Edinburgh Fringe 2018: 18 must-see shows picked by The Scotsman’s critics

Murray Hill: About to Break (Gilded Balloon Teviot, 1-27 August)
Murray Hill: About to Break (Gilded Balloon Teviot, 1-27 August)
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The Scotsman’s team of critics will review hundreds of shows over the next three weeks. As the festivals kick off, we asked them to pick the one thing they are most excited about seeing

Ulster American, Traverse Theatre, until 26 August

Ulster American by David Ireland at the Traverse

Ulster American by David Ireland at the Traverse

Northern Irish playwright David Ireland’s sensational post-Troubles drama Cyprus Avenue made him the talk of the town from Dublin to New York; and now he tackles the fraught subject of Northern Irish identities again in Ulster American, his fiercely topical new play about a young Belfast writer in ­America, directed by brilliant Traverse ­associate Gareth Nicholls. JOYCE MCMILLAN

Square Go, Summerhall, until 26 August

Kieran Hurley and Gary McNair are two of Scotland’s most original theatremakers, and their Square Go – about an arranged fight at the school gates – promises to ­examine the difficulties of maleness with humour. The presence of members of Frightened Rabbit on the sound­track adds inevitable poignancy. DAVID POLLACK

Tabarnak, Underbelly’s Circus Hub, until 25 August

Cirque  Alfonse in Tararnak at the Underbelly Circus  Hub

Cirque Alfonse in Tararnak at the Underbelly Circus Hub

In 2015, Cirque Alfonse’s show ­Barbu lured me back no fewer than four times. I even found myself lurking outside just to listen to the music. Luckily, they didn’t take out a restraining order. Now they’re here with Tabarnak and I’m clearing a few dates in my diary. KELLY APTER

Robert Levin: Sonatas by Mozart, Queen’s Hall, 16 August

When Mozart performed his music, I doubt he kept to the notes on the page. Why would a genius do that, when new ideas were reeling in his brain 24/7? American fortepianist Robert Levin plays his Mozart with that in mind. The music is just a blueprint. Gotta hear! KEN WALTON

Russell Hicks: A Fist Full of Ideas, Laughing Horse @ City Cafe, until 26 August AND Russell Hicks: Love Song for the Viciously Ambitious, Laughing Horse @ The Free Sisters, until 26 August

Comedian Russell Hicks

Comedian Russell Hicks

Someone I’m looking forward to catching is the freewheeling Russell Hicks, the first comic I’ve seen in years to challenge Phil Kay for capricious, improvised mischief. Not everything will be lightning in a bottle. But when he’s reading the room right, the American astonishes. JAY RICHARDSON

Liz the Musical, TheSpace on North Bridge, 13-25 August

Liz the Musical, about Elizabeth I, seems to embody much of the ­original spirit of the Fringe. I met the music director at his grannie’s 80th birthday party and he was so ­genuinely enthusiastic about ­coming to Edinburgh to do the show. The cast are young, energetic and of a very high standard. CAROL MAIN

Silence, Pleasance at EICC, until 26 August

In 1995, Teatr Biuro Podrozy showed up in the playground of Drummond Community High School with ­Carmen Funebre, a frightening evocation of war in Bosnia. Now, the Polish company turns its attention to the plight of post-conflict ­refugees in Silence. Expect stilt walking, masks and pyrotechnics. MARK FISHER

Martyn Bennett’s Bothy Culture, Playhouse, 21 August

The gobsmacking, untameable Grit Orchestra are a must-see/hear. This massed ensemble of the ­finest ­Scottish classical, folk and jazz musicians perform conductor Greg Lawson’s life-affirming orchestral arrangement of trailblazing piper Martyn Bennett’s Bothy Culture album as part of the EIF Light on the Shore programme. FIONA SHEPHERD

Simon Evans: Genius 2.0, Assembly George Square Studios, until 26 August AND Jessie Cave: sunrise, The Stand Comedy Club 3&4, until 26 August

2018’s Fringe brochure is like the menu in a slightly self-satisfied, trendy restaurant full of all the buzz “plats de nos jours”. Two polar opposite offerings excite, however. Simon Evans: Genius 2.0 promises another incisive, intelligent, accomplished hour to remind us why never to dismiss the classic dishes in favour of a fad. Jessie Cave makes comedy magic. I have no idea how she does it, but with seemingly mundane ingredients she makes your funny bones dance. KATE COPSTICK

