by Simon Fearn
Edinburgh is currently every theatre lover’s dream, but the fringe’s dizzying array of shows is liable to overcome even the most organised of punters. With time and money at stake, there’s nothing worse than sitting through a flop for an hour which could be spent seeing Chekhov reinterpreted as modern dance (that is actually a thing). What theatre goers really need is a handy guide to discover the best shows at the Fringe. Always willing to please, I’m going to provide just that. Here’s what my ideal four-show day at the fringe would look like:
13:15—Beard: The Grin of Love
A hidden gem snuck in somewhere on Cowgate, Rosa Robson and Matilda Wnek are ‘BEARD’, a comedy duo that specialise in surrealist humour akin to Noel Fielding and The Pythons. The group’s bizarre sketches feature such delights as a libidinous doctor with a deeply idiosyncratic way of drinking wine, and a vampish prozzie with goggly eyes and clothes pegs for fingers. The show mainly consists of physical comedy, and although it doesn’t attract belly laughs, it was impossible not to be grinning all the way through. The humour is gloriously non-topical, and swaps snappy one-liners for slow motion facial contortions and fabulous home-made costumes. A refreshing alternative to the endless array of stand-ups at the fringe.
Until 29 August (not 18) at Sneaky Pete’s (Cowgate); FREE AND UNTICKETED.
If you’re looking for some grittier comedy, then this is the place to find it. Christian Reilly sits somewhere between Bill Bailey and Billy Bragg, churning out satire and shameless left-wing propaganda on his acoustic guitar. For music fans there’s some fabulously accurate impressions of the Arctic Monkeys and Oasis; for those of a more political bent there’s a song called ‘Choices’ explaining why modern democracy is really a sham. Reilly is definitely one of the more successful comics at the fringe, and the show manages to be ‘properly edgy’ (his words, not mine) without becoming offensive. A safe choice if you want to see some stand-up, and it’s free as well!
Until 30 August at Liquid Room Annexe (Victoria Street); FREE AND UNTICKETED.
I don’t really get physical theatre, but this jaw-dropping acrobatic show is not one to miss. It’s Barely Methodical Troupe’s (Charlie Wheeller, Beren D’Amico and Louis Gift) fringe debut, and is honestly utterly amazing. Wheeller does things with a hula hoop which ought not to be possible, whilst D’Amico is thrown around with joyous abandon. On top of all this, it’s very funny, and wrapped up in some surprisingly emotional themes about male embarrassment over physical intimacy. This was the only show I reviewed that I gave the coveted five stars to, and the rest of the audience seemed similar impressed, with many of them giving a standing ovation. Utterly beautiful to watch, ‘Bromance’ is essential fringe viewing.
Until 29 August (not 17 and 24) at Underbelly’s Circus Hub on the Meadows; £14.00.
A long-standing fringe favourite, Magnificent Bastard Productions returns to desecrates Shakespeare for a sixth year running. The idea is simple: five actors aim to deliver a shortened version of a Bard classic (this year it’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’), the only problem is that one of them is utterly blotto. Forgetting lines is the least of their worries. In the production I saw Antonio tried to climb out of a window, and on a previous occasion Portia ripped an audience member’s shirt open, presumably to take a pound of flesh. By the end there’s not a lot of Shakespeare left, but completing the show was really a major achievement after a pint of Guinness, two pints of beer and a quarter of a bottle of Jack Daniels. Not one for the Shakespeare purists, but seeing Antonio trying to steer a gondola whilst smashed is probably one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.
Until 31 August at Underbelly (George Square); £12.50/£14.50
Photograph: Isabelle Culkin