Today, Thursday 08 June, the Fringe Society is delighted to launch the official 2023 Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme. The programme celebrates the diverse selection of work at the Fringe, spanning the genres of theatre, dance, circus, physical theatre, comedy, music, musicals, opera, cabaret, variety, children’s shows, spoken word, exhibitions and events.
The theme for this year’s programme cover and the wider Fringe marketing campaign is Fill Yer Boots, which is defined by the Collins English Dictionary as a phrase meaning, ‘to get as much of something valuable or desirable as you can’ – a message that encapsulates the unrivalled range and diversity of the incredible shows on offer at the Fringe.
This year’s programme features work across 3,013 shows, with themes tackling some of the most topical issues in the world today, from the NHS to mental health, gender and gender identity, neurodiversity, race and racial identity, politics, class and climate action. This year’s festival brings together performers from across the globe; from homegrown talent to international artists – brand new and established acts alike.
There has never been a more important time to support those at the very heart of the festival – the artists themselves. The Fringe is recognised as one of the most important cultural events on the planet, with performers from 68 countries appearing in venues across Edinburgh this August. This is a key moment to support them by going to see work across the variety of genres.
Launching the 2023 Fringe programme, Shona McCarthy, Chief Executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, said: ‘Getting the programme out into the world is such an important moment for everyone involved in the Fringe, and most of all for the thousands of artists coming to Edinburgh this August. The ideas, originality and passion that performers bring to Fringe stages every year is testament to the role that Edinburgh plays in celebrating and promoting their work to the world. The Fringe ‘23 programme is bursting with every kind of live performance, so whether theatre premieres are your thing, or the best of live comedy, street arts or circus, jump straight in and Fill Yer Boots with as much as you can.
‘To all the artists, venues, workers, technicians, promoters and support staff, thank you for making it happen, we wish you a wonderful Fringe. To Edinburgh’s local business community, we thank you for your continued support, and to Edinburgh and Scotland’s residents who come out in their thousands, and all our Fringe-goers who keep this phenomenal event relevant and sustained by coming to see the work, we can’t wait to explore the Fringe programme with you this August.’
The platform for career development that the Fringe offers to artists can be transformational, and many participate in the festival with the desire to be seen, to be recognised for their work, and to benefit from areas such as onward touring or broadcast opportunities. This August marks the 10th anniversary of that moment for Fringe Society President Phoebe Waller-Bridge, whose Fringe show Fleabag debuted in August 2013.
With first-hand experience of the importance of the Fringe, Phoebe said: ‘I am so proud to continue to be a part of this phenomenal event, 10 years after Fleabag premiered there. This programme will hit the Fringe with the creative wildness, political provocation and huge cultural impact that the festival delivers year after year, at a time when we need it most. We need help processing what the hell is going on in the world as well as being treated with the imaginative escape that only the immersive experience of the Fringe can provide. Whether your appetite is for theatre, dance, music, circus or street performing, August in Edinburgh will have it all. The only thing it needs now, is YOU!’
NEW SHOW ADDITIONS
A handful of new shows have been added to the programme since the most recent batch was revealed on Thursday 11 May.
The Scottish Storytelling Centre have added more than 20 new shows across their theatre, music, spoken word and children’s strands, including a Fringe edition of the venue’s bimonthly Queer Folks’ Tales session (p 236), hosted by Turan Ali and sharing ‘stories of LGBTQ+ lives past, present and future’, and Grow (p 36), a mix of dancing, clowning and storytelling for 0–5-year-olds from theatre-maker Niall Moorjani.
NASSIM (p 290), from Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour (White Rabbit Red Rabbit) is one of nine additions at the Traverse Theatre, as is Sean and Daro Flake It ‘Til They Make It (p 302), ‘a warm journey across Scotland as two friends discover what it takes to survive in the chilly world of cold confectionary’.
ZOO have added around 30 new shows for programme launch; among them are Funeral (p 266) by Ontroerend Goed, ‘a collective ritual about the finiteness of things’, and Climb (p 189), a selection of stories and songs from Jamaican-Canadian singer/songwriter Duane Forrest. The ZOOTV online programme includes Aionos (p 241), ‘an African-Futurist mixed-reality production where Ancient Egypt meets Star Wars’, and Sneakpeek: Shadow Game (p 305), a ‘real-time digital documentary’ in which a young man fleeing the Taliban attempts to cross the Bosnian border.
At theSpaceUK, Lies All The Way Down: A New Chamber Musical (p 224) is ‘a psychological thriller exploring intimacy and potential in a contemporary-folk setting’.
KEY THEMES IN 2023
A recipient of the Keep it Fringe fund, Best in Class (Laughing Horse, p 61) ‘champions the rich talent of working-class comedians… featuring a mixed bill of the very best new comic voices’. A Leftie’s Guide to Why Everyone Hates Lefties (Just the Tonic, p 108) attempts ‘to find common ground in an incredibly volatile period in British politics where no one knows how it’s going to end, potentially in a ridiculous culture war in which everyone suffers with rising inequality while we complain about what Gary Lineker or Katie Hopkins says’. Tones: A Hip-Hop Opera (Pleasance, p 312) ‘combines the gritty underground sounds of hip hop, grime, drill and the melodrama of opera, into a piece of gig theatre like no other’.
Hive (Assembly, p 272) is a new queer, weird fiction play about housing insecurity, displacement and corporate development’. Online, Luck Court: Exclusive Screening of Sitcom Pilot (p 110) ‘is a 25-minute sitcom pilot about a working-class woman in her 40s who has been recently divorced and left with nothing’. In Paved with Gold and Ashes(Greenside, p 295), ‘five young women battle poverty, capitalism, unfair working conditions, and – on one fateful morning in March – one of the deadliest workplace disasters in US history’. And ‘writer/performer Jenny Witzel tells her story of living on a boat in an “up-and-coming” neighbourhood in South-East London’ in CREEKSHOW (ZOO, p 257).
‘Class war meets climate emergency satire’ in Brief Candle (theSpaceUK, p 250), which takes place in ‘a labyrinth of pitch-dark vaults, housing the downtrodden and hiding a criminal underworld’ in Regency Edinburgh. Chance(Paradise Green, p 254) ‘follows Aaron, who’s just been excluded from mainstream school… and his childhood friend, Eva, who Aaron never ceases to amaze with the situations he finds himself in’. Comedian Mark Thomas stars in England & Son (ROUNDABOUT @ Summerhall, p 262), ‘a kaleidoscopic odyssey where disaster capitalism, empire, stolen youth and stolen wealth merge into the simple tale of a working-class boy who just wants his dad to smile at him’. Meanwhile, ‘flitting between romantic obsession and botanical description’, I Hope Your Flowers Bloom (Scottish Storytelling Centre, p 275) ‘offers a raw, moving and genuinely humorous exploration of healthy masculinity, self-worth and working-class access to nature’ as part of the Made in Scotland Showcase.
Endless Sunset Oblivion (Just the Tonic, p 191) ‘tells the story of Reuben – a young songwriter attempting to combat the accelerated problems the world is facing’ using ‘a compelling blend of live music and life-affirming, often humorous storytelling’. In 3,300 Miles: New Jersey to Edinburgh – A Transatlantic Songwriters’ Circle (Acoustic Music Centre @ UCC, p 178), ‘songwriting performers Dan Sheehan (USA), Seán McLaughlin and Fifidiny (Scotland) perform and tell the stories behind their songs in a song-circle setup, taking turns while onstage together’.
‘Multimedia comedian Ted Hill unsuccessfully tries in several silly ways to fix humanity’s greatest problem’ in Ted Hill: Tries and Fails to Fix Climate Change (Assembly, p 147). In Stuart Goldsmith: Spoilers (Monkey BarrelComedy, p x145x), the ‘hilarious, hopeful, and vaguely educational’ stand-up ‘is terrified of the climate crisis, but no-one he knows ever mentions it, so it must be fine’. ‘The climate emergency, Net-Zero and soaring energy prices are the driving factors’ behind the Green Home Festival (The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Scotland Office, p 171).
