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Edinburgh Fringe 2022 recommendations

With well over three thousand productions at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2022, here’s my attempt at a list of recommendations.

Hamlet - Ian McKellen
Hamlet – Ian McKellen

I Wish My Life Were Like A Musical, by Alexander S Bermange (Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose, 8:45pm, 6-28 Aug) achieved twenty-two five-star reviews at Fringe 2019 (including one from me) – there were previous incarnations even before that, described in LondonTheatre1 by Fiona Scott as “a wonderful lighthearted insight into the life of the musical theatre performer”, and by John O’Brien as “witty, funny, hard-hitting but above all engaging”. This time around the cast are Luke Harley, Hannah Taylor, Alice Ellen Wright and Harry Winchester, with Bermange as musical director, Joanna Goodwin as director and choreographer and Holly Prentice as associate director/choreographer, and understudy.

There’s a seventy-five-minute adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet (Ashton Hall, 4:00pm and 7:00pm, not Mondays) with Sir Ian McKellen, who shares the titular role (which he first played in 1971 on tour and in the West End) with lead dancer Johan Christiansen, with the speeches and soliloquies performed in collaboration with the choreography. The production is directed and choreographed by Peter Schaufuss. Every performance also features Luke Schaufuss, Stefan Wise and members of the Edinburgh Festival Ballet Company.

How to Live a Jellicle Life: Life Lessons from the 2019 Hit Movie Musical Cats (Greenside @ Riddles Court, 5:15pm, 15-20 and 22-27 Aug), starring Linus Karp, has a cumbersome title, but received a five ‘cat’ review from LondonTheatre1’s Terry Eastham during a previous London run. Terry wrote, “Actor, singer, dancer, director and writer, this boy is a quintuple threat, and there are not many of them about.” There is, it would appear, some audience interaction (which is quite not the same as audience participation) in a performance that is a comedic homage to one of the most monumental movie flops of recent years.

The multi-lingual Stefanie Rummel brings her show Chansons: Songs and Stories from Piaf, Brel and Me (C Aquila, 5:45pm, 5-21 Aug) to the Fringe, and provides audiences something more than just French music. There’s talk of the French culture and language, and what it is to be in France. It’s interactive, with the audience invited to volunteer their own experiences of France and French music, though you need not necessarily have any knowledge of either to enjoy a wide range of tunes and anecdotes.

A Thousand Sons (Greenside @ Nicolson Square, 3:15pm, 5-6, 8-9, 11-13, 15-16, 19-20 Aug), written and performed by Jamie Sefton, describes the military operations that took place on Christmas Island in the late 1950s, where British armed forces personnel participated in tests relating to the British hydrogen bomb programme. In the end, the programme never went anywhere, but had long-term repercussions for the military veterans, the last remaining few of which are still fighting the Government for compensation.

Sarah-Louise Young and Russell Lucas join forces for An Evening Without Kate Bush (Assembly George Square Gardens, 5:55pm, not 15 and 22 Aug), described by LondonTheatre1’s Alan Fitter as “a loving tribute to a singer who has been almost a recluse since becoming a star all those years ago”. Alan adds, “Do go and see it even if you’re not a fan of Kate Bush or of her singing.” Streams on Spotify of Bush’s 1985 single ‘Running Up That Hill’ jumped nine thousand per cent (give or take) after the song featured in a recent episode of Netflix’s ‘Stranger Things’, introducing her to the younger generation.

head/lining (theSpace @ Symposium Hall, 10:15pm, not 14 Aug) written and performed by Charlie Heptinstall uses prose, poetry and music to tell what I described last year as “a gloriously unpolitical story of a young man in contemporary Britain”. The central character doesn’t exactly have a stable upbringing and much goes awry, resulting in, amongst other things, anger mismanagement and substance abuse. It is, however, a powerful story of self-discovery rather than one of self-pity.

Fabulett 1933 (theSpace @ Surgeons Hall, 8:55pm, not 14 Aug) is written and performed by Michael Trauffer. Berlin, in between the world wars, had a flourishing gay and lesbian culture, and the show explores the comprehensive impact the rise to power of the Nazi regime had not only on entertainment, but every aspect of gay life. I saw the show last summer and wrote at the time, “A mixture of song, storytelling and stage presence combine and result in an absorbing and appealing experience.

Joshua (and Me) (Pleasance Dome, 10:55am, not 17 Aug), written and performed by Rachel Hammond, tells the story of Hannah Brooks, whose brother Joshua is on the autistic spectrum. I saw it in February this year, and wrote, “Hammond puts in a tour de force performance, progressing her character from prepubescence to young adulthood, and provides the audience with some actor-musicianship, on strings, bass and keyboards.” Because of Joshua’s relatively more complex needs, the rest of the family becomes strained emotionally, psychologically and physically. The show talks about their efforts to support Joshua, and one another, through thick and thin.

