Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2018

I go to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for one weekend every year. Last year we attended £¥€$ by Ontroerend Goed which I've been meaning to write about as it has some interesting ideas for game design. However, as I just came back from this year's festival - I figured it's not a terrible idea to write up short summaries of the shows I attended.

This year I saw 15 shows in 3 days. I'll be making a post soon about the technology I used to scheduled my trip to Edinburgh.

These summaries are probably coming too late for the recommendations to be of any use to anyone - but some of these shows are touring so you might catch them elsewhere!

Wil Greenway: Either Side of Everything

I first saw Wil Greenway last year with These Trees the Autumn Leaves alone and he was brilliant. He's a wonderful storyteller, accompanied by musicians Kathryn Langshaw and Will Galloway, he spends an hour meandering through three or four related stories - full of beautifully human details and wit. So far Wil Greenway's shows have a 100% hit rate for me, and I'd strongly recommend catching a show if you get the chance.

Games by Henry Naylor

Games is a story about the 1936 Olympics, the German Jewish athletes of the time, and specifically about Helene Mayer and Gretel Bergmann. It powerfully shows Mayer's difficulty in being the sole representative of German Jews on the Olympic team. This show has been very well regarded by others, and I can see the appeal, however it wasn't really my sort of thing.

Jonny Woo's All Star Brexit Cabaret

Brexit-themed LGBT cabaret. This is a lot of fun, with songs chronicling the run-up and aftermath of the Brexit referendum. It begins quite even-handed but towards the end the Remain sympathies of Jonny Woo show through. Le Gateau Chocolat as Nigel Farage is excellent.

Mr Swallow and the vanishing elephant

I've never seen Mr Swallow before and I was expecting a more traditional magic show. What I got was a comedy show with a sprinkle of some rather simple magic tricks, built around the idea that Mr Swallow wanted to bring an elephant but it fell through, so we'll do the show while imagining an elephant. The comedy was funny, and I enjoyed the show, though now I've seen it I can't imagine going to another Mr Swallow show.

One Life Stand

One Life Stand is a play about romance in the digital era, peppered with music and cat memes. I found this to be entertaining and I'll keep a watch for future productions, but I expect I missed out by not catching last year's "All We Ever Wanted Was Everything".

Lights over Tesco car park

This is a weird little play about aliens. It has some really nice audience interaction where a member of the audience is included in each of the short alien stories, and then something involving more of the audience towards the end. Well acted and a lot of fun.

Trojan Horse

I loved this play about the Birmingham Trojan Horse scandal in 2014. I didn't follow the issue very closely when it happened but was still able to follow along just fine. Very powerful and good performances from the cast. You'll come away having learned something and with new perspectives to consider.


Go into a shipping container and sit in a airplane seat. Put on headphones and turn out all the lights (pitch black). What follows is a 30 minutes "experience" which can be a little scary at times. The lights only come up once or twice but you hear a lot of movement and action going on around the plane. A very interesting experience, my wife loved it.

Hamilton (Lewis)

You knew someone would cash in on the Hamilton craze. This is a musical about F1 driver Lewis Hamilton. The songs are a lot more Disney Princess than Hamilton-style rap (presumably that's easier to write to a deadline?) but it was entertaining all the same. It's not Hamilton, but I enjoyed it for what it is.

We've got each other

Paul O'Donnell has planned a Bon Jovi musical, with a love story, an expensive set (including multiple ships) and intricate musical numbers. Unfortunately, all that stuff is expensive. So what we have at the fringe is Paul telling us what happens, demonstrating a few of the dance numbers, and involving us in a singalong of "Livin' on a Prayer". Except for the stage lights pointed at the audience, which made it awfully hot, I really enjoyed this show. Very funny.

Mark Thomas - Check Up: Our NHS at 70

I've seen one of Mark Thomas' stand up shows previously and was reasonably entertained. Check Up is something quite different. It's docu-comedy about the National Health Service. Mark spent a month shadowing doctors and interviewing health experts to put together this show. It masterfully moves from humor to very serious topics and forces you to think about how the health service works and how it will work in the future. One of my picks of this fringe.

Tom Neenan: It's Always Infinity

This is the third Tom Neenan show we've seen, and it was probably the best of the three. Tom's girlfriend has gone missing and he's written this show about the emotional journey he's been on, and also how much of a feminist he is. Tom Neenan's show is one that we book first when we come to Edinburgh and I don't see that changing.

Everything Not Saved

A lot of interesting ideas here about memory and how they can be changed. They play with the audience and encourage us to question our own memory, and then end with a section about Rasputin which is knowingly weird to seer it into our memory. I found it interesting but perhaps a bit more serious than the sort of thing I usually enjoy.

Stories and songs with Beans on Toast

It's Beans on Toast. If you like his music you'll enjoy this, if not you probably won't. He told a story about getting himself to two festivals over the summer which was very funny. Apparently you can find out the ending in his book.

Underground Railroad Game

For me we saved the best until last. Underground Railroad Game is a play set around the idea of two teachers (a black woman and a white man) running a game for children where one side is the union army trying to free slaves, and one is the confederate army trying to re-capture them, with the intention of teaching the class (the audience) about slavery.

We see this game as it progresses alongside the relationship between the two characters, which reflects the racial relationships of the past and also the white liberal's inability to relate to the topic in the same way as people with a more direct connection.

This has some very explicit scenes - which was a problem for the family sitting next to us whose children spent much of the second half looking out into the audience. So be warned. But if you're able to, see this play! Excellent.

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