An Ice Thing to Say (Greenside, p 160) ‘blends ice installation, music and physical theatre to explore our impact on nature’. The Song of the Ice (artSpace@StMarks, p 160) is based on ‘climate signals, ice quakes and earth history from leading polar scientists – inspiring innovative new music, animation and beautiful images, combined to tell the story of the life of the Antarctic ice sheet’.
‘Created and performed by two of the UK’s leading young storytellers,’ Hear Us and Hasten (Scottish Storytelling Centre, p 270) ‘is an upfront reckoning with climate fragility and the narratives, both old and new, which so easily cast young bodies into the jaws of waiting beasts’. Performer Celeste Lecesne ‘weaves the legend of fairies and their magical ability to survive with the world history of repression’ in Poof! (Gilded Balloon, p 296). Joanne Tremarco and Maral: Mother Earth (The Oldest Stripper) is an ‘interdisciplinary BSL-integrated show, blending clown, burlesque, puppetry, live film’ at BlundaGardens (p 23).
‘Set in an abandoned petrol station in 7100, a descendant of petrol station mascots Esso and Shell embarks on a journey to find traces of their ancestors from 2100’ in Tanken (C venues, p 167). ‘In a multimedia performance examining the construction of messages and failures of communication,’ PLEASE LEAVE (a message) (Underbelly, p 296) will ‘attempt to articulate a danger 10,000 years into the future’. Twenty People A Minute (theSpaceUK, p 313) explores ‘the impact of global social, political, and environmental crisis on the individual, exploring what it could be like if you were forced to leave your home’. And Certain Death and Other Considerations (ZOO, p 254) is a ‘devised dark comedy’ which ‘follows two couples (and a surrogate) as they prepare to welcome new life into a dying world’.
‘Collaborators transform a swimming pool into a unique immersive environment in which to explore the essential character of water, its universal presence, and the importance of collective action in achieving climate justice’ in Horizon Showcase: Bodies (Summerhall @ Deans Community High School, p 171). ‘Part letter project, part sound project, and part city-wide planting project’, 1000 Miniature Meadows (Pleasance, p 240) is ‘an invite to step into nature and to listen to what it has to say’.
Sophie (Just the Tonic, p 306), a recipient of the Keep it Fringe fund, ‘is an autobiographical one-woman show that transports its audience back to the 90s, as we watch Emily navigate her way through womanhood and sisterhood with Sophie, who lives with Down syndrome’. Awake and Narcoleptic with Sarah Albritton(theSpaceUK, p 59) is a ‘raw, funny, and poignant solo show from narcoleptic comedian Sarah Albritton, host of the podcast Sleeping with Sarah’. Elf and Duffy: Heist (Monkey Barrel Comedy, p 80) is ‘a hysterically funny physical show with Visual Vernacular (VV), conducted in British Sign Language with some very violent live sound foley’. Cabaret in the Dark (C venues, p 16) ‘plunges the audience into darkness, allowing them to step into the shoes of their hosts, VICS, a collective of visually impaired artists from a variety of performing disciplines’. And Take The Bins Out(Greenside, p 308) ‘is a dark comedy, telling the story of Finley Whitmore, whose congenital eye disorder wreaks havoc on his professional and personal life… [and] stars TikTok Sensation Milo Mooney (@milomooner), a visually impaired actor in the title role’.
Another Keep it Fringe fund recipient is Fat, Femme and Crippled (Laughing Horse, p 83); in it, ‘Alex [uses] their experience as a non-verbal queer person to educate, captivate, but most of all titillate their audiences as they demonstrate that disabled people are just as filthy and capable of making the same bad life choices as everyone else’. It’s a Motherf**king Pleasure (Underbelly, p 277) by disability-led theatre company FlawBored is ‘a scathing satire on the monetisation of identity politics that spares no one’. Blue Badge Bunch: ReRamped (Pleasance, p 32) is ‘a hilarious, interactive game show where each game represents a different disability, giving kids and grown-ups the chance to learn about autism and cerebral palsy among others’. And Horizon Showcase: A Crash Course in Cloudspotting(Summerhall, p 272) is ‘an intimate audio-sensory journey exploring the depths of human connection and the subversive act of lying down’, featuring ‘over 300 stories from people living with invisible disabilities and chronic illnesses about their attempts to rest in public’.
In addition to more than 116 listings in the Children’s Shows category, there are family-friendly productions threaded throughout the 2023 Fringe programme.
‘A willow tree, fiery acrobatics and dance feature in’ Forests (C venues, p 159), a Keep it Fringe funding recipient that ‘packs a powerful punch, challenging forestry practices, our over-consumption of timber, the destruction of rainforests, and the displacement of indigenous peoples’. Chrissie and the Skiddle Witch: A Climate Change Musical (Greenside, p 220) offers a ‘unique blend of storytelling, science and songs in this warm and funny show about a family trying to adapt to a changing world’. In Shadow Kingdom (Assembly, p 303), ‘four hundred shadow puppets are used to create a live animated movie’. Klouns Theatre Company presents An Act of Seven Ages (Paradise Green, p 155) in which ‘each isolated vignette focuses on a multitude of attitudes, relationships and influences that plague us, encourage, drive us, scare us, embrace us and guide us through this shared experience we unanimously call life’. And the ‘2022 Fringe Korean Showcase five-star rated Trunk Theatre Project is back’ with Blub Blub (Summerhall, p 247), ‘a story about two fish chaotically cohabitating in an aquarium’.
Another recipient of the Keep it Fringe fund, Serious Nonsense (for Terribly Grown-Up People) (PBH’s Free Fringe, p 236) features ‘energetic rhymes, masterful storytelling and laugh-out-loud moments’ for fans of Roald Dahl, David Walliams or Spike Milligan. Circus Abyssinia: Tulu (Underbelly’s Circus Hub on the Meadows, p 157) ‘blends breathtaking contortion, awe-inspiring acrobatics and mesmerising fire juggling with a rocking, exuberant soundtrack’ in tribute to ‘an Ethiopian icon, Derartu Tulu, the first African woman to win Olympic gold’. ‘Stars of UK and Australian fringes take you on an award-winning improvised romp through the underworld of Victorian Britain, packed with shady villains, red herrings and the brilliant deductions of London’s greatest detective’ in Adventures of the Improvised Sherlock Holmes (Just the Tonic, p 49). And JezO’s Car-Crash Magic Show(Gilded Balloon, p 23) is a show that offers an ‘unusual blend of comedy, audience participation and magic will include moments of danger, crazy hilarity, original illusions and JezO’s unique view of today’s ever-changing universe’.
‘Featuring West End performers,’ A Spoonful of Songs (Palmerston Place Church, p 212) ‘will take you on a journey through some of the most iconic songs from films like Mary Poppins, Aladdin, Toy Story and The Prince of Egypt’. 15 Years (artSpace@StMarks, p 14) is ‘a variety show performed by the students from The Performance Academy Scotland to celebrate our 15th anniversary,’ covering ‘musical theatre, drama, dance and song’. The No Strings Attached Wind Band (Broughton St Mary’s Parish Church, p 202) features a ‘variety of music including musical theatre, movie themes, swing, and popular songs for all the family’. In Travel with Song! (Canongate Kirk, p 214), two choirs – the Voices of Derby and Derby City Singers – perform a programme that ‘travels through time and space, with music from Europe and the states, covering six centuries of choral development’. The Perth Youth Orchestra ‘raises help to support the purchase of instruments and musical scores, as well as the services of its conductor and instrumental tutors at rehearsals and concerts’ – catch them at their Autumn Concert (Greyfriars Kirk, p 204). ‘Celebrating 100 years since the iconic Disney title sequence first graced our screens, award-winning international vocal ensemble Octavoce present a whirlwind a cappella trip through our favourite Disney tunes’ in 100 Years of Disney (Leith Arches, p 178). Marchmont Music (Marchmont St Giles Church, p 200) offers ‘a series of free afternoon concerts… throughout the festival from up-and-coming young musicians’. Edinburgh Renaissance Band’s Viol Rackett Show (St Cecilia’s Hall, p 191) features performances on ‘a large range of period instruments, including shawms, cornetti, sackbuts, nakers, crumhorns, viols, fiddles, gemshorns, bells, bagpipes, racketts and a serpent’.
