Ten days in Edinburgh during the Festival can feel like a lifetime

Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2017
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Philip Fisher
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Edinburgh veteran and accountant Philip Fisher reports from his annual trip to the largest arts festival in the world. 

With 50 shows under my belt and more to come, I feel reasonably well-qualified to pick out a few highlights for those who might be trekking north for the Bank Holiday. Many of the best shows will also make it around the country in due course.

What Girls Are Made of by Cora Bissett at the Traverse is a glorious piece of autobiographical music-making. Featuring the writer as star, it tells the tale of young Cora when she was an aspiring 90s pop star supporting the likes of Radiohead and Blur. Told with great good humour and a fantastic backing track, this is an unforgettable experience.

Comedian turned writer and actor Mark Thomas takes on the topical subject of the NHS at 70 in a hard-hitting, politically explosive solo show at Traverse. Having shadowed doctors and interviewed many stakeholders with a serious and informed interest in the topic, Thomas could well make many of our politicians feel the need to take shelter.

The Traverse prides itself as a home of new writing and therefore one of the highlights is always its programme of Breakfast Plays; this year on the subject of Youthquake, the Oxford English Dictionary's word of the year in 2017. Three separate pairs of plays, one by an experienced writer the other by a tyro, all proved to be delightful and do not eat into the day, since they are over by 10am.

The other early morning must-see is the Big Bite-Size Breakfast Plays at Pleasance Dome. In this case, there are three programmes of five plays running about 10 minutes each. This year, Menu Two has five absolute gems, while the other two series are well worth a visit too.

Maz and Bricks at Summerhall has been written by Eva O'Connor who also stars. This is a sensitive play about a meeting in Dublin between an abortion activist and a ‘likely lad’ interested in nothing but drink and sex, with the sole exception of his daughter. Two troubled souls who seem to have nothing in common eventually provide a great deal of succour and hope to each other.

Angry Alan by Penelope Skinner at Underbelly could be one of the most provocative plays in Edinburgh this year. It features Roger, a man bereft of job, partner and access to his 14 year old son. In response, Roger starts surfing like a demon, discovering men's rights activist Angry Alan and taking us all on a roller-coaster ride through a series of highly controversial opinion makers, some of whose views might just chime with audience members, they may not dare admit it.

On the comedy front, Mark Watson presents what might be his best ever set, helped on one occasion by the presence of 12 year old local lad Fraser, who keeps getting into trouble for swearing too much, freeing up the comedian to leave his audience in stitches.

In the International Festival, similar material to Maz and Bricks is covered in extravagant musical style in David Greig's Midsummer, a delightful picaresque comedy with music by Gordon McIntyre which was a Fringe hit 10 years ago but comes back in expanded form to delight visitors to The Hub.

Art fans can even take time out from the madness of the main Festivals to discover a charming, small-scale Rembrandt exhibition at the National Gallery on the Mound.

About Philip Fisher

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24th Aug 2018 10:45

If you can fit in Zach & Viggo and Thumpasaurus: Where Does the Love Go? - that is great fun. Flight is also interesting if you don't have a fear of flying, and Olaf Falafel joyously silly (and OK for kids).

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