There is only one place to be in August – and that’s Edinburgh.
We have the world’s greatest arts festival on our doorstep, packed with incredible shows and performers.
The city can be chaotic, and the beer is priced at laugh-out-loud levels, but the Edinburgh Festival Fringe has to be experienced.
With over 2000 shows in venues big, small and some almost impossible to find, where to start?
Jump on a train (don’t drive!), spend a day over there and pick a show you know nothing about – you might just be blown away. Or, here’s a few I’m happy to recommend – some are on my ‘must see’ list, a few are firm favourites which just HAVE to be seen, and there are a couple of pot lucks for good measure.
Basil Brush (Underbelly Bristo Square) 6:45pm: Yup, the original fantastic Mr Fox, and children’s TV legend makes his Fringe debut with a show that will appeal to anyone who grew up yelling ‘Boom! Boom!’
Nicholas Parsons’ Happy Hour,(Pleasance Courtyard) 5:15 pm: At the ripe old age of 95, Nick is still going strong and still packing them in. His show is old-school chat with fantastic guests and a warmth that is genuinely hard to match.
Craig Hill, (EICC) 6:30pm: It’s actually a city bye-law that you cannot go to the Fringe without seeing Craig Hill. Just don’t sit in the front row unless you are very, very brave!
Jason Byrne (Assembly Hall) 9.00pm: Byrne’s 2018 show was just outstanding – no-one can match his energy or the buzz he creates in a room, and few leave without being in pain from laughing. High hopes for his 2019 show.
Frank Skinner, (Assembly, George Square) 9.00pm: A true comedy great and a former Fringe regular in his early days, Skinner has an hour of comedy which is his warm-up for his forthcoming UK tour.
Jo Caulfield: Voodoo Doll (The Stand Comedy Club) 7:40pm : A Fringe isn’t the same without a Caulfield gig - razor sharp material every time. Full houses are pretty much the norm for Jo, so get in quick to get a ticket.
RISE AND SHINE
The Big Bite-Size Breakfast Show (Pleasance Courtyard), 10:30 am: They serve free tea, coffee and strawberries half an hour before curtain up, so if you haven’t had your breakfast this is a good way to start the day! The show has a rotating menu of short comedies and some drama. A bit pot luck!
The Shark Is Broken (Assembly George Square Gardens Studio), 11:00am: There’s only one shark that matters– the one in Jaws! Based on the diaries of the film’s star, the late Robert Shaw, and co-written by his son Ian, this is the true story of the jealousies and tall tales from behind the scenes of Spielberg’s classic movie.
Audacious Mr Astley (Pleasance) 10:50am: The story of Sergeant-Major Philip Astley, arguably the original ‘greatest showman’ who invented circuses. He started in a field, travelled Europe and established a form of entertainment that endures to this day.
Bystanders (Summerhall) 11:30: Always worth exploring Summerhall’s schedules for something different - this drama explores the lives, and deaths, of homeless people.
LET’S DO LUNCH:
Austentatious (Underbelly Bistro) 1: 00 pm: You’ll recognise more than a few of the performers in what is probably the best improv show on the Fringe. Every day they create a new Jane Austen novel based on the suggestion of an audience member. They think on their feet, and deliver a show that may be improvised but the comic timing is still razor sharp. Always a treat to see them.
Fishbowl (Pleasance) 1:00 pm: A UK premiere for this award-winning show which centres on three neighbours in rooftop flats whose eccentricities spark slasptick comedy and the most unexpected of friendships. On my ’must see’ list so expecting big things!
Late Lunch with Biggins (Pleasance) 2:40pm: The legendary I’m A Celeb winner and star of umpteen telly shows hosts his own gathering. Expect name dropping, anecdotes and a myriad of special guests.
Arthur Smith: Syd (Pleasance) 1:40pm: Smith is a Fringe regular and always a joy to see. His show paying homage to Leonard Cohen was a delight, and now he returns with the story of his own father, quoting from his journal in a personal story packed with music from his life.
Blizzard (Assembly Hall) 4:25pm: Flip Fabrique, the company behind this show, are simply cool as well as awesomely talented. They take the spirit of the circus and twist it to their own unique style – absolutely worth seeing.
The Incident Room (Pleasance) 4:30pm : The police investigation into the Yorkshire Ripper is re-told in this fascinating drama – one that is sure to spark many memories.
Bible John (Pleasance) 3:50pm: And talking of memories, Glasgow of the late 1960s is recalled and brought vividly to life by four women who immerse themselves in the case in a bid to solve one of Scotland’s greatest murder mysteries.
THE EVENING SCENE
Hold On Let Go (Summerhall) 8:40 pm: I absolutely loved their 2016 show Putting The Band Back Together – a poignant tale of loss with great music and a chance to join the band! – so I’m really looking forward to this offering which looks at memory.
Choir Of Man (Assembly Hall) 7:30pm: Want a show that lifts your spirits, gets you singing AND serves free beer? This is for you! One of the best feel-good shows around, it’s a pub with a bunch of blokes who become a choir – and this is their story. Gloriously entertaining stuff with songs which are belted out with gusto!
Colin Cloud, (Pleasance) 8:00pm: Simply the finest, slickest mentalist at the Fringe. No matter how often I see him, I can’t figure out how he does it – I’ve even stood on stage with Colin and still couldn’t work it out! He delivers a jaw-dropping show every night.
Coma (Summerhall) All day: Step into a shipping container, don your headphones and sit in total darkness for the next 30 minutes as your ears absorb every sound and possible movement, while the rest of your brain tries to work out what is going on . I’ve been to two of their shows - a unique experience that fair shoogles the senses!
8:8 (Summerhall) Times vary. A cast of eight performing a 25-minute show to eight people challenging notions of trust and suspicion. It promises “an unsettling performance” …
Paris De Nuit (Assembly Hall) 10:30 pm: One of the best of the many late night cabaret shows, this one is soaked in the decadent underbelly of Paris, and with a stage packed with remarkable circus acts.
Late Night Lip service: (Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre) 11:30pm: Brace yourself for Ginzilla, the seven foot tall, ginger bearded international cabaret star who hosts this glorious show with a revolvng cast of guests every single night. It runs into the wee sma’ hours, and you’ll probably see things that will lodge in your brain for days after!