In Tickbox 2 (Pleasance, p 311), ‘actress-comedian Lubna Kerr explores… the lived experience of growing up as a person of colour in Scotland’, while in Arguments! The Comedy Debate Show (Laughing Horse, p 56), ‘master debater Donal Vaughan pits two comedians against each other (and the audience) to resolve a multitude of great arguments’. Oriental Youth Culture and Art Week (Ashton Hall, Saint Stephens Stockbridge, p 163) is ‘a children’s art show with the theme of Impressions of the East and the core of eastern culture, including youth song and dance performances, instrumental performances, theatrical performances, and creative expression of picture books and paintings’. Soup Group: Art Show! (Monkey Barrel Comedy, p 143) ‘explores the joy of creativity in a ridiculous mess of movement and play’.
Gender and gender identity
In Deaf Action Presents: Red Aphrodite by Amy Murray (Deaf Action, p 259), the star of Netflix’s The Witcher: Blood Origin aims ‘to break down all the taboos about womanhood’ while using British Sign Language. Following jokes about ‘being mistaken for teenage boys’, musical comedy duo Shelf present Teenage Men (PBH’s Free Fringe, p 139), featuring ‘anecdotes, songs, jokes about performing for kids, the Instagram algorithm, confronting your toxicity, and more’. In Kathleen Hughes: One of the Girls (WIP) (Scottish Comedy Festival, p 104), the ‘queer feminist and bloody lefty’ asks ‘what does it mean to be an independent woman?’ Grief Lightning: A Satire in 78 Slides (Summerhall, p 269) is ‘part theatre, part stand-up, part PowerPoint Presentation’ exploring ‘ideas of gender, pop culture and obsession, unpacking the iconic film’ Grease ‘with the intellectual rigor and chaotic scrutiny it righteously deserves’.
The ‘candid and comical tale’ of Nancy: On Drag (BlundaGardens, p 26) presents ‘a taste of Berlin’s queer scene, and a peek into their impression about what is drag’. In Fierce (Greenside, p 221), ‘Wollstonecraft, Ginsburg, Anning, Kahlo, O’Malley, King and Lovelace set out to tell their stories, their way, without apology for their outstanding achievements… If you liked Six, then you will love Fierce’.
A Shark Ate My Penis: A History of Boys Like Me (Gilded Balloon, p 139) is ‘a one-person musical about the history of trans men and his own transition’. 52 Monologues for Young Transsexuals (Pleasance, p 239) is ‘a fever dream of hilarious and gut-wrenching confession’, asking ‘what’s the worst thing that’s ever made you feel like a woman?’. My Dad Wears a Dress (Underbelly, p 289) is ‘a one-woman show about growing up with a trans female parent. Brimming with life and sincerity, the play challenges a world of heteronormative values.’ Ben Hodge: It’s a Boy? (WIP), (Laughing Horse, p 60) explores ‘themes of gender expression and trans masculinity in relation to growing up in a world where his transgender identity was sought out through Yorkie bars and Closer magazine.’
Big Cuck, Little Cuck (Just the Tonic, p 62) is ‘a 60-minute exploration of the perils of toxic masculinity, the merits of leaf blowers on the beach and the similarities between ageing men and gone-off yoghurt’. Meanwhile, The Alpha Podcast (theSpaceUK, p 242) is ‘a satirical, verbatim piece of theatre explores contemporary anti-feminist discourse, covering topics from incel culture to male feminists, and everything in between’.
A recipient of the Keep it Fringe fund, Baklâ(Summerhall, p 156) is ‘a daring one-person physical-theatre show about how intergenerational trauma takes shape in the modern Filipino’. Becoming Chavela(theSpaceUK, p 15) is ‘an award-winning cabaret performance of the life and music of legendary queer Mexican singer Chavela Vargas’ and ‘her key relationships with Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Liz Taylor and Pedro Almodovar’. Blossoming (You Undo Me)(Gilded Balloon, p 219) is ‘a straightforward one-person musical about a young Chinese man growing into his queerness’ and ‘reflects a coming-of-age tale, an immigrant’s journey, a chronicle of one family’s changing dynamics, and a sexual awakening.’ An Asian Queer Story: Coming Out to Dead People (Just the Tonic, p 57) is ‘a dark, hilarious, and heartfelt coming-of-age solo show’ from US comedian Ricky Sim, who ‘wrestles with the decision of coming out of the closet to his traditional Chinese-Malaysian mother just as she is diagnosed with cancer’. And Avital Ash Workshops Her Suicide Note (Monkey Barrel Comedy, p 59) ‘explores growing up a Hasidic Jew, depression, queer identity, and generational Holocaust trauma, all while being hilarious’.
In Oasissy: Don’t Look Back in Anger (BlundaGardens, p 27), you’re invited to ‘slip’n’slide inside a rock’n’roll fantasy party of joy, chaos and catharsis as genderqueer drag-clowns’. Drag Queen Wine Tasting (DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Edinburgh City Centre, p 20) invites you to ‘join internationally ignored superstar, Vanity von Glow, and wine expert, Beth Brickenden, to taste through three delicious wines with dashes of mischief, dollops humour and splashes of glamour’. Leather Lungs: Higher Love (House of Oz, p 25) brings ‘the queen of falsetto and stiletto… storming into Edinburgh, revealing all with a heart-stopping four-octave vocal range in a brand-new sensual celebration of all things liberation, exploration and vocal freakin’ sensation’. Lawrence Chaney – Overweight and OVER IT! (Ian McKellen Theatre, Saint Stephens Stockbridge, p 108) features ‘the first plus-size winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK’ talking about ‘everything from dating and exercise to having to buy two seats on a plane but only getting one meal’. Alphabet Soup – Serving Hot LGBTQIA+ Comedy Brunch (Le Monde, p 53) is ‘hosted by world’s first hermaphrodite comic 7G and hilarious bisexual baddie Alyssa Poteet’, and offers ‘world-class comedians, drag performers, prizes, craft cocktails, big-name VIPs and the best rising star drop-ins from the Fringe’, while Paradise Palms Late-Night Cabaret (Paradise Palms, p 27) ‘returns with the usual intoxicated blend of raucous stage antics, cocktails and beautifully behaved rowdiness’.
In Robin Tran: Don’t Look at Me (Assembly, p 133) the ‘Asian transgender lesbian’ comedian offers her ‘musings on gender, the Vietnam War and her struggles with depression’ – ‘but don’t worry, she’s still funny’. Kate Hammer: Wide Set (Scottish Comedy Festival, p 102) is all about ‘being a weird lady with the heart of a lad and the wide-set V of a majestic fjord (but more photogenic)’. Becky Fury: Identity (Laughing Horse, p 59) is ‘a left-wing love letter to being queer-ish, mixed race-ish and British-ish’. Horizon Showcase: TOM (ZOO, p 160) is ‘a vertigo-inducing pop-culture collision of working class and queer expression’ from ‘music-duo and dance company Bullyache’. Over at Pleasance, ‘queer, non-binary class-straddler’ Jodie Mitchell is Becoming John Travulva (p 100).
‘Storyteller Niall Moorjani (Mohan: A Partition Story) reimagines the folk classic Thomas the Rhymer in an evening of strangeness, sexy fairies and swearing’ in A Fairie Tale (Scottish Storytelling Centre, p 263), while Tickle (C venues, p 263) is a new musical comedy following two lads as they enter ‘the bizarre world of competitive endurance tickling’.
’78 Things I Don’t Want to Tell You About the Love of My Life (Outhouse, p 240) is ‘a heartbreaking story of love, laughter and loss’ set against the backdrop of ‘the world’s most glamorous Pride parade’: the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Burnt Lavender (Greenside, p 251), is ‘a kaleidoscopic exploration of conversion therapy, love and power… inspired by the clubs and bars of the Pride movement, from Berlin’s notorious Eldorado to the Royal Vauxhall Tavern.’
