10 shows you mustn't miss this Edinburgh Fringe!
Updated: Aug 26, 2018
✨ LUCY EATON and FREDDIE HUTCHINS
In 2006, when Lucy took her first production up to the Edinburgh Fringe there were about 1800 shows on offer. It was the 59th Fringe Festival and already the program felt like a tidal wave of creativity. When Freddie worked at Zoo Venues in 2008 (the year that comedy overtook theatre as the biggest section in the programme), the number of shows had crept over the 2000 mark.
This summer there are over 3500...
It's a daunting prospect picking what to see. If - like us - you'll be visiting at the very end of the month it's definitely important to book your tickets in advance. If you wait too long and go on personal recommendations or "best of the Fringe" newspaper articles when you're up there, a lot of those most-hyped shows will be totally sold out. So here are our top tips for what to plan ahead and book for. If you get it right, a weekend at the Edinburgh Fringe can be one of the most side-splittingly joyous trips of your year:
⭐ BREAD AND GELLER: PRIME TIME ⭐ 12:10 ⭐
Ellie Ross and Andrew Bloomer are "professional mateys" Bread and Geller (the name is a play on their surnames and is quintessential them). They've been rocking the sketch scene for a couple of years now after meeting while doing an understudy job on the West End. All those hours sat together in a dressing room certainly paid off because they have comic chemistry that is to die for. They came runners-up in this year's Sketch-Off contest and we think their Edinburgh offering is one of the most imaginative Fringe sketch debuts we've seen, packed full of hugely imaginative and utterly bonkers gags. Watch out for the bat sketch and the power ballad about a sneeze... These guys are absolutely going places, so don't miss out on the opportunity to see them now.
⭐ LAB RATS: IN LOYAL COMPANY ⭐ 13:00 and 15:30 ⭐
This is less of an opportunity for laughs and instead represents our one totally "straight theatre" option. Actor David William Bryan (a Revels in Hand veteran) tells the incredible true story of his great uncle, Arthur Robinson, a WWII soldier who was declared missing after his ship was sunk during the Battle of Singapore in 1942. Last year's offering from David and his company Lab Rats was the hugely decorated 4 and 5 starred success Trashed, and this year's show is just as good. In Loyal Company represents one-man storytelling at its best and is a perfect antidote if you're saturated by the festival's comedy circuit. Our number 1 pick for true escapism, book now; it's already selling out.
If Lyn Gardner's appraisal of 'Cheeky but unexpectedly moving' doesn't sound like a perfect recipe for the Fringe, we don't know what does. In The Vanishing Man, Director/Performer David Aula and Director/Magician Simon Evans' examination of the best magic trick of all time seeks to unlock some of the fundamental truths about magic - truths that'll leave you scratching your head one minute, and with a lump in your throat the next. Charismatic, charming and with a startlingly original story to tell, these two are beguiling company in which to spend one of your precious hours at the Festival. And if you can't get tickets to The Vanishing Man, definitely look out for The Extinction Event: a follow-on tale that doesn't require any knowledge of the first piece. Featuring myriad more magic tricks and a whole heap more tugging-on-the-heart-strings, these are 2 utterly unique and beautiful shows.
⭐ OUT OF THE BLUE ⭐ 14:40 ⭐
Out of the Blue are the Fringiest of Fringe staples that we can think of. Like an unwanted Quality Street on Christmas Day or a herd of red trousers at the Boat Race, the Fringe would not be the same without them. They're are an all-male a cappella group from Oxford University and have won the most championships of all a cappella groups in the UK. If that's not something to shout (or sing/beatbox) from the rooftops then I don't know what is. Shamelessly camp and overblown, their shows provide an abundance of excessive bounding about the stage and some of the best pop mash-ups you'll ever hear. Step aside Pitch Perfect, there's an old guy in town. He's been selling out at the Edinburgh Fringe since before you were even a twinkle in your Mummy's eye and he ain't going nowhere.
Check out their stint on Britain's Got Talent here.
⭐ LUCY PEARMAN: FRUIT LOOP ⭐ 18:30 ⭐
Nominated as Best Fringe Newcomer 2017 for her brilliantly bonkers show Maid of Cabbage, Lucy’s back again - and we can’t wait to see what she’s dreamed (nightmared?) up this time. Her 2018 show is called Fruit Loop and the blurb tells us it's about ‘a worm that has misunderstood who she is and what her limits are.’ One year into knowing her work, we'd say this sounds like vintage Pearman. Freddie and his fiancée first encountered her as one of the shining stars in the joyous Prom Kween at the Fringe last year, in which her impersonation of Cher slipping a disc was an undoubted and rip-roarious highlight. (Prom Kween is also back this year, and well worth checking out for glitter-packed, heart-warming fun.) After seeing Pearman perform in Prom Kween, Freddie high-tailed himself over to her one-woman show Maid of Cabbage at the Monkey Barrel the following day, and left as paid-up members (not literally, although I’m sure Lucy would be delighted) of her fan club. Pearman's highly original brand of very gently disruptive, self-deprecating and provocative comedy is utterly beguiling: you love her to bits, even as she makes you squirm little delicious shivers. As this year’s 5 star review in Broadway Baby attests:
"Lucy Pearman is the Edinburgh Fringe at its absolute best… everything that so many shows aspire to be... streamlined, joyous insanity."
