Fest's Fringe Top Picks: Theatre

Lead theatre critic Matt Trueman picks out the best and most promising theatre shows of 2015

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Published 04 Aug 2015

A String Section

Summerhall, 23-27 August, times vary
 
Five women. Five chairs. Five saws. Inspired by the shape of a string quartet, Belgian artist Leen Dewilde and her Reckless Sleepers sit themselves down and start to saw through the legs of their wooden chairs to a live cello soundtrack. Silly, strange, simple – and 100% serious.

The Christians

Traverse Theatre, 8-30 August, times vary, 
 
London’s little Gate theatre has become a bastion of sharp thinking under Christopher Haydon. He directed the scintillating Grounded in 2013 and now returns with American playwright Lucas Hnath’s sermon-as-play (or is it vice versa) that asks what place faith and community really have in contemporary society.
 
Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons

ZOO Southside, 7-22 August, 3:0pm
 
If you see one student show this year, make it this tight two-hander from Warwick’s Walrus Theatre. Sam Steiner’s play about language and power cleaned up at the National Student Drama Festival, bagging three awards for its portrayal of a couple that literally run out of things to say to one another.
 
Jamie Wood – O No!

Assembly Roxy, 5-31 August, 7:00pm
 
Last year, Wood donned thigh-high shorts to idolise Björn Borg in Beating McEnroe. Now it’s Yoko Ono’s turn, as the Gaulier-trained clown tries to restore the reputation of the woman who broke up the Beatles. More seriously, it’s a look at love, art and generosity – three things Wood has in spades.
 
Idiot-Syncrasy

Summerhall, 6-29 August, 4:20pm
 
I caught dance duo Igor and Moreno for the first time this year and they blew me away with a hilarious Nespresso machine routine. One’s from Sardinia, the other, from the Basque Country and here, they find the common ground in their respective national dances. Bouncing, mostly – and a real display of friendship.
 
Dolls

Underbelly’s Circus Hub, 7-29 August (not 12, 18, 24), 3:25pm
 
Pediophobes beware: Czech circus troupe Cirk La Putyka explore our intimate relationships with inanimate objects in this art-house circus. Expect clay figurines and human puppets, ragdolls and mannekins – all ways of disrupting the usual circus staples. If this is the year of the big top, Dolls looks the cream of the crop.
 
Butt Kapinski

Liquid Room Annexe, 8-30 August (not 12, 24, 26, 29), 2:10pm
 
Is it cheating to raid the comedy section? Not bothered: Butt Kapinski looks a blast. In this high-octane film noir spoof, Red Bastard’s director Deanna Fleysher becomes the world’s weirdest private dick, who comes complete with her very own streetlamp sticking out of her turned-up collar.
 
Ross & Rachel

Assembly George Square, 6-31 August (not 17), 12:30pm
 
The title’s a treat, but playwright James Fritz is one of the most promising talents around. He’s already scored an Olivier nomination this year—for his debut play, no less—and now comes this playful mediation on couples that are (to continue that nineties vein) MFEO, as one actor plays two other halves.
 
CUT

Underbelly, George Square, 5-31 August (not 18), times vary
 
Horror theatre can be so, well, horrific and almost 30 years on The Woman In Black pretty much still sets the standard. Duncan Graham’s CUT has been reconfigured as a claustrophobic chamber piece played in almost pitch black, with Hannah Norris as the air stewardess convinced she’s being stalked.
 
My Beautiful Black Dog

Underbelly, 6-16 August, 1:55pm
 
Bromley-born singer-songwriter Brigitte Aphrodite turns her experience of clinical depression into a cabaret musical. She’s been likened to Kate Nash and Lily Allen – just with more scrappiness and a sense of humour. The work-in-progress I saw was a gnatty, scruffball of a show, but goodness me, it was like an adrenaline shot the heart.
 
The Solid Life of Sugar Water

Pleasance Dome, 5-30 August (not 12, 17, 24), 4:00pm
 
If you want a measure of Jack Thorne’s regard, know that he’s penning the Harry Potter play with J.K. Rowling next year. If you want the measure of his writing, try this two-hander about a couple trying to cope after a stillbirth. A pertinent piece about recovery. Amit Sharma directs for Graeae Theatre.
 
Forest Fringe

Out of the Blue Drill Hall, 17-30 August
 
It wouldn’t be a Fringe tips list without a shout out to Forest Fringe, but this year’s line-up is strong even by its own stellar standards. Three highlights: Tania El Khoury’s Gardens Speak brings Syria’s dead to life; Action Hero go glamour modelling in Wrecking Ball; and radical German duo Luther & Bockelson are said to be something else entirely…