Two different musicals explore the story of Enigma codebreaker Alan Turing this August. Alan Turing – Guilty of Love (Hill Street Theatre, p 216) ‘delves into Turing’s youthful love of Christopher Morcom and how this shaped his life and work, while Alan Turing – A Musical Biography (Paradise Green, p 216) ‘takes us on a journey through the loss of his closest friend, his romance with a fellow worker, the moment he realises how to beat the Germans and the growing awareness of his homosexuality’. After The Act (A Section 28 Musical) (Traverse Theatre, p 216) is ‘a new musical about pride, protest… and abseiling lesbians’ inspired by the repeal of ‘the landmark legislation that silenced a generation and offered a global blueprint for LGBTQ+ oppression’.
No One Is Coming (Scottish Storytelling Centre, p 291) is ‘an award-winning storytelling performance about a mother and daughter, based on real-life events and encompassing elements of Irish folklore,’ while Oat Milk & Honey (Summerhall, p 163) ‘is an avant-garde blend of poetic live music and breathtaking acrobatics performed by two of Australia’s leading performing artists, elegantly reflecting on the raw human experience of anxiety.’
Persephone and the Ghost Brother(theSpaceUK, p 204) ‘is a dark and immersive visual music experience which explores themes of mental health, sexuality and religious brainwashing.’ Kissing a Fool (Frankenstein Pub, p 24) ‘is a queer clown-cabaret musical tribute to George Michael’ and ‘a mischievous enquiry into the effect of toxic media cultures, queer mental health and the tragedy of alienation in an interconnected world.’ And Scottish Meditation Orchestra – Piano Meditations (Canongate Kirk, p 209) explores ‘the connection between music, meditation and mental health with live orchestra, piano, tea ceremonies, bells and guided meditations’.
In MADE IN AMERICA (Gilded Balloon, p 111), Japanese-born artist Teruko Nakajima ‘shines a necessary light on the tragedies of domestic violence, mental health, child abuse, sexual assault and suicide’ but ‘ultimately provides inspiration to anyone who suffers and needs help.’ Keroseno and Finito: Cock O’Clock (Laughing Horse, p 104) is a ‘transgressive tragicomedy that follows LGBT+ siblings Keroseno and Finito in their fight for suicide prevention and the search for their true identity.’ In Stephen Mullan: Yeah, Yeah, Yeah! (Assembly, p 144), ‘sensitive Stevo is on an adventure of self-discovery to find out what love is, with a therapist who thinks his “head must be broken”’.
VESSEL (Greenside, p 315) ‘is a new, quasi-verbatim anthology by Grace Olusola that tackles our increased, post-lockdown awareness of food and body image issues’. Bipolar Badass (Paradise Green, p 63) is ‘a one-woman show by Mari (like calamari) Crawford about the humour behind struggling with the illness.’ In Sophie Santos… is Codependent (Underbelly, p 142), ‘Sophie and OCD travel together toward Sophie’s new life, often butting heads, as Sophie learns to love being alone.’ In Aalex Mandel-Dallal: Break It Down (with Friends) (Just the Tonic, p 46), Aalex ‘plays out, overshares and guides you through her lockdown breakdown, shedding light on the shit she’s learnt so we can assess the “situation” together.’ And ‘Andrea, a high school senior, fights through the daunting US college application process’ in Acceptance Pending (Stockbridge Church, p 216), experiencing ‘the mental-health strain that affects so many students’.
Alexander Klaus, the One-Legged Shoemaker Man (PBH’s Free Fringe, p 241), follows ‘a one-legged kid with PTSD in Manhattan’ following the American Civil War. Meanwhile, in How to Bury a Dead Mule (Pleasance, p 274), ‘the sanity of war becomes the insanity of domesticity as a broken man tries to reconnect with his family after the horrors of WW2.’
National health services
NHS doctor, stand-up comedian and Keep it Fringe funding recipient Matt Hutchinson is asking pointed questions in his show Hostile(Assembly, p 115), including: ‘how hostile is the environment in Britain? Who is welcome here? What does it mean to “integrate”?’ Adam Kay: Undoctored – This is Going to Hurt… More(Pleasance, p 48) ‘continues from This is Going to Hurt, leaving audiences laughing and crying with Adam’s tales of life on and off the wards.’ And Stefania Licari: Medico (Underbelly, p 144) is ‘a hilarious journey into the world of medicine, immigration and what it means to be a female Italian doctor in the UK’.
Exploring suicide and mental illness from the perspective of a GP, crackers (The Royal Scots Club, p 257) is ‘a darkly funny reflection on our society’s struggle to deal with broken heads.’ Tending (Greenside, p 309) is ‘the first play to use verbatim theatre to reveal the inner lives of nurses working in the NHS today.’ And Burned Out (theSpaceUK, p 250) ‘follows a nurse who is barely making ends meet’ in a show that proves ‘our NHS is more than worth fighting for’.
I’ve Got Some Things To Get Off My Chest (Gilded Balloon, p 278) is ‘a perceptive, funny and sometimes brutally honest look at the failings of forever underfunded female healthcare, the endless minefield of female bodies simply existing and how hard it is to have big boobs – seriously it is!’
In Don Biswas – The Revolution Will Be Disorganised (Gilded Balloon, p 77), ‘Don looks at politics through the lens of dyspraxia and autism. The show takes a passionate – if uncoordinated – stab at the big issues: from the cost-of-living crisis to conspiracy theories.’ Meanwhile, Colin Etches: Attention Deficit (Just the Tonic, p 70) ‘provides insight into the peculiar existence of a 44-year-old human male, adoptee, parent and grandparent with ADHD, dyspraxia and autism.’
Performer Philippa Dawson invites audiences to ‘step into the world of neurodivergence with Pip and experience a captivating journey through her life with ADHD’ in Character Flaw(Greenside, p 255). In Why Am I Like This? (theSpaceUK, p 318), audiences are invited to ‘follow Nicole on her 30-year journey as she discovers the four-letter diagnosis that answers the biggest question in her life, and what that will mean for the next 30. Spoiler alert – she has ADHD.’
Neurodiverse group BLINK Dance Theatre present ELVIS DIED OF BURGERS(Summerhall, p 262), a ‘deep-dive into the events at the end of the life of Elvis’ using ‘semi-improvised dance, theatre and spoken word to create an exciting, edge-of-your-seat experience for audience and cast alike.’ And Ashley Blaker: Normal Schmormal(Underbelly, p 57) is ‘a new stand-up show about the joys of raising children with special needs.’
Politicians remain an active presence at the Fringe in 2023. At Pleasance, broadcaster Iain Dale invites a roster of political figures to join him for onstage interviews, including Harriet Harman (p 234), Humza Yousaf (p 234) and – alongside former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith – Ian Blackford (p 234), Kate Forbes (p 234), Mark Drakeford (p 235) and Sir Ed Davey (p 235). Over at The Stand’s New Town Theatre, Fair Pley’s list of guests In Conversation with… includes Anas Sarwar (p 235), Lesley Riddoch (p 236), Andy Burnham(p 235) and Mhairi Black (p 236).
Dom – The Play (Assembly, p 261) ‘explores the chief controversies of Dominic Cumming’s explosive career, how he won the Brexit referendum by manipulating social media, the truth about Barnard Castle and why he finally fell out with Boris’, while TONY! [The Tony Blair Rock Opera] (Pleasance, p 229) is ‘a rip-roaring new musical by Harry Hill and Steve Brown’ charting the life of Tony Blair. ‘At a post-scandal press conference, Preservative MP Babs Romance guides the audience through the highs and lows of her political career, with archive footage, dance numbers, speeches and flashbacks’ in Babs for Life (C venues, p 245). ‘A thrilling new play by Eve Leigh and directed by Debbie Hannan,’ Salty Irina (Summerhall, p 301) ‘is about two girls falling in love and fighting nazis’. And ‘Seamas Carey (‘the comic causing uproar in Cornwall’ (Guardian)) makes his Scottish debut with the controversial, hilarious and provocative comedy show’ Help! I Think I’m a Nationalist (Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh, p 270).
