Edinburgh Festival 2018: 13 of the hottest shows to see so far

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Our critics give you the definite guide to what’s hot so far

THEATRE

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

Ulster American (****)

Traverse Theatre (Venue 15)

“David Ireland’s new play explodes on to the stage of the Traverse with all the force of an ill-tempered but witty hurricane. A would-be liberal theatre director and a famous Hollywood actor confront Ruth, a young woman writer from Northern Ireland whose play – featuring a fierce Ulster Loyalist hero – neither of them has read with much respect or real comprehension.” JOYCE MCMILLAN

Class (****)

Traverse Theatre (Venue 15)

“A humane and realistic drama in which working-class parents Brian and Donna roll up at school to talk to the teacher, Mr McCafferty, about their nine-year-old son Jaden, who seems to be having learning difficulties.” JOYCE MCMILLAN

Angry Alan by Penelope Skinner (****)

Underbelly Cowgate (Venue 61)

“Wrapped in inadequacy and failure, Roger finds Angry Alan, a pioneer of the men’s rights movement, on YouTube, a prophet who leads this lost ram to his ‘red pill moment.’ Asks plenty of questions and packs a giant punch.” TIM CORNWELL

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

Taiwan Season: Varhung – Heart to Heart (****)

Dance Base (Venue 22)

“The biggest treat of all at Dance Base currently. Tjimur Dance Theatre uses contemporary choreography to focus on the traditions and cultures of Taiwan’s indigenous people, the Paiwan. Joy, anger, sadness – it’s all there.” KELLY APTER

COMEDY

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

Hal Cruttenden: Chubster (****)

Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)

“Chubster is a great, cuddly, adorable, funbundle of a show. Cruttenden seems perennially, genuinely delighted to be on stage and words tumble out of him in great colourful, enthusiastic explosions.” 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

Lucy Frederick: Even More Naked (****)

Underbelly Bristo Square (Venue 302)

“In this hour to remember, Frederick pulls us through a comedy introduction to her experiences on How To Look Good Naked, her disastrous relationships and the hole in her heart created by the death of her mother. Sometimes the light and shade of the piece switch so fast it’s like a strobe effect. But go with it.” KATE COPSTICK

MUSIC

Misha’s Gang (****)

The Space @ Surgeon’s Hall (Venue 53)

“Take 14 of Russia’s finest young string players and give them a programme of pieces written by famous composers while still in their teenage prodigy years. The Gang simply grab the ball and boy do they run with it!” 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. This is an intriguing programme in a fine acoustic space, and Hudler makes the most of it.” JIM GILCHRIST