The Shallow Entertainment Tour, Underbelly Bristo Square, until 26 August

Last year I discovered Jonas Müller was Tim Honnef. Or was he? I’m still not certain. His show was so funny, strange and difficult to write about, I hoped he’d do another one. Now he has: The Shallow Entertainment Tour. It’s about “fake” reality. Look forward to not seeing you not seeing me there. SALLY STOTT

An Evening With Miss Wong, Assembly Rooms, until 26 August

As a big fan of the annual silent film festival at Bo’ness’ fabulous Art Deco Hippodrome, I’m hugely intrigued by An Evening With Miss Wong. It’s the story of Anna May Wong, laundry girl turned Hollywood star – yet she wasn’t allowed to kiss her leading men. MARTIN GRAY

Siegfried, Usher Hall, 8 August

Those meddling gods will be at it again in Siegfried, the next thrilling instalment of Wagner’s operatic soap, and I can’t wait. With the Hallé and a stellar line-up of vocal powerhouses – Simon O’Neill, Christine Goerke and Iain Paterson – who needs sets and costumes? Book now! On a lower note, as a violinist in the Really Terrible Orchestra (St Mary’s Cathedral, 11 August) I want to see our guest conductor, Simon Callow, channel Wagner. Using the composer’s own baton, the actor will steer us through Ride of the Valkyries from Wagner’s Ring Cycle. Think Apocalypse Now… SUSAN NICKALLS

Goblin Perform Suspiria (Live), Summerhall, 5-6 August

The show I’m most looking forward to is a screening of Dario Argento’s 1977 horror classic Suspiria with soundtrack performed live by original composer Claudio Simonetti and his band Goblin. Suspiria’s thunderously innovative score is essential to its impact and is best turned up to 11. RORY FORD

Murray Hill: About to Break, Gilded Balloon Teviot, until 27 August

Drag king performance is so hot right now and, this year, a master of the form makes his Fringe debut in Murray Hill: About to Break. A genuine New York nightlife legend, Murray combines old-school Catskill-entertainer chops with sharp-tongued satire and romantic tales of woe. BEN WALTERS

Pussy Riot: Riot Days, Summerhall from 10-19 August

Pussy Riot: Riot Days features Maria Alyonkhina, one of three Russian women imprisoned for anti Putin protests in 2012. A combination of punk music, theatre and protest this will be a call to act against oppression. As Alyonkhina says: “Anyone can be in Pussy Riot.” CLAIRE SMITH

Messiaen’s Des canyons aux étoiles, Usher Hall, 22 August

Messiaen’s Des canyons aux étoiles… is truly a thing of wonder, a mystical masterpiece full of chattering birdsong, dazzling colours, interstellar communication and awe-filled musical evocations of the canyons of Utah, which inspired it. It’s an all-consuming experience, as outlandish as it is full of naive wonder – and its International Festival performance could hardly be more authentic, with Messiaen acolyte Pierre-Laurent Aimard as piano soloist. DAVID KETTLE

The End of Eddy, Edinburgh Festival Theatre Studio, 21-26 August

Édouard Louis’s harrowing autobiographical novel The End of Eddy about growing up gay in rural France reads like it should have happened in the 1970s, not the 2000s. Now it’s being adapted for the stage by Stewart Laing, one of the most interesting theatre makers to be denied permanent funding in Scotland, and his long-term collaborator Pamela Carter. A fresh, urgent reminder that we’re not as tolerant as we think. SUSAN MANSFIELD

Drenched, Pleasance Courtyard, until 27 August

Drenched, a one- man comedy piece referencing the Cornish legend of the mermaid of Zennor – a tale first recorded by folklorist William Bottrell in 1873 – is the story of Daniel Drench, unstable Cornish storyteller. Zennor, just along from St Ives, is rich in atmosphere: witches, mermaids, stormy cliffs, and the place DH Lawrence wrote Women in Love. I’ll go just for a taste of Cornish sea air. TIM CORNWELL