‘Combining stories, dance and signing with the songs,’ Deaf Action Presents: Fàilte Gu BSL/Welcome to BSL with Evie Waddell (Deaf Action, p 157) ‘explores opportunities for d/Deaf people to own their space within Scottish culture’. ‘Drawing inspiration from the ongoing Iranian revolution, TikToker turned unexpected voice against the IRGC, Chelsea, explores contrasts between the ground in Iran, and our own increasingly polarised political climate in the West’ in Chelsea Hart – Damet Garm: How I Joined a Revolution (Gilded Balloon, p 68). ‘After a year under fire from right-wing extremists, a hostile government, and a sedition hearing, Rizal Van Geyzel comes to the Fringe for the first time’ with Rizal Van Geyzel: Arrested (Laughing Horse, p 132). ‘Two Russian artists in exile reveal the cruelty of Soviet life with a good dose of dark humour’ in The Last of the Soviets (ZOO, p 281). And Eating Rhode Island (Central Hall, p 262) ‘examines the political insanity of 21st-century America and the small state of Rhode Island that dares to be different’.
Ahir Shah: Ends (Monkey Barrel Comedy, p 50) is ‘about family, immigration, marriage, history, politics and beans’. Attila the Stockbroker – The Left-Wing Economic Establishment! (PBH’s Free Fringe, p 232) offers ‘tirelessly topical, hard-hitting political satire in poem and song – and some intensely personal stuff’. Audiences can ‘join Merryn Somerset Webb as she interviews, talks over and argues with a well-known group of economics, politics and finance gurus’ in The Butcher, the Brewer, the Baker and Merryn Somerset Webb (Panmure House, p 232). And, ‘in the last full year before the general election,’ Steve Richards Presents: Rock’n’Roll Politics (theSpaceUK, p 238) ‘returns with all the latest political dramas, characters, questions and unreliable predictions’.
Race and racial identity
Constrictor (theSpaceUK, p 257) is a Keep it Fringe-funded theatre production that ‘discusses family and international communities. From Malacca and Brazil to Singapore, then Fremantle, New York, and now Edinburgh, the family that we choose to support us will see us.’ In Conversations with Mandela (Arthur Conan Doyle Centre, p 233), Rob Redenbach recounts ‘his journey from casino bouncer in outback Australia to working with Nelson Mandela’s bodyguard team in South Africa, [using] humour and hard facts to challenge assumptions and inspire personal change’. Gate Number 5 (C venues, p 266) is ‘a half-live, half-virtual interracial lesbian love story between a white European and a black former refugee… told in a mix of film, visual media and live performance’. Common Dissonance(House of Oz, p 157) uses circus and choreography to explore the complexity of 21st-century living in a culture embedded with ‘Dreamtime stories, song lines and oral histories’. Online, The Woke Box (p153) is ‘a parody Gogglebox about two slobby Pakistani brothers getting brainwashed by an evil TV’.
‘Olivia Xing, made in China and based in LA, spits facts about the censorship and dictatorship in China, and pokes fun at the political nonsense she’s come across in the West’ in Party School (Just the Tonic, p 123). Hipsteria by Josefina Lopez (Greenside, p 272) follows ‘single mother, community activist and advocate, Lucha, and her teenage son Freddie’ after they are evicted from their Los Angeles apartment.
One Way Out (Underbelly, p 292) is ‘a powerful drama exploring young British Caribbeans’ experiences of the Windrush crisis’. ‘Spoken word and performance artist Subira Joy explores their experiences being targeted by the police as a Black, queer and trans person in the UK in Kill the Cop Inside Your Head(Summerhall, p 236). ‘Following runs in London and on Audible, acclaimed actor-writer Sudha Bhuchar brings her warm-hearted, humorous and truthful storytelling show to Edinburgh’ in Sudha Bhuchar: Evening Conversations(Pleasance, p 308). Raul Kohli ‘has lived in every corner of this glorious nation and is fascinated by the diversity within Britain – from Chinese kids with John Bishop’s accent to white kids from Bradford with Indian accents stronger than his dad’s’. He asks what it means to be British in Full Inglish (Laughing Horse, p 130). Harun Musho’d explains Why I Don’t Talk To People About Terrorism at PBH’s Free Fringe(p 90). And Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz(ROUNDABOUT @ Summerhall, p 250) follows a young man ‘on his journey of self-discovery as he explores Black masculinity through Beyonce lyrics, techno raves and the deeply intimate relationship a man has with his barber’.
NEW AND INTERESTING VENUES
It wouldn’t be the Fringe without some shows popping up in unique and unusual spaces around Edinburgh (and beyond). Two shows from Arts Council England’s Horizon Showcase include Horizon Showcase: FORGE (p 273) at the Royal Lyceum Theatre‘s set and costume workshop in Roseburn, and Horizon Showcase: Bodies (p 171) an immersive, interactive show taking place in the swimming pool of Dean’s Community High School in Livingston. Angry Snatch: A Reclamation Job in 15 Rounds (p 243) is a site-specific theatre show staged in the Port O’Leith Boxing Club, while The Recovery Through Comedy Show(p 130) features stand-up sets by Armed Forces veterans in Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory. Ben and Natalie Nardone present their historical children’s show, Plague, Poo n’ Punishment (p 28), at The Lost Close, hidden just off the Royal Mile, while Eliminate the Impossible (p 170) is a Sherlock Homes-style adventure taking place around the city using an app.
Musselburgh Grammar School and Loretto School Theatre have both been repurposed as Fringe venues, as have Craigmillar Park Church, Northesk Parish Church and St Peter’s Church (the latter home to Mark Watson’s Churchfest, p 114). The Stables at Prestonfield are home to The Fringe at Prestonfield: Hosted by Christopher Biggins(p 171) and featuring guests including Sir Cliff Richard in conversation with Gloria Hunniford, while the Williams and Johnson Coffee Co is the starting point for the Leith Food and Drink Walking Tour (p 171).
Several bars and restaurants have opened (or re-opened) their doors to Fringe shows, such as Ryrie’s Bar in the West End, which hosts Up Close with the Blues (p 214). Monkey Barrelhas pitched up at The Tron; Laughing Horsehas welcomed Eastside, The Cocktail Mafiaand West Port Oracle to their stable; and the Little White Pig and Strathmore Bar are part of this year’s PBH’s Free Fringe.
Elsewhere, Summerhall have programmed work at the Danish Consulate, Institut Français d’Ecosse and The LifeCare Centre, Stockbridge, while Army @ The Fringe host Oràn do Mo Shinn-Shinear (or The Song of my Great Grandfather, p 293) at The Scottish National War Memorial.
‘A wee Scottish ninja back in her home town’, Gail Porter: Hung, Drawn and Portered(Assembly, p 86) shares stories of the TV star’s ‘mental life and mental mind’ with the hope if showing ‘how, with love and kindness, we can all thrive’. Two-time winner of the Palme d’Or, film director Ken Loach appears twice at The Stand’s New Town Theatre this August: once as part of the In Conversation with…series at (p 235), and again discussing culture with Jeremy Corbyn in Culture for the Many (p 233). Hosted by comedians Rebekka Johnson(Netflix’s GLOW) and Anne Gregory (NBC’s Parks and Recreation) and produced by UK’s own Kate Nash, The Retreat (Underbelly, p 131) is ‘a campy variety show that mimics an overenthusiastic kick-off event for a corporate retreat for the fictional company Men-ses Period Panties’. ‘Star of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under’, Anita Wigl’it (Gilded Balloon, p 55) presents Funny Gurl, ‘a kooky, hilarious and tell-all, one-woman show’ about a young boy’s journey to becoming a ‘glamorous Drag Queen’.
