EC Recommends: Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Updated: Feb 7
Hello from a week and a bit before Fringe kick-off! There’s a quiet in the air, the heaviness of an approaching storm. Fingers up and down the country hovering over the ‘run sales report’ button, unsure whether knowing will help or make it all worse.
This is kind of the worst bit - all the anticipation and anxiety (could we be doing more? oh god, will anyone come?). Selling your art is really hard, especially in the saturated marketplace of the Fringe - you worry about irritating people, you feel at best like a huckster and at worst like a fraud. It’s much easier and much more fun to shout about other people’s stuff that you love and really believe others should go see. So we thought, let’s do both.
So, this is our show: Landscape (1989), an exploration of endings and what might follow after an ending. In the show, we delve into a forest in Oregon and meet the mushroom hunters who live there for parts of the year. We also hear from a young John Cage, stare at a microwave, dance to The Mountain Goats, and wait for dinner to be ready. It’s a tender, delicate piece about listening closer to what surrounds us (it’s really quite sentimental at the end of the day). We’re pretty sure it’ll get more Marmite-y responses than our first show, but we’re genuinely very proud of it and excited to see how audiences meet it.
For the first two weeks, we’re also performing in Portents, written and directed by Nat Norland, who is sound designer for Landscape (1989). Delivered like a music recital or a sermon, it’s a sequence of texts about conspiracies, aliens and religious rebirth. Paul McCartney becomes Paul the Apostle, a woman becomes convinced that a scam call is a signal from outer space, and the same car crash keeps happening in different places and different times. It’s a brilliant piece of writing, and great fun to perform.
And here are 16 other shows that we’d recommend. Some we’ve seen, some we haven’t - some are by friends, some by people we’ve only admired from afar. There’s lots of stuff we haven’t included - we’re choosing to signal-boost some shows that might be flying a little more under the radar amidst all the pre-Edinburgh press coverage.
1. Neither Here Nor There - Jo Fong and Sonia Hughes
This show is like the performance equivalent of tending a garden. Against the relentless pace of the Festival, this participatory piece takes its time, and leaves space to breathe and reflect. It’s disarming, instructive, and rejuvenating. Don’t book to see anything straight after.
2. Desmond’s Republic - Callum Berridge
There are two home shows doing the rounds this year (you should definitely book Dan Bye’s Arthur for your flat/house as well). Desmond’s Republic isn’t in the programme so you’ll have to contact Callum directly to book it. I know pretty much nothing about it except that it involves a meal. Marrying food-based performance with the intimacy of a home show seems a natural choice.
3. For now we see through a mirror, darkly - Ultimate Dancer
Greenside @ Nicholson Square
The copy for this show is so good, I’ll just quote from it: “there are 3 obscured vertical figures; a blood sack, a towering meat stack (or stink horn) and a jelly beast. The 3 figures signify the 3 different fires in the work: The inner fire, the secret fire and the dark fire that stimulates the other two.”
4. Life is No Laughing Matter - Demi Nandhra
This show is about Demi’s journey with depression, and features a real life pup called Yoko, Demi’s boyfriend and lots of bananas. We first heard about it when our friend Anna Himali Howard did some outside-eying/directing on it a few years ago. Free tickets available for POC.
5. Drone - Harry Josephine Giles
We loved Giles’ poetry when we saw them perform at the Forest Fringe farewell party a couple years back. This is a live-mixed multimedia poetry cycle written from the perspective of a military drone. Harry is also a Good Twitter Person who you should follow if you don’t already.
6. VIKING - Intrepid Fools
Underbelly Bristo Square
Intrepid Fools’ first show, The Murderous Philanthropist of Croydon Town was stupidly good fun, genuinely hilarious and had perfectly toe-tappy, catchy songs. The Festival is stuffed from end to end with bad versions of this show, but these guys are the real deal.
7. Pathetic Fallacy - The Chop
Summerhall @ Canada Hub
In an effort to make a show which could tour internationally in an environmentally friendly manner, Canadian company The Chop don’t actually travel with it. It features a local guest performer who receives instructions and performs in front of a green screen.
8. Yours, Sincerely - Quick Duck Theatre
In this cabaret-inflected solo show, Will takes us through the hand-written letters he sent to people after accidentally stealing 300 second-class stamps. Guaranteed LOLs, and perfect with a pint.
Greenside @ Infirmary Street
A full reading of the 2018 IPCC report on climate change. Performed by over a hundred readers from authors and activists to members of the public over five days. Sounds like it could be an interesting/terrifying thing to watch.
Twinned dance pieces performed on alternating days. Playing with language, diversion and nonsense, Phrases looks at meaningless streams-of-consciousness, while Footnotes parodies an academic lecture which gets derailed by its footnotes.
11. 00 - Argonaut
We loved Argonaut’s first show Action at a Distance, which was a really sharp, complex piece of new writing about ethics and automated warfare. 00 looks at our hopes and fears at the turn of the millennium. Expecting some 90’s bangers.
12. Progress - Trip Hazards
Our flatmates for August! Nikhil and Jasmine play Dance Dance Revolution with/against each other in a show looks at friendship, capitalism and competition. If you’re a fan of Antler or Bert and Nasi’s work, this ought to be right up your street.
13. Lovely Girls - The Hiccup Project
This will be the first show we’ve seen by Brighton-based The Hiccup Project. Their stuff looks loads of fun - energetic, playful, a gazillion costume changes. They’re on ZOO’s main stage with a new show about being more than simply ‘lovely’.
14. Die or Run - Hannah Ringham
Greenside @ Nicholson Square
A solo show by ex-Shunt member Hannah Ringham, with sound by Glen Neath, looking at the relationship between mental health and neoliberalism. Comes recommended by the likes of Tim Crouch, Annie Siddons and Chris Brett Bailey.
15. Civilisation - Antler
The completely brilliant Lands was a bit of a sleeper hit two years ago. Featuring one actor (the inimitable Sophie Steer) and three contemporary dancers, this piece sees Antler exploring new territory. Very excited.
16. I, AmDram - Hannah Maxwell
Hannah Maxwell has worked extensively with legendary performance artists Split Britches. Her first full length solo show, though, is drawn from her experiences with her hometown’s amateur dramatics society, which her family has led since 1929. Fertile ground for exploring artistic labour and value, and the identities we grow into and leave behind.
Other shows you should DEFINITELY SEE:
OUT and Nightclubbing by Rachael Young, the accident did not take place by YESYESNONO, Wild Swimming by FullRogue, The Last of the Pelican Daughters by The Wardrobe Ensemble, Post Popular by Lucy McCormick, MOOT MOOT by Rosana Cade and Ivor MacAskill, Art Heist by Poltergeist, One and The End by Bert and Nasi, Black Holes by Seke Chimutengwende and Alexandrina Hemsley, Hearty by Emma Frankland, Juliet and Romeo by Lost Dog, CONSPIRACY by Barrel Organ…
…and loads more.
Really, there are just, too many shows at Fringe?
But we’re there for the whole month so we’ll see AS MANY as we can.
Do say hi, and maybe see you in the pub?