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Five top picks for Edinburgh Fringe 2018

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Last year I had the privilege of getting to review a lot of great shows during my first time at the Edinburgh Fringe, and it's great to see that a number of these performers are back for another year.

Here are my thoughts on five performers I saw last year and details about their plans for 2018.

Credit: Andy Hollingworth

Image: Andy Hollingworth

Margaret Thatcher: Queen of Soho

In just a couple of years this has become a highlight of the Fringe, and rightly so. Last year’s Margaret Thatcher Queen of Game Shows was easily one of the funniest offerings at the festival. Matt Tedford (AKA the Iron Lady herself) is magnificent as a drag reimagination of the ex-Prime Minister, delightfully preposterous and aways holding the audience in the palm of his hand. It is over an hour of nostalgic TV and famous personalities intertwined with the moral message and plot of A Christmas Carol. It’s political of course, but it never gets get bogged down by a serious edge. It’s too colourful and fun for that.

Back this year with the show that started it all, Maggie is lost in the Soho cabaret scene on the eve of a vote about a new anti-gay bill. While Queen of Game Shows was a love letter to old-fashioned game show TV and its many characters, Queen of Soho underneath the comedy is full of messages about LGBT+ rights and throwbacks to the 1980s. This is an utter joy and not to be missed.

Venue 33 – Pleasance Courtyard

1-27 August (Except 8, 15 & 22)

10pm

 

Bad Luck

Laurie Black is a rapidly emerging star of music and cabaret. With three albums to her name and the winner of Best Emerging Artist and weekly Best Music at Adelaide Fringe 2018, Black has arrived at the Edinburgh festival scene with a bang. Last year, her show at Sweet Grassmarket was an entertaining mixture of singing from herself and a host of guest appearances, plucked from the peculiar depths of the Fringe. It’s more than a simple explosion of funny comments and safety tape (so, so much safety tape). The whole experience is crafted by Black so that the apparent chaos of multiple guests and song breaks never feels inconsistent or disjointed; a remarkable achievement and one that demonstrates exactly what her vision is. The whole thing is a darkly comedic rock romp and it’s rather wonderful.

Back again, and at Underbelly this year, Black returns as a more experienced, accoladed and recognised face in cabaret. Expect a loving relationship with a keyboard to be played out interspersed with more guests and audience participation for good measure. You will laugh, you will have fun, and you will gawp at some pretty incredible shoes. More than worth the watch.

Venue 61 – Underbelly, Cowgate (Big Belly)

20-26 August

8.50pm

 

Phill Jupitus: Sassy Knack

A seasoned Fringe-goer, Jupitus has no less than three of his own shows this year. It was the same in 2017 too – he must tank it through August just to emerge on the other side with enough energy to stand. Just as well too, because the former Never Mind the Buzzcocks regular is great. His stand-up and improv are carefully considered, razor sharp and seriously funny. Last year, in Achtung!/Acting! he split his show between to different and apparently unrelated characters – English actor Vernon Herschel Harley and U-boat captain Korvettenkäpitan Kurt Schiffer. After briefly introducing both, he let the audience ask him a barrage of questions to test his quick thinking and characterisation. Not only did Jupitus emerge with his talent reaffirmed, but he left his audience in fits of laughter. He is a seriously funny guy

This year, he is back with a somewhat more traditional stand-up show at The Stand Comedy Club. Jupitus is also throwing his hat once more into the Free Fringe too, with shows at Bannermans and the Voodoo Rooms. Few comedians can 100% guarantee laughter across the entire audience but Phill Jupitus can. He is an immeasurable comedic talent and it is great to see him back.

Venue 12 – The Stand Comedy Club 3 & 4 (Stand 3)

2-26 August (Except 13)

4.30pm

 

The Dolls of New Albion

This ‘steampunk opera’ from Thistle N’ Thorn Productions in 2017 was not really something to rave about, with some questionable direction and sound. However, there is reason to be optimistic this year. Very optimistic. The main problem they had last year was their confinement to a theatre-in-the-round stage, which simply did not work. The young cast, who in any case managed to shine, struggled to be heard consistently and rise above the music as they were forced to keep turning around and around to different rows of seats. This year, they are in Sweet Grassmarket and have seemingly ditched this set-up, which immediately solved 90% of their problems. Just as well too, because the story is intriguing as far as any piece of theatre goes. The bereaved scientist Annabel McAlistair brings her beloved back from the dead by effectively turning him into a clockwork zombie, and it quickly becomes something of a trend. A story of ethics and selfishness follows that this year has every reason to be hotly anticipated.

If the cast work their magic again and the staging suits the show, then this should be a real treat. Dealing with some heavy themes, it remains more intriguing than anything else. This show perfectly suits the curious cats out there.

Venue 18 – Sweet Grassmarket (Grassmarket 1)

6-11 August

5.20pm

 Credit: Alex Brenner

Image: Alex Brenner

NewsRevue

The Guinness world record holder for the longest running comedy sketch show, NewsRevue’s secret to longevity lies in its relevance. 2016 was ripe picking for a comedy sketch show like this, and NewsRevue turned what for many had been a torrid twelve months into an hour of laughter and entertainment. In 2017, they unleashed an Irish dancing DUP trope, Theresa May dreamily playing in her fields of wheat, and Boris Johnson pondering what his future might be without a job (oh, the beauty of hindsight). It is simply one hell of a laugh and a great way to spend an hour, not to mention learn one or two things about politics on the sly. Last year, the Green Party saw their entire manifesto condensed into one musical number. And that’s before you meet Vladimir Putin…

The Edinburgh Fringe is braced for another year of their cutting-edge satire that is badly needed in contemporary politics. Their posters suggest that the emerging relationship between North Korea and the USA will feature – not the only act to be making a big deal of this – and expect the recent Brexit resignations to feature in some way as well. Never disappointing, NewsRevue know what they are doing and do it extremely well.

Venue 300 – Underbelly, George Square (Udderbelly)

2-27 August (Not 15)

5.45pm

This article is part of our coverage of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Click here to read other articles written by our contributors. 

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