‘Edinburgh Comedy Award winner and creator of hit sitcom Starstruck’, Rose Matafeo(Monkey Barrel Comedy, p 134) returns to Edinburgh with a Work in Progress. In The Man Who Could See Through Shit – A Work In Progress, Reginald D. Hunter (Assembly, p 131) navigates the challenge of ‘separating what’s true and what’s real… in a pre next-variant world’. In Rosie Jones – Triple Threat(Pleasance, p 134), the BAFTA-nominatedcomedian, writer and actress ‘ponders whether she is a national treasure, a little prick, or somewhere in between’. Following previews last year, homegrown comedian Daniel Slosspresents his latest show, CAN’T, at the Edinburgh Playhouse (p 74). Shaparak Khorsandi: ShapChat! (Pleasance, p 138) is ‘a fast-paced, celebratory hour from this much-loved Fringe institution and the author of forthcoming memoir, Scatterbrain’. John Robins: Howl (Just the Tonic, p 102) is ‘a new show from Edinburgh Comedy Award winner / dashing hunk o’ junk Johnny JR’. ‘Acclaimed comedian, daytime TV star and global TikTok sensation, Paul Sinha is at least two of these’ – find out which at Paul Sinha: Pauly Bengali(The Stand’s New Town Theatre, p 127).
CREATING A BUZZ
Edinburgh Comedy Award Best Newcomer nominee 2022 Emmanuel Sonubi(Underbelly, p 81) returns with Curriculum Vitae, ‘a new show taking us through the life he led that brought him to the stage, via his work history’. Having gone viral last year (after his opening night sold only one ticket), Robin Grainger returns to the Fringe for An Audient with Robin Grainger (The Stand Comedy Club, p 133). No stranger to the Fringe, Reuben Kaye is riding a fresh wave of building popularity as he revives two shows at Assembly: The Kaye Hole (p 23), a late-night cabaret featuring ‘the riskiest and most diverse acts’, and The Butch is Back (p 131), a full-band show ‘guaranteed to have you on your feet screaming or bent over in hysterics’. Following 2022’s I Am Not A Gorilla, Posey Mehta: Mitzi Fitz’s Glitzy Bits(BlundaGardens, p 27) promises ‘witty repartee, spectacular comedic and artistic prowess, and flawless production values. And that’s before we even get to the acts!’ In Reform(Gilded Balloon, p 117), Michelle Brasieroffers ‘a cautionary tale of an online scam and the urge to empathise with, understand, and become the emergency contacts of those who have done us wrong’. And, after being nominated for Best Newcomer at the 2018 Edinburgh Comedy Awards, Sarah Keyworth(Monkey Barrel Comedy, p136) brings their new Work in Progress show to Fringe 2023.
WONDER DRUG: A Comedy About Cystic Fibrosis (Pleasance, p 319) comes to Edinburgh following success at Vault Festival 2023, offering ‘a rollicking course of intravenous antibiotics set to 80s bangers’. Using ‘original harp music, song and spoken word, Kirsty Law, Kirsty Logan and Esther Swift tell’ Tam Lin: A Future Tale (Scottish Storytelling Centre, p 213), ‘a thoroughly modern story built on the bones of ancient wisdom’. And Then The Rodeo Burned Down (theSpaceUK, p 243) is an ‘alleged tale of arson [that] fractures into the story of two clowns desperately trying to afford to put on a show’.
FREE AND PAY WHAT YOU CAN/WANT SHOWS
There are 308 free shows and 463 Pay What You Can/Want shows in this year’s programme.
America the Epic – The Hot Jazz and Blues Roots That Changed the World (Acoustic Music Centre @ UCC, Le Monde and The Jazz Bar, p 180) is ‘a fresh new show featuring an international band of women who play authentic old-time music and know the history’. Jazz a la Carte (Argyle Cellar Bar, p 196) promise a ‘hot brand of acoustic traditional jazz, ragtime and blues’. South London Jazz Orchestra (Broughton St Mary’s Parish Church and St Andrew’s and St George’s West, George St, p 212) ‘returns to Edinburgh to dazzle you with big-band favourites from the whole history of jazz – as well as some more surprising choices – in an afternoon of funk, Latin, and of course, classic swing’.
‘From Bach to The Beatles and beyond, South Australian musician/songwriter William Jack presents a free (non-ticketed) multi-style cello recital in the heart of Edinburgh’ in This Old Cello Box (St Giles’ Cathedral, p 214). The Cathedral Lunchtime Recital Series (St Mary’s Cathedral, p 187) present ‘an opportunity to hear emerging and established artists playing a variety of instruments and composers’. Allman Brothers Project by Safehouse (Stramash, p 180) emulates ‘the Allman’s sound with double drum kit and harmony guitars, taking on their intricate and dramatic side with a set drawn from Live at the Filmore, alongside classics like Dreams, Black Hearted Woman, Ramblin’ Man, and Jessica’. The Boys from Aboyne (artSpace@StMarks, p 185) will perform ‘tasteful, melodic, attractive and readily accessible new music for guitar and double bass’. At Footstomping Live Scottish Music (WHISKI Bar & Restaurant, p 193), ‘toes will be tapping to our vibrant mix of instruments playing live traditional Scottish music – fiddles, accordions, guitars and whistles playing in harmony’. And ‘fans of Queen, Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, Radiohead and Royal Blood will love Figurines’ as they head Back2Binkies (Whistlebinkies, p 192).
‘Scottish poets will be reading work exploring our collective history and common creative future, including a special evening spotlighting Hamish Henderson’ as part of Bards at the Barracks (Army @ The Fringe, p 232). Folklore Galore (Arthur Conan Doyle Centre, p 35) will introduce audiences to ‘ghouls, dragons and demon-hunters inked in oral tradition from Pakistani heartlands, knitted with magic, and narrated with love in the dreamy art known as Qissakhwani’. Amrita Dhaliwal: A Lady that Fikas (BlundaGardens, p 53) is ‘a senseless show about the seriousness of play’. And Loretto School Theatre invites you to ‘come and catch up with old friends at The Steamie (p 307), a classic piece of Scottish writing by Tony Roper and popular with theatre audiences old and new’.
‘Written in pithy verse set to an energetic score, Irrepressible (theSpaceUK, p 224) centres on the life of the world’s first celebrity, Emma Hamilton, seen through the eyes of a present-day journalist transported back in time’. Dreams of Peace and Freedom: The Streams of Natural Law (C venues, p 221) is ‘a powerful combination of film, text and performance exploring the birth of modern human rights, told through the eyes of Nuremberg prosecutor and champion of the ECHR, David Maxwell Fyfe’. Jeremy Segway: A Life Out of Balance(Bedlam Theatre, p 98) is ‘a show dedicated to Mr Segway, the man who invented the Segway, all performed entirely on Segways’. ‘Drawing upon interviews with individuals, including activists and Ministry of Defence personnel, Jenna navigates her own journey through the politics, protests, peace camps and freedom of information requests’ in Deaf Action Presents: Faslane by Amy Helena (Deaf Action and Scottish Storytelling Centre, p 258). In Our Anxious Measurements (PBH’s Free Fringe, p 236), ‘no metric is safe in Dean Tsang’s exploration of expectations placed on us and the ways apprehension can enter our lives’.
The Wellingborough Community Gospel Choir make their Fringe debut with Get Up and Gospel! (Canongate Kirk and Greyfriars Kirk, p 194), where ‘you can expect timeless classics you know and love, inspirational anthems, and exhilarating gospel arrangements guaranteed to revitalise your heart and soul’. The Absolutely Fab Choir (Brewhemia and Le Monde, p 179) ‘enjoy singing arrangements of our favourite pop songs, re-imagined into a chorus of warm harmony. Glee Club UK Adult Community Choir (St Vincent’s, p 186) ‘will have you foot-tapping and singing along as they inspire, energise and entertain you in glorious four-part harmony with songs that you are sure to know and love’. In The Spirit and the Light(Palmerston Place Church and Canongate Kirk, p 212), ‘Rock Festival Choir, Alnwick’s highly regarded chamber choir directed by Peter Brown, returns to the Fringe with a spine-tingling programme of 20th and 21st-century choral classics – Sir Michael Tippett’s Spirituals, Bob Chilcott’s Jazz Mass and Morten Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna’.
