It’s August 17th, which means that the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2017 just hit its halfway mark, but, more importantly, that a new Game of Thrones episode drops in 3 days omg omg omg!!! So… Are you broke yet? (probably). Are you sick of festival flyers? (probably). Do you still like people? (probably not).
I trust that you have applauded your fair share of acts so far, but if you choose to visit the festival during its last two weeks, or still have a few pounds to spare, here is a handful of must-see shows at the Fringe and Edinburgh International Festival.
Foil, Arms and Hog: Oink
By far one of my favourite comedy acts. I mean what can be better than three Irish men (with names as Irish as potatoes: Sean, Sean and Conor) telling jokes for 1 hour, right? And, actually, they don’t tell jokes, they perform sketch comedy. Minutes-long sketches that you can enjoy both at the festival AND their YouTube channel (100,000 subscribers strong) that perfectly satirise everyday life situations (“Teaching computer to parents”, “Learning how to drive with your parents“, “The family holiday“), current events (“WTF is Brexit“), and, my absolute favourite, Irish stereotypes (“Never take an Irish person literally”, “Irish school admissions”, and “An Irish intervention” – a sketch about an Irish mother horrified at her teenage son because he chooses to drink water instead of alcohol). Go see them NOW, I go every year. Book tickets here. Admission: £12.50-£15, prices depend on the day, discounts apply.
Daniel Sloss: NOW
An English-born Scottish lad (who looks a lot like the dude from Home Alone by the way) doing humour the British way; dark, dead-pan, deliciously sarcastic, self-deprecating, and a bit pessimistic. So before you decide to pay the £14.50 – £18.50 for a ticket (prices depend on the day, discounts apply), you have been warned. Sloss is clever, philosophical at times, unapologetically cynical, and seems to have a beef with emotionally validating romantic love, and if this description resonates at all with you, then he is your guy! If, on the other hand, you like a happier, straight-forward sense of humour, or easily get offended, then give it a pass or proceed with caution. Impressively, at just 26 years of age he has not only done super well for himself within the UK, but also sold thousands of tickets in his international tours (15+ countries), AND appeared on American late-night talkshow Conan a record-breaking 6 times (during which he referred to his own junk as “The Slossness monster, because no one has ever seen it” – I’m dying). Book tickets here.
Showstopper! The Improvised Musical
Aaaand from dark comedy to jazz hands. The Showstoppers promise – and deliver – a new musical every night, improvised entirely on the spot as the show progresses, from lyrics to acting. Yes, you read correctly. How do they do it? Right on the beginning the director shows up and asks the audience for suggestions regarding the theme, time and location of the musical (and the result can get as hilariously random as “a 3 way love triangle at a Newcastle pet shop during a hot summer day” – yes this was the plot of one out of the three Showstopper! musicals I’ve watched), as well as some favourite musical tunes on which the show’s music will be based upon. The rest is all improv; no, they don’t have a Showstopper! performer hidden in the audience shouting already pre-improvised musical suggestions every night, nor do they have a “Magic 8-Ball – The Musical Edition” predicting the future before they go on stage. They are just hard working, gifted artists who do the (seemingly) impossible. Book tickets here. Admission: £15-£17, prices depend on the day, discounts apply.