High praise indeed, but certainly worth the hype.
⭐ SHEEPS: LIVE AND LOUD SELFIE SEX HARRY POTTER ⭐ 19:00 ⭐
This insanely talented sketch troupe, made up of Daran Johnson, Alastair Roberts and Liam Williams,
is self-described as:
"Think The Two Ronnies meets Sheeps and then The Two Ronnies leave."
Each individual member is enjoying a hugely successful career in various areas of the industry: Johnson is a top comedy writer for the BBC, Roberts is a lead in Channel 4's Stath Lets Flats and Williams is a previous Edinburgh Comedy Awards Best Show winner. Far too busy with their own personal successes, they haven't performed as the Sheeps trio in a couple of years, so it's not an opportunity to be missed. Be prepared to laugh till your belly hurts while sort of grimacing. They are pant-wettingly funny but with lashings of the surreal on the side.
Christopher Bliss is the brainchild of super-smart comedian Rob Carter, and his show title alone gives him a place on our list. Carter's idiosyncratic brand of comedy has been floating around the circuit for years, with a number of characters and styles making an appearance; in particular, his musical comedy had us rolling in the aisles whilst simultaneously marvelling at the number of sexual metaphors he could come up with for one particular song (slipping "my mini-milk inside your mini-fridge" has got to be the best). But we digress. In the last 2 years, his musical comedy has been replaced with a hugely successful character offering: Enter Christopher Bliss stage left.
"Christopher Bliss writes two to three novels a day. He’s fairly well known amongst his family and friends, and he’s pretty sure he’s the best writer in his village."
He's got a centre parting that Nick Carter (no relation) would be proud of and a literary-based gag-fest that will leave you paralytic.
If you're looking for a bit more sparkle and a few more jazz hands for your money, look no further than Thor And Loki: a brand new musical comedy about the end of the world. You're in safe hands with writer Harry Blake and director Eleanor Rhode. Blake was recently the recipient of the Cameron Mackintosh Resident Composer Award at West Yorkshire Playhouse and he is one half of award-winning cabaret duo House of Blakewell. Meanwhile, Director Rhode has just come off the back of Boudica (Shakespeare's Globe) as well as being Associate Artist at HighTide. As WhatsOnStage have already said:
"If there is a show that has Fringe favourite stamped through, then it is probably this truly silly but hugely enjoyable effort from Harry Blake!"
Nick Mohammed's Mr Swallow is a comedy persona that deserves to go down in the annuls of time. Utterly endearing, hopelessly loveable but a right pain in the ass, Mr Swallow is an education in how to do clowning with the utmost skill. Described by the Guardian in 2015 as "one of comedy's best kept secrets", we think the cat is finally creeping out of the bag. So who is Mr Swallow? In Mohammed's own words, he's simply a character composed of "a lot of traits that I find funny...Every show is just a vehicle for him to shout about stuff he knows nothing about." In previous shows he's claimed to be a memory expert, a motivational speaker and musical theatre composer, but this year he's a magician (some seriously alliterative job titles cropping up here!) Mohammed himself is quite the dab hand with a deck of cards, so we can assure you that amidst the fantastic nonsense, you'll probably catch some sneakily impressive sorcery.
For a little pre-Mr Swallow Mohammed, check out his notorious conductor sketch here.
⭐ SLEEPING TREES: WORLD TOUR ⭐ 21:40 ⭐
Prepare yourself. There's a strong claim coming up here, especially considering the high praise we've doused on the previous members of this list. But in Lucy's own words, "Sleeping Trees are the funniest men I know". They perform with such finesse and bare-faced enthusiasm that they'd honestly manage to get people on their feet at a funeral. What they do isn't sketch comedy but story-telling, of a deliriously funny nature. Their shows began as 3-man retellings of famous childhood novels (Treasure Island, the Faraway Tree etc.) then they moved on to covering clichéd film genres (a show simply titled Western or Mafia). This year's offering is called World Tour. We haven't seen it yet so can't provide any explanation but we can say with complete surety that it will be an e x c e l l e n t l y spent hour. "If you don't like them, I'll personally give you your ticket money back" - Lucy.*
* Lucy recently spent all her money on an unnecessary holiday to the Amalfi Coast, so she will not be following through with this claim.
Let us know what you see and if you've any other recommendations. We'll be there for the closing weekend and are prepared to stuff as much in as possible.