The National Theatre’s adaptation of Dr Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat (Eric Liddell Community, p 34) is performed by Charlotte Country Day School. Journey to the West: In Search of the Way (Paradise Green, p 36) follows ‘the fearless Monkey King as he embarks on a perilous journey to obtain sacred scriptures, encountering new friends and foes along the way’. The Armadillo and the Human Skin (Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, p 31) is ‘a drop-in event with activities, talks and the opportunity to meet one of Edinburgh Zoo’s armadillos’. And you’ll be able to ‘immerse yourself in the richness of Chinese culture with a showcase of exceptional young dancers from China, featuring both traditional and contemporary Chinese dance’ at Chinese Art Show (Venue150 at EICC, p 157).
‘Jen Hyatt is a multi award-winning author, activist and performer’ – her show, A Multitude of Sins: A Dog Gone Mystery (Leith Depot, p 118) features six characters in search of a canine. ‘Using 30 art masterpieces, Helen, a cancer survivor, will take you through rollercoaster adventures of a woman of a certain age’ in Sex, Art and the Art of Survival(Frankenstein Pub, p 137). Yoshi Obayashi’s Adult Content (Greenside, p 154) ‘is a show that presents various life stories in and out of the world of sex work – funny, sad, shocking, and follows the unbelievable places the business has led Mr Yoshi Obayashi’. Auto-Engrain: A One-Woman Show (Hill Street Theatre and online, p 245) is ‘an outrageous tale of how one woman… relays experiences from speed-dating to botany to romance to visceral details that would make even your therapist need therapy’. American Boy(Laughing Horse, p 53) ‘showcases an Iranian immigrant’s point of view about growing up in America and gives audiences a deeper understanding of the immigrant experience and blowjobs’. In Arzoo Malhotra: First Degeneration (Just the Tonic, p 56), ‘this not-so-model minority shares her experiences as an immigrant and cartographer, bringing her world to you’. In Dinesh Nathan: Nathan Knows Nothing (WIP) (The Voodoo Rooms, p 77), the stand-up works at creating a stable world for his kids ‘whilst trying to find stability himself’.
Jamali Maddix ‘is currently a series regular on Never Mind The Buzzcocks and has been seen on Taskmaster (Channel 4), Frankie Boyle’s New World Order (BBC Two) and his critically acclaimed series Hate Thy Neighbour for Vice’ – his Work in Progress is at Monkey Barrel Comedy (p 96). Glenn Wool: The Tardigrades Picnic (Scottish Comedy Festival, p 88) ‘is Glenn’s 25th solo show… You will laugh, he’s very good at this’. Barry Ferns returns to Edinburgh to perform his Arthur’s Seat Comedy Extravaganza (p 56) – where else? – on top of Arthur’s Seat. And ‘New York City based cult comedian Dave Hill combines stand-up, storytelling, music and occasional ill-advised feats of strength’ in Dave Hill: Caveman in a Spaceship (The Stand’s New Town Theatre, p 75).
Audiences can ‘join guests from the worlds of comedy, literature, music and faith for a series of live recordings of’ The All-Terrain Podcast Live (The Salvation Army Edinburgh City Corps, p 232), or ‘discover the freshest comedy talent on the Fringe as they make their Pleasance debuts this summer’ at the Pleasance All-American Newcomer Comedy Gala (Pleasance, p 129). Jeromaia Detto: MUSH (Underbelly, p 100) ‘is an all-out journey of absurdity for anyone who loves playfulness, silliness and delightful whimsy’.
An Evening With Drag Artist – Destynee(Planet Bar, p 20) joins the ‘British-born drag artist with Sierra Leonean / West African roots’ as she impersonates, performs and lip-syncs ‘songs of some of her favourite divas and icons – from Whitney Houston, Diana Ross, Donna Summer and more’. Doing Bits (The Three Sisters, p 19) promises ‘a variety of different performers showcasing snippets of their Fringe shows’.
Online, Eat Me (p 158) is ‘a luscious, incendiary dance-theatre performance by strikingly bold female-led experimental collective Snap-Elastic’, while Arrive Alive (p 182) features poet Blukat, music producer and DJ, Cream, and musicians Dead Poets ‘to produce… a full pre-recorded concert for you to enjoy’.
As a charity, the work of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society would not be possible without the valuable support of our partners, sponsors and funders, including sponsors Johnnie Walker Princes Street, Playbill, TikTok, Edinburgh Gin, Cirrus Logic and Belhaven Brewery; and supporters Scottish Enterprise.
We are grateful for funding through the PLACE Programme, a partnership between the Scottish Government – through Creative Scotland – the City of Edinburgh Council and Festivals Edinburgh; to Scottish Government for Made in Scotland through the Festivals Expo Fund – managed through Creative Scotland; to the UK Government, and the continued support from the City of Edinburgh Council.
We are grateful to Baillie Gifford for supporting our Fringe Days Out programme, EventScotland for their support of the Fringe street events and to Crowdfunder for supporting artist and venue crowdfunding. We are grateful also to City of Edinburgh Council for their support of street events, British Council for their support of Voices from the South, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for their funding for Marketplace, and Screen Scotland for their support of Screen Fringe. We would also like to thank our accommodation partners who provide much needed affordable accommodation to artists – Theatre Digs Booker, Heriot-Watt University, Napier University, Queen Margaret University, SRUC Oatridge, Student Castle Edinburgh and the University of Edinburgh. In a new partnership for 2023 we are also delighted to be working with Health in Mindwho are supporting the delivery of mental health and wellbeing services from our Artist Hub at Fringe Central.
Our thanks also to our Fringe Angels, Patrons, Friends and supporters who help make the Fringe happen each year, and to those who provide support in many other ways, including Virgin Hotel Edinburgh, the Kimpton Hotel Edinburgh and the team at Irn Bru.
The world-famous Fringe street events will take place in their usual home of the High Street and the Mound, and feature international street performers and buskers, mingling with Fringe artists and other festival favourites to provide a fun and varied family-friendly experience.
This year the Fringe Society are delighted to welcome Belhaven Brewery as a new sponsor. The Belhaven team will be running a bar, serving their award-winning beers, on the Mound Precinct for the duration of August; further information will be announced shortly.
The return of the Street Events programme is being supported by EventScotland (part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate) and the City of Edinburgh Council. The street events will run daily from 05–26 August – you can find out more, including daily listings for street performers and how you can take part, at edfringe.com/take-part/fringe-street-events.
The Fringe Days Out programme continues for its sixth year with 32 long-term community partners, including two new partnerships for 2023. The scheme provides Fringe vouchers, bus tickets and additional support to people in Edinburgh who may not otherwise have the opportunity to experience the festival, or arts in general. Since 2017, an estimated 12,500 people have used Fringe Days Out to visit the festival, many for the first time.
Local communities will have the opportunity to enjoy Fringe at… events, running from July to August. Three events will take place with participating organisations: Sikh Sanjog, Stepping Stones North Edinburgh and one more to be announced later in the summer.
Previously known as the Children and Young People Ticketing Scheme, the Community Ticketing Initiative (CTI) scheme expands in 2023 to allow eligible children and adults to take part. Through CTI, participating Fringe artists and companies generously donate free tickets for people in and around Edinburgh who might not otherwise have the opportunity to attend the festival. So far more than 1,200 shows have donated tickets.
Fringe Up Your Street events will run from July to September, where Fringe and street performers join up with Fringe Society community partners around Edinburgh, bringing the Fringe to them. The Fringe Society is also participating in the CONNECT project, an EVOC and Festivals Edinburgh-led pilot project with a focus on exploring participatory cultural planning with an Edinburgh community group. The selected group this year is Valley Park Community Centre based at Southhouse / Burdiehouse.
The Fringe Society remains committed to improving access to the Fringe. Through a number of projects the ambition is to ensure the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is as accessible to as many people as possible.
- Sensory backpacks will be available to those who may find the Fringe overwhelming at times. They include a wide range of sensory tools, including a visual timetable, created in collaboration with Tzipporah Johnstone, a neurodivergent artist from the Neuk Collective. Backpacks are free and available for collection from the Fringe Shop on the High Street on a first-come, first-served basis, or can be pre-booked with specific items required.
