TThe Edinburgh festival strip, in its heyday, was a magnificent monster. The world’s largest arts festival, it was fast-paced, dizzying, dauntingly huge, and like an exudate from a city-consuming 1950s B-movie, it continued to grow, year after year. In 2019, the strip presented more than 3,500 shows in more than 300 venues. And that’s without taking into account its less chaotic brother, the Edinburgh International Festival.
Last year, the pandemic put an end to that and forced the fringes to connect. For a time it was not known what form this year’s strip would take, or even if it could go ahead live. By hosting a festival where artists and audiences from around the world gather in sweaty basements and stuffy hallways, it would always take a while for it to return to its full and tumultuous glory.
Meanwhile, to comply with Scotland’s stricter social distancing rules, the strip has adopted a hybrid model – a mix of in-person and digital events that take place in August, with a lot of work outside, in courtyards and in beaches. , making for a smaller, perhaps smoother (and, let’s face it, inevitably wetter) fringe experience.
The Traverse, the home of new writing in Scotland and a mainstay of the strip, opens its doors for the first time since March 2020 with a new work by Glasgow-based writer Frances Poet, directed by Trav Artistic Director Gareth Nicholls. A hymn to Edinburgh itself, it sounds like it has the potential to be a real moving one.
Traverse 1, August 2-22
Last year, production companies Francesca Moody (Fleabag) and Harriet Bolwell, plus writer and performer Gary McNair, created Shedinburgh, a mini digital festival of artists performing from their own sheds. This year he’s back and even bigger, with a show that reads like the greatest hits of the past, including Katie Bonna and Richard Marsh’s rhyming romantic comedy Dirty Great Love Story, Emma Dennis’s poignant Funeral Flowers- Edwards and Gary Owen couldn’t be more timely. Iphigenia in Splott.
shedinburgh.com, August 3 to 30
The Edinburgh International Festival also has a reduced program this year, the line-up includes the tantalizing prospect of the world premiere of a new play by Irish playwright Enda Walsh on the Traverse. Medicine is an absurd tale of two musical theater actors working in a mental hospital with a cast that includes Domhnall Gleeson (star of several Star Wars and Harry Potter films) and the ever-magnetic Aoife Duffin.
Traverse 1, August 4 to 29
Delirium … double fall. Photographer: ZooTV
Welsh new writing company Dirty Protest had a huge hit in 2017 with Sugar Baby. His new play set in the 1990s, which fuses the traditional Welsh music and poetry festival, the Eisteddfod, with rave culture, is performing to an overflowing audience at MultiStory, a new open-air fringe center, located in a parking lot.
MultiStory, August 6 to 13
Knot: the trilogy
Darkfield, the company responsible for the deeply creepy shipping container show Séance, has been doing groundbreaking, and still highly disturbing, audio work throughout the pandemic. Knot is a three-part immersive audio program designed to be experienced on your phone while in three different locations: on a park bench, in a car, and finally in your own home.
summerhall.co.uk, August 6 to 29
Out of service
The strip has always been the place to see world-class circus, and this year is no different. Montreal Circus Collective The filmed show of the 7 fingers, which is part of the Assembly’s program, takes place in a world in which cultural spaces are closed and physical contact is prohibited.
Showcatcher mounting on request, August 6 to 30
Sex Ed Explorers (SEX)
Mamoru Iriguchi’s comedy show on the failures of sex ed is one of the most intriguing offerings featured in Summerhall’s secret courtyard. A former veterinary college turned art space, it’s a place you can trust to schedule more outrageous jobs.
Summerhall: Secret Courtyard, August 6 to 29
First person of interest … Avatar Me. Photographer: ZooTV
Fix & Foxy is a company of Danish theatrical innovators whose past productions include an immersive performance of Twin Peaks and a version of A Doll’s House performed in the audience’s own home. His zoom show, part of a Danish theater showcase, transplants the viewer into the body of another person, thousands of miles away, allowing us to see the world through their eyes.
ZooTV, from August 8 to 29; on sale from August 4th
As part of Assembly’s in-person programs, Max Barton’s song cycle about the power of music to awaken memory when your grandmother succumbs to Alzheimer’s disease is part concert, part theater, and is fully guaranteed to make you cry.
George Square Gardens Assembly, August 9-15
Patricia Gets Ready (for a date with the man who used to hit her)
The show with arguably the most striking title of this year’s Pleasance program, Martha Watson Allpress’s work draws on her own experiences of an abusive relationship to explore domestic abuse and the question of why people stay in or return to partners. violent
Pleasance at EICC: Lomond Theater, Nov. to August 29
Five comedy shows to watch
Mom is the word … Josie Long.
Politics and parenting in a lighthearted and thoughtful comic book work in progress.
Monkey Barrel Comedy, Wed-Fri, Aug 23-29
The existential comedian and still reigning 2019 Edinburgh Prize champion, prepares new and highly improvised material.
Monkey Barrel Comedy, August 7-11
Debut stand-up show from the man from Inbetweeners, now more than twice his character’s age.
Pleasance Courtyard, August 13-17
Expect work-in-progress, and maybe some digging in the Beeb, from the former Mash Report man.
Monkey Barrel Comedy, August 16-22
Rising star McGrath considers her Kenyan heritage and the empire’s role on her show Accidental Coconut.
Pleasance Courtyard, August 16-18 Gwilym mumford