Best of the fest: Critics’ choice at the Edinburgh festivals

Nina Conti is ("entirely subsumed by") Monkey
Nina Conti is ("entirely subsumed by") Monkey
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The Scotsman’s team of critics will review hundreds of shows over the next three weeks – here are their top picks so far

THEATRE

Brexit

*****

Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)

“If satirising Britain’s handling of the Brexit process is like shooting fish in a barrel, the Brexit slays and serves a shoal of fine black cod. It’s Downing Street, 2020, and Prime Minister Adam Masters is still trying to nail down negotiations with Europe.”

TIM CORNWELL

Sparks

****

Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)

“A musical that follows an exhilaratingly open young woman trying to find love and deal with loss in a city – London – where sex is as throwaway as Pret wrappers, dating requires apps, and conversations are all about me, me, me.”

SALLY STOTT

The Bench

****

Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre (Venue 76)

“Sandy is furious to discover someone has disrupted his ‘memorial bench’ to Maggie and instantly blames Joe, an office worker on his break. Both men are destined to go on a shared journey of self-discovery.” 
SALLY STOTT

Flight

****

Summerhall (Venue 26)

“Darkfield’s latest production offers 20 fear-inducing minutes in a faithfully recreated airplane interior. Audience members don headphones before being plunged into darkness”

NIKI BOYLE

On the Exhale

****

Traverse Theatre (Venue 15)

“Earlier this year, after the tragic events in Parkland, Florida, school shootings became perhaps the most intense site of struggle in the whole political landscape of Donald Trump’s America; yet it’s rare to come across any piece of writing that takes us so deeply into the interactions between humans and firearms as Martin Zimmerman’s superb monologue.”

JOYCE MCMILLAN

DANCE

My Land

*****

Assembly Roxy (Venue 139)

“A circus show of profound beauty from Recirquel Company, stripped back, measured and almost ritualistic in its delivery. Each act maintains the electric atmosphere and adds to the drama in unexpected ways.” KELLY APTER

The Artist

****

Assembly Roxy (Venue 139)

“If there’s a difficult way to do something, Thom Monckton will find it. Last time we saw him at the Fringe , he was attempting to play the piano in The Pianist. Now he is trying his hand at oil painting, with equally chaotic results. Every challenge he tackles has a comic pay-off.”

KELLY APTER

COMEDY

The Raymond and Mr Timpkins Revue: Ham

*****

Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)

“More than 20 years after first testing the pelvic floors of an audience past the point of no return, Raymond and Mr Timpkins have come to the Edinburgh Fringe. Their show is, as Freddie would sing, “a kind of magic,” as huge gulping belly laughs are created out of juxtaposing two cardboard letters, mucking about with just the words ME or IT written on a card, and endless, painfully silly, brilliantly misheard song lyrics.”

KATE COPSTICK

Nina Conti is Monkey

****

Underbelly Bristo Square (Venue 302)

“Conti is a woman of, it seems, limitless imagination. She is, for the first half of this absolutely delightful show, entirely subsumed by Monkey. Once her plaything, then the vehicle for her naughty self, then her partner and now... Monkey has taken over.”

KATE COPSTICK

Zoe Lyons: Entry Level Human

****

Gilded Balloon Teviot (Venue 14)

“If you think Zoe Lyons is hilarious behind a panel show desk, just wait till she gets on a live stage. Entry Level Human is a supremely classy piece of comedy writing and Zoe, unplugged as it were, has a charm and a command of a room that you do not get to appreciate on screen.”

KATE COPSTICK

Kieran Hodgson: ‘75

****

Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)

“How do you solve a problem like Brexit? And for dejected Remainers, how do you make it funny? Fortunately, Kieran Hodgson has achieved the near-impossible and made the common market hilarious.”

JAY RICHARDSON

MUSIC

Misha’s Gang

****

The Space @ Surgeon’s Hall (Venue 53)

“Fourteen of Russia’s finest young string players perform pieces written by famous composers while still in their teenage years.”

JIM GILCHRIST

Cello on Fire

****

C too, St Columba’s by the Castle (Venue 4)

“Viennese cellist Peter Hudler’s repertoire ranges from Jimi Hendrix’s Little Wing to gems of the Italian Baroque. An intriguing programme in a fine acoustic space.”

JIM GILCHRIST