- A dedicated access tickets service aims to make it easier for anyone with access requirements to navigate and enjoy the Fringe. It can be reached by phone on +44 (0)131 226 0002, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by WhatsApp message on +44 (0)7923 525 799. BSL users can contact the Fringe box office via an online BSL / English interpreter, and can download Contact Scotland BSL’s app via smartphone or tablet at contactscotland-bsl.org/download.
- This year the Fringe Changing Places Toilet will return to the corner of Windmill Street and Chapel Street, EH8 9LE, from 04 – 28 of August, from 10:00 to 01:00. As in past years, this has been made possible through working with the University of Edinburgh Festivals Office and the team at Assembly.
- Developed in partnership with Attitude is Everything, the Venue Access Awards provide venues with a framework to make their spaces as accessible as possible during the festival. Revamped and updated for 2023, the Venue Access Toolkit advises venues on best practice changes they can make to improve accessibility.
- The Fringe Society will again lend venues captioning and audio description equipment to make more performances accessible to visually impaired, D/deaf and hard-of-hearing people.
- For a comprehensive list of BSL interpreted, captioned, audio described and relaxed performances on offer at the Fringe, please visit tickets.edfringe.com/accessibility/accessible-shows.
- The Scottish Association of Mental Health are providing their Wellbeing on Wheels services on 12 and 13 August. Wellbeing on Wheels is a bus staffed by mental health peer supporters who are there to help anyone, but particularly street performers, who may find the Fringe occasionally overwhelming.
- Birds of Paradise will once again be providing Disability Equality Training for all customer-facing Fringe Society staff. The Fringe Society is also providing free online equalities training for everyone working in a Fringe venue.
- The Fringe Society are hosting schools, community groups and disabled musicians (alongsideDrake Music Scotland, who are providing support for disabled musicians) on the Fringe Taster Stage on the weekend 24 – 26 August. This is a great opportunity for local performers to take part in the Fringe.
Around 60% of Fringe shows in the 2023 programme are accessible to wheelchair users.
For more information please visit https://www.edfringe.com/experience/how-to-plan/access-at-the-fringe
The Fringe Society is once again proud to support local schools and teachers to experience the Fringe. This includes our Fringe Days Out – Schools work, which supports three Edinburgh secondary schools: Gracemount High School, Tynecastle High School and St Augustine’s RC High School.
Eight pupils from these schools, aged 12–15 years, also take part in the Young Fringe Ambassadors initiative. This initiative helps young people explore career pathways in the arts, meeting with arts professionals to gain insights into various aspects of the industry such as technical theatre, performance, hair and makeup, costume design, artist services, customer services, marketing and programming.
In partnership with Imaginate, the Teacher’s Theatre Club is also back for 2023. The programme gives teachers from schools in Edinburgh and the Lothians the opportunity to see work at the Fringe and Children’s Festival. These events are modelled around a book club format, with the opportunity to see work before unpacking it with festival staff, venue programmers, artists and each other. Teachers across Scotland will also have the opportunity to experience the Fringe online through the national teacher’s offer as part of the Voices from the South project (see below).
The Schools and teachers webpage on edfringe.com has a plethora of new resources available for schools looking to make the most of the Fringe. This includes offers from Fringe artists to work with schools during the festival.
Following its success in 2022, Fringe Marketplace returns to help ensure that artists’ work has a life that extends long after the Fringe. Thousands of industry professionals from across the arts and screen sectors visit the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to discover talent, book work, and network with peers from across the globe at the world’s largest arts marketplace. The Fringe Arts Industry team provides year-round support and guidance for industry members who are looking to find talent, programme work and connect with other industry professionals. Joined by a group of Industry Associates in 2023, the Arts Industry Office facilitates the offer of more specialised programme recommendations and advice throughout the festival for incoming bookers.
Central to the Arts Industry Office, Fringe Marketplace relaunches today for the 2023 season as an industry-facing online platform created to connect accredited programmers, presenters and commissioners with professional artists and work that’s ready to be shared beyond the festival. Offering clips, images and detailed technical information to programmers, Fringe Marketplace profiles the ready-to-tour work presenting at the festival, helping to support visiting bookers to discover talent, and fuelling the onward life of festival shows.
Screen Fringe, set up by Screen Scotland with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, is a dedicated support service for TV and film professionals attending the Edinburgh festivals, designed to assist delegates to discover the best theatre and comedy talent from Scotland, the UK and beyond.
The programme returns following successful runs in 2019 and 2022 to offer accredited screen delegates bespoke assistance from the Screen Fringe team in order to help navigate and make the most of all available Fringe opportunities. Support includes expert festival programme navigation, show curation tailored to delegates’ specific priorities and access to ticketing throughout August. Alongside this essential service, Screen Fringe offers its own unmissable programme of case studies, industry panels and networking events.
With recent high-profile Fringe-to-screen leaps such as Adura Onashile (Expensive Shit), Kieran Hurley (Beats), Richard Gadd (Baby Reindeer) and Jack Rooke (Big Boys), as well as a decades-long list of globe-conquering success stories (Beyond The Fringe, The League of Gentlemen, Taskmaster, Fleabag), the Edinburgh festivals offer an incomparable opportunity to discover original voices and IP rich with potential for screen development and adaptation. Screen Fringe aims to bring together artists and industry professionals who can capitalise on these opportunities.
All Screen Fringe enquiries should be directed to email@example.com.
MADE IN SCOTLAND
Launched in 2009, the Made in Scotland programme is a collaboration between the Fringe Society, the Federation of Scottish Theatre, Scottish Music Centre and Creative Scotland, showcasing the best in homegrown dance, theatre and music with 18 artists, companies and ensembles presenting their work this year across nine venues. To date over 100 shows have gone on through the onward touring opportunities it offers, visiting over 44 countries around the world. This is only made possible thanks to ongoing support from the Scottish Government’s Festivals EXPO Fund.
For the full programme go to madeinscotlandshowcase.com.
Alongside those appearing from Scotland and the UK, 14 showcases will be taking work to the Fringe with performers from around the world coming to the Fringe this year. Countries represented in 2023 include Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Japan, South Africa and Switzerland.
VOICES FROM THE SOUTH
Voices from the South is a new international showcase premiering 15 new performance works from Brazil, India, Mexico and South Africa – all online. Presenting for the first time at the Fringe, the work of the artists featured in the showcase span performance art, theatre, music, digital and multi-disciplinary performance.
The showcase project was envisioned as a slow-working exchange and conversation between the artists while exploring the possibility of breaking down significant barriers of connectivity, geographical distances and language differences faced by artists from these regions when it comes to participating in the Edinburgh Fringe. The artists took part in a one-year period of exchange and conversation while preparing to present their work online at the Fringe in 2023.
The co-curating organisations are MITsp – São Paulo International Theatre Festival (Brazil), Pickle Factory (India), La Teatreria and Teatrix (Mexico) and Baxter Theatre Center (South Africa). Co-delivery in partnership by Edinburgh-based Magnetic North and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society.
The showcase is in receipt of generous support of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (with Arts Council England) and the British Council.
Fringe facts 2023
- 3,013 total shows
- 248 total venues
- 463 Pay What You Can/Want
- 45,182 performances
- Work from Scotland: 798
- Rest of UK: 1,417
- Countries represented: 68 (including UK countries)
- International countries: 64 (excluding UK countries)
- There are 308 free shows and 463 Pay What You Can/Want shows
- There are 798 Scottish shows, with 535 shows coming from Edinburgh.
- Shows within each section:
- Cabaret and variety – 147 shows (4.9%)
- Children’s shows – 116 shows (3.8%)
- Comedy – 1,109 shows (36.8%)
- Dance, physical theatre and circus – 114 shows (3.8%)
- Events – 55 shows (1.8%)
- Exhibitions – 42 shows (1.4%)
- Music – 395 shows (13.1%)
- Musicals and opera – 152 shows (5.0%)
- Spoken word – 80 shows (2.7%)
- Theatre – 803 shows (26.7%)
This year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe takes place from the 4th to 28th August 2024. To find out more about the festival, visit here…