Want to see some top theatre at Edinburgh festival – but don’t know where to start?
Top Theatre critic Mark Fisher picks ten highlights from the 2011 Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
One of the most talked about companies to have emerged from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in recent years is Belgium’s Ontroerend Goed. Audiences bold enough to see ‘Smile Off Your Face’ were strapped into a wheelchair, blindfolded and led on a sightless sensory journey. Those who tried ‘Internal’ were given the theatrical equivalent of speed dating and group therapy. In this latest piece, the company continues its investigation into the nature of theatre by turning the focus from the stage towards you, the audience.
St George’s West, 5–28 August (not 10, 17, 24), 10.55pm, 0131 225 7001. More information
2. Blood and Roses
If you prefer to get your theatre through headphones, you have a number of options this year. Red Shift, for example, is presenting Invisible Show II in which the audience sits in the Pleasance Courtyard trying to spot the actors with radio mics mingling with the crowds. Meanwhile, Poorboy Theatre Company is reviving the excellent Blood and Roses, which is like a promenade radio play, requiring the listener to roam the streets for each new scene.
St George’s West, 5–27 August, times vary, 0131 225 7001. More information
3. One Million Tiny Plays About Britain
Craig Taylor used to have a weekly column in the Guardian in which he imagined snippets of overheard conversation. Working at Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre, director Ros Philips took a selection of these tiny plays – less than a million, but still quite a lot – and fashioned them into an entertaining compilation that ranged from the funny to the poignant. For the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, she is re-configuring the three-person show for a special location in the New Town.
Hill Street Theatre, 5–28 August (not 9, 16, 23), times vary, 0131 226 6522. More information
4. One Thousand And One Nights
There will be a real sense of event around Tim Supple’s staging of the ancient Arabian tales for the Edinburgh International Festival. From the start, he has committed himself to doing it in two parts – or in one all-day marathon – drawing on the music, dance and acting skills of a company who come from across the Arab world. For an added flavour of authenticity, he has asked writer Hanan Al-Shaykh to return to the stories as they were before being sentimentalised by the west.
Royal Lyceum, 21 August–3 September, times vary, 0131 473 2000. More information
5. A Slow Air
David Harrower’s best known plays, Knives in Hens and Blackbird, are so stripped down they could take place almost anywhere. By contrast, his latest two-hander, A Slow Air, is explicitly rooted in modern-day Scotland. Here, two estranged siblings, played brilliantly by real-life brother and sister Kathryn and Lewis Howden, slowly reveal the story of what tore them apart and propelled them to opposite sides of the country.
Traverse, 4–21 August (not 8, 15), times vary, 0131 228 1404. More information
6. The Strange Undoing Of Prudencia Hart
Plenty of opportunities to catch the work of David Greig on this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Glasgow’s TAG is staging his teen-friendly Monster in the Hall, a student company from Bristol is reviving Yellow Moon and a school company is performing his Caligula. Taking pride of place is the National Theatre of Scotland’s thoroughly enjoyable production of The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, a parody and celebration of the Border ballad performed cabaret-style around the audience.
Traverse @ Ghillie Dhu, 2–27 August (no 8, 15, 22), 3pm, 0131 228 1404. More information
7. Ten Plagues
Sure to be a brisk seller, this piece of music theatre about the great plague of London brings together the talents of playwright Mark Ravenhill, composer Conor Mitchell, director Stewart Laing and Soft Cell singer Marc Almond. It tells the story of one man’s desolate journey through the rotting streets of 17th-century London.
Traverse, 6–28 August (not 8, 15, 22), times vary, 0131 228 1404. More information
Polish director Pawel Passini returns to the unfinished opera by Puccini and imagines the composer himself entering the fictional world of the Chinese princess who puts to death any suitor who cannot answer her riddles. The award-winning piece of experimental theatre also makes a nod to William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch.
New Town Theatre, 4–27 August (not 17), 3pm, 0131 220 0143. More information
9. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Seven years in the making, this adaptation of the 600-page novel by Haruki Murakami uses everything from film to puppetry, physical theatre and dance to tell the metaphysical tale of a man whose wife leaves him without explanation. Part of the Edinburgh International Festival’s Asian-themed programme.
King’s Theatre, 20–24 August, 7.30pm, 0131 473 2000. More information
10. You Wouldn’t Know Him, He Lives In Texas
A group of Edinburgh theatregoers meets in a mystery location for a party, while in Austin, Texas, a group of American theatregoers does the same. Through the magic of Skype and Twitter they all share in a transatlantic knees up in a show that makes social networking truly social.
Underbelly, 6–28 August (Sat and Sun only), 6pm and 8pm, 0844 545 8252. More information