Two years without the Edinburgh Fringe? That’s a lot of stand-up comedians with no one to talk to. This year, the Royal Mile is ready to be deluged with flyers once more, as the festival is returning for the first time since 2019.
With thousands of shows to choose from, the fear of missing out on the gems is high – so we’ve pillaged the brochure to bring you our top recommendations across theatre, comedy and dance.
A Little Life – Festival Theatre, 20-22 August
Hanya Yanagihara’s novel about four friends who have very traumatic lives is a divisive one, loved and loathed in equal measure. If you’re on the superfan side, you’ll be delighted to hear that cult European director Ivo van Hove has adapted it for the stage. After its 2018 premiere in Amsterdam, it now gets a short run at the Edinburgh International Festival. The show, however, is anything but short at more than four hours long.
Burn – Kings Theatre, 4-10 August
Robert Burns didn’t die just so we could drink whiskey and eat haggis once a year. This dance show from Alan Cumming aims to show us the real man, not just – as the actor himself put it to us – “this strapping ploughman who just happened to knock off a few fabulous poems every now and then, and then shag everybody”.
Feeling Afraid As If Something Terrible Is Going to Happen, Roundabout @ Summerhall, 3-28 August (except 4, 9, 16 & 23)
A neurotic stand-up who will not stop talking to you for an hour? That’s just walking into any pub in Edinburgh during August, right? Actually, no: it’s what happens in this new play by Marcelo Dos Santos, which is being produced by Francesca Moody, aka the original producer of Fleabag. Her shows put fresh writing centre stage and are always worth catching. Plus, it stars Samuel Barnett – forever in our hearts as Posner, the sweetest of The History Boys, and one of our most underrated stage actors.
Half Empty Glasses, Roundabout @ Summerhall, 3-28 August
Dipo Baruwa-Etti has been cementing his rep as one of our most exciting new playwrights all year. An Unfinished Man, his play about a man who thinks he’s been cursed, got raves at The Yard, and the Almeida will stage his play The Clinic in September. First, though, comes Half Empty Glasses, about a young student frustrated by his curriculum’s dearth of Black British history. It’s one of several exciting new plays coming from portable theatre company Paines Plough this year.
Blanket Ban – Underbelly, Cowgate, August 4-28 (except 15)
The move to overturn Roe v Wade has rightly caused shockwaves, so if you’re searching for a show to focus your mind on one of the most urgent issues of the year, don’t miss Blanket Ban. This docu-play is about the abortion ban in Malta, based on a series of anonymous interviews, and could hardly be more topical.
Boris III – Pleasance Courtyard, August 3-29 (except 15)
Everyone is speculating about what our departing PM will do next. Maybe Adam Meggido’s show will inspire him to return to his past in amateur dramatics. Apparently, when Johnson was an 18-year-old schoolboy, he played Richard III. This imagines what that performance might have been like.
She/Her – Assembly George Square Studios, August 3-29 (except 10, 16 & 23)
Brian Cox, aka Logan Roy, has a non-Succession side-hustle: making fringe theatre with his wife, Nicole Ansari-Cox. After directing her in Sinners at the Playground Theatre in early 2020, he’s now pivoted to producing. She/Her, directed by and starring Ansari-Cox, is a multimedia performance featuring eight women “speaking their truth” on topics ranging from motherhood to trauma, using movement and music.
Patti Harrison – Pleasance Courtyard, 3-15 August
If you see one new comedian at the Fringe this summer, you should make it Harrison. The US performer, who starred in Netflix sketch show I Think You Should Leave and co-hosted the finished-too-soon podcast A Woman’s Smile, will be one of the most unique voices at the festival. Her sarcasm-laden set is a joy.
Coming Out of My Cage (And I’ve Been Doing Just Fine) – Underbelly Cowgate, August 4-28 (except 16)
Destiny is calling us. This “interactive investigation” from theatre company Shepard Tone explores how “Mr Brightside” by The Killers became absolutely unkillable. A must-see for anyone who has screamed the chorus at a party at 3am. Which, let’s face it, is most of us.
Manic Street Creature – Roundabout @ Summerhall, August 3-28 (except 4, 9, 16 & 23)
Maimuna Memon is one of the most exciting emerging talents in the world of British musicals. Manic Street Creature is a piece of gig theatre about love and mental health, and it could prove to be her breakthrough moment.
CAttS – Pleasance Courtyard, August 3-28 (except 15)
Emerging comedy star Frankie Thompson developed this show as part of Soho Theatre’s Comedy Lab, the starting place for talents such as Jack Rooke and Olga Koch. She describes it as “a lip-sync ballet” to “help us cope with an increasingly dystopian reality”, which sounds fitting for a year already as bizarre as 2022.