About Money (Summerhall, 10:20am, 5-14, 16-21, 23-24 and 27-28 Aug) is about Shaun, a teenager who becomes the responsible adult to his eight-year-old sister Sophie. His income is unstable thanks to a zero-hour contract and he becomes stuck between a rock and a hard place. In my review of the show back in September last year, I declared this show to be “very much a play for our troubled times, fearlessly highlighting some pertinent issues in a fiercely engaging and entertaining way”.

Soho Boy (theSpace @ Symposium Hall, 5:05pm, not 14 Aug) sees Owen Dennis, a 2022 graduate from Italia Conti, play Spencer, who works in a clothes shop during the day and likes to party hard in the evening. It’s a contemporary take on the London gay scene, complete with song and dance (it is, after all, a musical). Billed as a show “about the joys and perils of moving to London”, this show was well-received by LondonTheatre1’s Terry Eastham, who described it as “a really great example of taking a seemingly simple subject – in this case, a pretty little twink – and delving beneath the surface to find the person within”.

Harry Butler’s play Changing the Sheets (Assembly Rooms, 9:15pm, not 16 Aug) is directed by Anthony Biggs, artistic director of London’s Playground Theatre, and features Butler and Máiréad Tyers as Robert and Patti, who are getting to know one another in more ways than one. Compared favourably, and not just by me, with Sally Rooney’s Normal People, the play provides amusing insights into what is said (and not said) behind closed doors. When I saw it last summer, it was staged in a very Covid-secure manner, which provided some highly imaginative, socially distanced, intimacy. The show is, as my review called it, “both gripping and comical in equal measure”.

In June 2021, I saw a production from Fresh Life Theatre, and wrote, “it’s the sort of show that would work well in a late-night slot at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe”. I’m pleased the team behind Rock Bottom (Paradise in the Vault, 10:35pm, 6-13 Aug) agree. Charlie Day’s play is about a man whose passion to entertain people is so intense that fellow performers end up not wanting anything to do with him – he’s one of those people that like to make people happy, because he knows what it is to feel worthless and insignificant and doesn’t want others to feel that way. That said, room for improvement is the largest room in the world.

Alison Skilbeck in Mrs Roosevelt Flies to London (Assembly George Square Studios, 10:25am, not 15 Aug) was described by Annemarie Hiscott in LondonTheatre1 as “a gem in the one-woman show genre”. She adds that the show is an “inspired and insightful play that has been thoroughly researched, and more importantly loved”. The production provides a comprehensive insight into the First Lady of the United States during World War Two, providing some very personal stories as well as the sort of events that made headline news. As Annemarie put it, “It is bittersweet, at times utterly comedic and interspersed with moments of true sadness.

Game Night (Greenside @ Infirmary Street, 10:00pm, 22-27 Aug) is centred around a group of friends coming together for – well, a game night, something which they do periodically, but this time there are several plot twists that make the evening anything but smooth. Terry Eastham in LondonTheatre1 gave the show a five-star review last year: “The story itself is a nice mix of comedy and farce that, when you analyse it, has some pretty heavy themes to it. Communication, trust, fidelity and loyalty are all in there.

Finally, there’s no escaping the sheer amount of stand-up comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe. I’m looking forward to Scottish comedians Daniel Sloss (Just the Tonic Nucleus, 5:45pm, Wed-Sun), who presents some work in progress material for his next tour, and Glasgow’s Christopher MacArthur-Boyd (Monkey Barrel Comedy, 6:20pm, not 17 Aug). Jake Lambert (Pleasance Courtyard, 7:05pm, not 15 Aug) has a new show, Liminal, about his experiences with epilepsy, and Bilal Zafar (Underbelly Bristo Square, 5:30pm, 3-14 and 16-29 Aug) returns to the Fringe, this time with a show about his time working in a care home. Lucy Porter (Pleasance Courtyard, 5:20pm, 5-14 and 16-20 Aug), who has made television appearances on QI and Live at the Apollo, has a show “about revelations, realisations and epiphanies – both large and small”. There’s also an opportunity to catch a work-in-progress attempt of a new show by Adam Kay (Pleasance Courtyard, 9:00pm, 22-23 Aug) called (wait for it) This Is Going To Hurt… More.

5 – 29 August 2022

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1 thought on “Edinburgh Fringe 2022 recommendations”

  1. Chris,

    I enjoyed your Fringe reviews.  I thought I would do my bit and suggest you review “The Inlaws” playing at Greenside@Infirmary Street in the Mint Studio.  Nothing like it and a really great mime one-hander that should be seen by more.  

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