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
Ok, I admit it, I haven’t been to the Military Tattoo yet. It’s one of those things that I know I’ll eventually go to, but I keep telling myself “next year”, just like I do for the gym. However, I have heard so much about it, that it is impossible not to know how much of a spectacular show it is: an annual series of military (and more) performances, which runs each day (!!!) of the Fringe (chances are that if you live in Edinburgh you have heard and seen the fireworks at the end of each Tattoo, every night of every August). The show is held on the esplanade (fancy word for open area) right outside Edinburgh Castle’s entrance, and features performances by the British Armed Forces, National and International Military Bands, as well as non-military themed dancing groups. And all of this whilst you sit in what looks like a Quidditch arena outside the Edinburgh Castle, on the top of a volcanic hill created 350 million years ago, immersed in colours and music and tartan and Scotland ♥ – HOW COOL IS THAT?! The Tattoo is the show which I particularly had in mind when offering my PLAN EARLY advice during my “top 10 tips for surviving the Fringe”, as tickets can get very pricey. If you book early you can enjoy the show for as little as £25 (of course, prices vary depending on where you sit – if you want that perfect Highland dancer Instagram shot, splashing £70 on a ticket will put you in one of the front rows), but if you wait until August to do your bookings, a ticket can set you back £125 – £400 (I’m gonna let you recover from the shock for a minute). If you are lucky, last minute ticket cancellations or no-shows may leave some available tickets for £50-ish. Book tickets here.
Northern Power Blouse
Three funny and feisty northern ladies put on a sketch comedy show that tries to convince us what the Starks have been trying to for 7 Game Of Thrones seasons now; North is better. Cassie, Kat and Charlotte, who have previously reached the final of BAFTA and Funny Women writing awards, go on stage in full 80’s gear, from shoulder pads to plastic earrings, and deliver a show full of heart, songs, laughter and Northern jokes (quoting their British Comedy Guide interview: “It’s a well-documented fact that you’re only ever 6 feet away from a meat and potato pie when you’re up north. If you stray too far down the M1 they start forgetting to put potato in, or, God forbid, they’re gluten free”). Admission: Free, more info here.
Edinburgh International Festival picks
Ok, despite the fact that both the Edinburgh Fringe and the Edinburgh International Festival were established in 1947 (Happy 70th Birthday, Festivals!) and run together throughout every August, they have some key differences. For example, Edinburgh International Festival venues include genuine theatres with numbered seats and clean toilets, whereas Fringe’s venues are establishments like: a church, a dark alley, a school, a tree, the middle of the street, someone’s house, the back of a taxi, etc. Another difference is that you need an invitation from the Festival Director to be able to perform at Edinburgh International Festival (fancy), with some performers doing only one or very few shows, in contrast to Fringe’s open door policy when it comes to performances, many of which tend to last through most of August. So I can tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed a beautiful production of Don Giovanni, a powerful performance by Benjamin Clementine, and a breathtaking concert by the always magical Sigur RóS at the Edinburgh International Festival, but since they only had one or two shows, you are going to have to wait until next year to watch them again (unless you catch them out of the festival). In any case, if you love music, theatre, opera, dance and all things grande, keep an eye on the events diary of the Edinburgh International Festival website. Upcoming shows (with multiple dates) include BAFTA award winner Gerry Fox’s “Staffa”, an orchestra and screen installation show of visions of the uninhabited Scottish Hebridean island Staffa (Admission: Free, more info here), “Black Whyte Gray”, a dance theatre creation that combines electronic music and powerful choreography by the award-winning East London hip-hop company Boy Blue Entertainment (Admission: £10-26, discounts apply. Book ticket here), and “Flight”, a theatre production of 2012 novel Hinterland, telling the story of two brothers who embark on a journey to freedom and safety (Admission: £12-£15, discounts apply, Book ticket here).
Virgin Money Firework Concert
On the last day of the festival the Princess Street Gardens welcome an evening of classical music and fireworks illuminating the Edinburgh Castle. This year the event will start with vocals by Karen Matheson (not to be confused with Homeland’s Carrie Mathison) and tunes by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and continue to 40 minutes of an epic fireworks display, one of the biggest in the world, choreographed to classical music hits (can I use the word “hit” when it comes to classical music?), such as Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty. If you don’t want to pay £32 for a seat at the gardens, or even £15 for a standing spot (Book tickets here), head to the graveyard of St. Cuthbert right next to the Gardens and below the Castle. You can still hear the music, and you have a front row seat to the fireworks. A perfect festival finale.
Have you been at the Fringe? What’s your favourite show? Comment below!