Speed Dial – Pleasance Dome, 3-29 August (except 16)
When it comes to merging physical theatre with comedy, theatre company Spies Like Us are at the top of their game. Their 2017 and 2018 adaptations of Our Man in Havana and Woyzeck were some of the most talked-about shows of the Fringe, full of pacey dialogue and snappy, expertly choreographed movements. Now, they’re back with their first original show Speed Dial, set in the Seventies and, apparently, exploring “connection, forgiveness... and cryptic crosswords”. Cryptic indeed…
Liz Kingsman: One Woman Show – Traverse Theatre, 16-28 August (except 22)
Liz Kingsman first performed One Woman Show at the Soho Theatre last year to sold-out audiences. The endless heap of five-star reviews it received speak for themselves. In this parody of the female-led solo shows that dominate the Fringe, Kingsman’s comedy takes “observational” to a whole new level, with an eye for spotting tropes you didn’t even realise were tropes. The gag rate is off the scale, while the show wrong-foots you at every turn; you’ll stumble back onto the Royal Mile, drunk on the LOLs.
Phil Wang: The Real Hero in All This – Assembly George Square, 15-21 August
Phil Wang (or “Philly Philly Wang Wang”, as you might know him) is back at the Fringe this year and, my god, we’re lucky to have him. His new show, The Real Hero in All This, will see him explore “race, family and everything that’s been going on in his Philly little life”. Wang’s world is so inherently charming you can’t help but be sucked in.
Jordan Brookes: This Is Just What Happens – Monkey Barrel Comedy, 3-28 August (excluding Mondays)
How to describe Jordan Brookes’s comedy in one word? Most would say “uncomfortable”. In his first show since winning the Edinburgh Comedy Award in 2019 (thanks to the pandemic he’s the longest reigning winner, as his posters point out), he pushes his ability to make an audience squirm to new levels. This Is Just What Happens is centred around a casual interaction in 2019 that’s stuck with him – things get weird.
Hungry – Roundabout @ Summerhall, 3-28 August (except 4, 9, 16, 23)
Chris Bush has been described as “the busiest playwright in Britain” – but it doesn’t stop her from coming up with the goods. Hungry, her blisteringly funny, heartfelt new show with Paines Plough, is a love story told through a culinary lens. It explores the blossoming relationship between Lori, a chef at a bougie restaurant, and Bex, a waiter at the same establishment. Their romance becomes a lens through which class, race and cultural appropriation are all viewed. Come for the delectable food metaphors, stay for the razor-sharp social commentary.
Jinkx Monsoon: She’s Still Got Away With It! – Assembly George Square Gardens, 6-18 August
Jinkx Monsoon became a recognisable name after appearing on RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2013, branding herself as “Seattle’s premier Jewish narcoleptic drag queen” – but live performance has always been her bread and butter. Her new show, in which she teams up once again with long-time collaborator Major Scales, promises to be a cabaret of impressive vocals, audience interaction and penis jokes. What’s not to love?
In PurSUEt – Underbelly Cowgate, 4-28 August (except 15)
Beginning life at the 2019 Fringe as a 45-minute scratch performance, Eleanor Higgins’s hit show In PurSUEt returns this year in glorious full form. The Sue of the title is comedy legend Sue Perkins, the object of obsession and desire for a woman who wants you to know that she doesn’t need therapy for her alcohol addiction, actually. It’s a potent exploration of mental health and substance abuse, yet always manages to find humour too.
Nish Kumar: Your Power, Your Control – Assembly George Square, 22-28 August
The new show from Britain’s leading political comic is a game of two halves. The first centres on a pivotal, news-making moment in Kumar’s career: a tale of Brexit, online hate and, erm, bread. In the other, you’ll find the kind of scalding political commentary that has made Kumar both loved and hated. The world in which I watched Your Power, Your Control in January is, basically, unrecognisable at this stage, but you can expect Kumar’s show to constantly adapt to the shifting headlines. Who even knows who’ll be leading our country by then? Either way, Kumar’s the best person to tear them apart.
Lara Ricote: GRL/LATNX/DEF – Monkey Barrel Comedy, 2-28 August (except 17)
Funny Women 2021 winner Lara Ricote is making her Fringe debut this year, and she’s a talent to watch. She hails from Mexico (via Amsterdam), and, in her show, she explores her identity as a woman who is Latin, deaf (Ricote wears Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids, meaning she could be listening to a true crime podcast at any moment) and a woman. As she calls them: “Minority jokes for majority crowds.”