Theatre Top Picks

Fest's lead critic picks out the most promising theatre shows of 2016

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Grace
Published 16 Jul 2016

My Name is Gideon: Songs, Space-Travel and Everything In-Between

One half of the infectious Gideon and Hubcap Show, the banjo-toting Gideon Irving is back with a solo show – a miscellany of songs and stories that he’s performed in living rooms all over the world. A big kid with a big heart, it’s easy to see why people let him into their homes.

Pleasance Courtyard, 1:00pm, 3-29 August, not 17

Grace

After a cancelled run last year, Casus Circus co-founder Emma Serjeant’s one-woman show finally comes to Edinburgh. Building to and from a car accident, Grace tackles the psychology of mortality, but it does so physically, through hand balance and ring trapeze routines, as the moment of impact plays itself on repeat.

Assembly Checkpoint, 5:30pm, 4-28 August, not 8-9, 15, 22-23

Yokai

Another year, another load of Lecoq grads, but something tells me that The Krumple might be a bit special. They’ve a gorgeous sense of design—all cotton wool clouds and birdbox masks—but beneath the cutesiness, there’s a dark heart. With tiny graveyards and cardboard trees, Yokai wreaks havoc on a model town.

Underbelly, Cowgate, 1:30pm, 4-28 August, not 16

It Folds

Three years ago Ireland’s brilliant Brokentalkers had me bawling after Have I No Mouth, a theatrical séance for a lost father. It Folds, created with the dance-theatre company Junk Ensemble, might be a reversal: parents mourning a dead child. It’s no po-faced tearfest though, but a quiet riot of bedsheet ghosts, dad dancing and pantomime horses.

Summerhall, 1:40pm, 3-28 August, not 8, 15, 22

Ten Years of Forest Fringe

Launched in a knackered hall above that beloved hippy/hipster hangout Forest Café, Forest Fringe proved to be this festival’s shot in the arm. To mark its 10th birthday, it's reviving nine of its best shows—including Action Hero’s Watch Me Fall and Dan Canham’s 30 Cecil Street—as part of a wider programme reflecting on re-enactment, recreation and remembrance. Too many goodies to pick. Again.

Out of the Blue Drill Hall, times vary, 11-20 August

In Fidelity

He’s taken a bullet live onstage, trained as a wrestler and pitched up onstage without a play. Few theatremakers have Rob Drummond’s feel for the live event of theatre. In his new show, the Traverse Associate is setting two audience members up on a first date – a way of exploring the psychology and physiognomy of love.

Traverse Theatre, times vary, 4-28 August, not 8, 15, 22

Richard III

The posterboy of German theatre, Thomas Ostermeier tears up texts and runs them ragged. His Hamlet stuck "To be or not to be" on repeat, and he made an actual meatfest of Measure for Measure. Now, the Schaubühne’s artistic director turns his attention to Richard III, and finds in him a hype man, a sex pest and a king without an heir. With confetti canons and a fierce drum score, this is Shakespeare on speed.

The Lyceum, 7:30pm, 24-28 August

Tank

At the height of the Cold War, scientists tried to teach dolphins to speak English. Such were the sixties I guess, but it provides an intriguing starting point for Breach Theatre’s second show, Tank. Their debut, The Beanfield, was one of the best at last year’s Fringe: a mash-up of mismatched theatrical techniques as six students sought to recreate a riot. Bring on the dolphins.

Pleasance Dome, 10:30am, 7-20 August

Ghost Quartet

Dave Malloy’s cult cabaret-musical Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 hits Broadway in the autumn. Before then, we get his supernatural song cycle Ghost Quartet – a genre-hopping, time-travelling look at why we believe in ghosts. He’s got good Fringe pedigree: a nutty Beowolf musical won him a Herald Angel in 2013.

Roundabout @ Summerhall, 9:00pm, 5-28, not 9, 16, 23

Dancer

The last show made by the late Adrian Howells, Dancer asks who gets to dance and who doesn’t. Ian Johnston and Gary Gardiner, dressed in waistcoats and dickie bows, strut their stuff and then invite us to strut ours in this open-hearted show. As Howells himself insisted: “It’s all allowed.”

Dance Base, 5:00pm, 17-28 August, not 22

The Duke 

My mum so loves Shon Dale-Jones’ alter-ego, Hugh Hughes, that she’s started an online correspondence with the ever-emerging Fringe favourite. Dale-Jones isn’t in character this year, but his new show The Duke, about a man obsessively seeking a sentimental trinket as the refugee crisis rumbles on, has built a buzz in pre-festival previews. 

Pleasance Courtyard, 15.30, 3-29 August not 8, 15

Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again / Adler & Gibb 

Miss a short run and you’re left with only a script. Thank goodness, then, that two of the best new plays of the past two years are getting revivals at this year’s Fringe. Both Alice Birch’s feminist fuck yeah (Revolt) and Tim Crouch’s shape-shifting art history lesson (Adler and Gibb) are dazzling uses of theatrical form, as playful as they are radical. Don’t miss them again.

Revolt – Traverse Theatre, times vary, 16-28 August, not 22 / Adler & Gibb – Summerhall, 17.15, 3-27 August, not 4, 8, 15, 22