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Recommendations for this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Stefania Licari and Medico. Credit Simon Webb.
Stefania Licari and Medico. Credit Simon Webb.

Medico (Underbelly Bristo Square, 4:15pm, 2-13 and 15-27 Aug), is written by and starring Dr Stefania Licari. The show explores her frontline medical experiences in the National Health Service and life in the UK as a migrant. Dr Licari says of the show, “It’s constantly evolving and everything in the show is true. I can’t believe that I’ve never said these things before and now here I am about to say them on stage in front of everyone. It feels like the right time to bring them out of the medicine cabinet!

I Wish My Life Were Like A Musical by Alexander S. Bermange (Gilded Balloon at the Museum, 8:50pm, 3-27 Aug except Wednesdays) is back again. The comedic musical revue about the world of musical theatre has a new cast for 2023: Jennifer Caldwell (Six the Musical, American Idiot), Sev Keoshergian (Jack and the Beanstalk, The Rocky Horror Show), Rhidian Marc (Wicked, Pippin, The Phantom of the Opera) and Julie Yammanee (Bonnie and Clyde, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella). Taking a searing and satirical look at what goes on in the rehearsal room, backstage, at the stage door, and elsewhere, it’s a hoot.

Divas: From Stage to Screen (Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose, 10:30pm, 2-27 Aug, not 14, 21 or 22) is the perfect end to a busy Fringe day. A live band and a group of female vocalists perform all sorts of songs made famous by various divas (yes, the clue’s in the title) – last year’s production included tunes from the back catalogues of Madonna, Carole King, Belinda Carlisle, and Cher. No boring backstories, no unnecessary chit-chat, just banger after banger after banger.

There’s always a show or two that is worth mentioning just for its title. A Young Man Dressed as a Gorilla Dressed as an Old Man Sits Rocking in a Rocking Chair for 56 Minutes and Then Leaves (PBH’s Free Fringe @ Liquid Room Annexe/Warehouse, 6:45pm, 15 Aug only) is now in its fourteenth year. A Shark Ate My Penis: A History of Boys Like Me (Gilded Balloon Teviot, 6:00pm, 8-14 and 16-28 Aug) sees the writer and musician Laser Webber present a musical about the history of trans men and the story of his own transition.

NewRevue, credit to Ross McGivern
NewRevue, credit Ross McGivern.

When it comes to NewsRevue (Pleasance Courtyard, The Grand, 5:30pm, 2-15 and 17-27 Aug), now in its forty-third year, I wonder whether it’s worth bothering these days, in the sense that one could be amused and bemused simply by what’s going in the world by watching television news or reading a newspaper. The current affairs song and sketch show was founded by Professor Michael Hodd, who died last year (and was my macroeconomics tutor when I studied at Westminster Business School some years ago), to whom this year’s production is dedicated. It’s a lot of fun, especially but by no means exclusively for fans and followers of musical theatre, with reworked lyrics to renowned show tunes to fit an up-to-date narrative.

As ever, there’s a huge amount of comedy, including ‘as seen on TV’ acts like Jack Whitehall (Edinburgh Playhouse, 7:30pm, 20-21 Aug), Reginald D Hunter (Assembly Rooms, 7:55pm, 11-20 Aug) and Daniel Sloss (Edinburgh Playhouse, 7:30pm- 9-10 Aug). At least a couple of standups that I’ve enjoyed over the last few years aren’t going up to the Fringe this year, which of course means there’s an opportunity to explore others. Making his Edinburgh Fringe debut, Mustafa Algiyadi (Paradise in Augustines, 11:10am, 15-19 Aug, then Laughing Horse @ Eastside, 5:40pm, 20-27 Aug) looks at the European way of life from the lens of a Libyan Arab, longing so badly to be part of it, yet confronted with certain differences that make it confusing. Mark Row (Laughing Horse @ The Hanover Tap, 12:00pm, 3-27 Aug) has left the teaching profession after seventeen years, embracing a new life in the world of standup comedy. A career built on having a laugh just to get through the class has provided him with an ‘outstanding lesson’ – on how to entertain.

It’s not all a barrel of laughs at the Fringe. Locusts (theSpace @ Surgeons Hall, 7:35pm, 14-19 and 21-26 Aug) is a new play exploring writer Ian Tucker-Bell’s actual experience of gay conversion therapy within an evangelical church. He says, “When people think about gay conversion therapy often it’s the extreme practice that garners attention – but in my situation it was subtle, coercive, and very damaging”. The Diary of Anne Frank: Her Journey in Music (The Old Dr Bells Baths, 3:00pm and 7:00pm, 18 Aug only) by composer Girish Paul is a dramatic audio-visual concert production, featuring powerful storytelling via an evocative fusion of orchestral music, theatrical effects and on-screen filmed performances by professional actors, and has the full support of Anne Frank Fonds, a foundation set up in 1963, by Anne’s father, Otto, the only one of eight people in his family who hid from Nazi persecution in hidden rooms to survive the atrocities of the Second World War.

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s musical theatre students put on shows at the Fringe, always with an early start. This year, they present Edges (Assembly Rooms, 10:00am, 5, 8, 10, 13, 15, 18, 22 and 25 Aug), a contemporary song-cycle exploring universal issues such as love, commitment, identity, and meaning. They’re also doing a production of Big Fish (Assembly Rooms, 10:00am, 4, 6-7, 9, 11-12, 16-17, 19-20, 23-24, 26-27 Aug). Based on the Daniel Wallace novel and Tim Burton’s movie, and with a score from the composer of Broadway’s The Addams Family, Andrew Lippa, this fantastical musical about love, family and the joy of storytelling is an extraordinary tale unlike any other.

Finally, I’ve never seen a stage production of Sunshine on Leith (Assembly Rooms, 3:30pm, 3-26 Aug), but I recall the radiant and beaming faces of the audience exiting the venue just as I arrived for the show after it. On that basis alone, I’ve booked to see Captivate Theatre’s production of Stephen Greenhorn’s musical featuring the songs of The Proclaimers.


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