-goers in what theatre is and can be – a feast of light, beauty and movement for all of the sense, turning theatrical space into a magical field of ideas and dreams.” JOYCE MCMILLAN

THE MAN WHO PLANTED TREES

What is it? A very funny and endearing puppetry production following the lovable “Dog”.

Where we saw it: Fringe 2006.

Where you can see it: Scottish Storytelling Centre, until 14 August.

What we said: “The audience is completely united – everyone laughs at the same gags and everyone falls silent at precisely the same moments when things take a turn for the serious.” ROGER COX

HAIRY MACLARY AND FRIENDS.

What is it? The popular children’s story is adapted into a stage show following a dog’s adventures with live music.

Where we saw it: Howden Park Centre, Livingston, 2011.

Where you can see it: Assembly @ George Square, 12-22 August.

What we said: “There’s some fine use of old-fashioned pantomime tricks to draw the audience into the story, each little yarn told in a jolly, rhythmic song.” JOYCE MCMILLAN

THE TABLE

What is it? A late night puppet show with an interesting and provoking philosophical slant on life.

Where we saw it: Fringe 2011

Where you can see it: Pleasance Courtyard, 11-14 August.

What we said: “Our dextrous man on the tabletop has ambitions to give us ‘an evening of epic puppetry’ and a real-time rendition of the last 12 hours in the life of Moses. Operated bunraku-style by three puppeteers, and throwing in a hilarious lesson in the principles of object manipulation, he manages to find himself repeatedly interrupted in this.”

MARK FISHER

MACBETH: WHO IS THAT BLOODIED MAN?

What is it? A large scale outdoor interpretation of Shakespeare’s play.

Where we saw it: Fringe 2007.

Where you can see it: Old College Quad, until 13 August.

What we said: “There’s a fabulous score, sung live by a soprano perched high on a wind-blown ladder; and there is that visual imagery, mad, wild and beautiful. The sight of eight great stilt-walkers in single file suddenly emerging on to the stage, touched by an eerie blue light, and representing all the generations of kings descended from Banquo, is almost worth the ticket price in itself.” JOYCE MCMILLAN

GOOD WITH PEOPLE

What is it? Tense drama following a man’s return home and the consequence of his relationships. Part of double bill with The Letter of Last Resort.

Where we saw it: Oran Mor, 2010.

Where you can see it: Traverse Theatre, until 26 August.

What we said: “A truly elegant, powerful and purposeful drama about the impact of violence on everyday life. David Harrower acknowledges the connection between violence and sex, making the air between the two characters crackle with more erotic tension than I’ve seen on a Scottish stage in years.” JOYCE MCMILLAN

BEATS

What is it? Engaged and political look at Britain’s culture in the aftermath of Thatcherism.

Where we saw it: The Arches, 2012.

Where you can see it: Traverse Theatre, 14-26 August.

What we said: “Kieran Hurley offers us a memorable glimpse of a fragmenting society where joy and ecstasy – in the original sense – are in short supply, where new town hopes have turned to dust, and where people like Johno’s single mum are tired and defeated at 40.” JOYCE MCMILLAN

BORN TO RUN

What is it? Story of a woman diagnosed with severe epilepsy.

Where we saw it: Oran Mor, Glasgow, 2012.

Where you can see it: Traverse Theatre, 21-26 August.

What we said: “The show is illuminated by a brilliantly charismatic, brave and earthy performance, as Molly Taylor – one of the rising stars of theatre in Scotland – shows us a woman at the limit of human effort, facing the truth that it might now be braver to stop running, and confront the reality of her life.”

JOYCE MCMILLAN