50 shows to see at the Edinburgh fringe 2018

The Guardian / Brian Logan & Chris Wiegand

Superstar standups, daring dance, Brexit cabaret and a Bon Jovi musical … Dive into our guide to some of the shows at the world’s biggest arts festival.

Featuring the following shows coming to Summerhall this August:


His 2012 show BigMouth was an arresting collision of speeches from the Greeks to George W Bush – told with a splash of Sondheim and Nirvana – that explored how words can lead to war. Now, in a new performance, Valentijn Dhaenens returns once more to deadly rhetoric and to what makes politicians tick.


Styled as a disarmingly jaunty joint lecture, Michael Pinchbeck’s multimedia show revisits John Berger and photographer Jean Mohr’s account of the life of an English country GP. Grounded in Berger’s thinking about art and perspective, it asks what drives a doctor who rises at night and slips an overcoat over his pyjamas to cross fields and answer his patient’s call – and, as the NHS marks 70 years, what drives today’s overloaded medics.


In the opening of JG Ballard’s 1974 novel Concrete Island, the architect hero overturns his Jaguar after screeching down a high-speed exit lane. Glasgow-based performer Mele Broomes presents her full-throttle, one-woman dance version of the cult classic to a pulsating soundscape and a blizzard of projections.


A welcome return for Sh!t Theatre’s wonderfully warm 2017 fringe smash. The duo Louise Mothersole and Rebecca Biscuit recount their pilgrimage to Dolly Parton’s Tennessee theme park and their diversion to the same state’s body farm, where human decomposition is studied. En route they unravel unexpected connections between Dolly the singer and Dolly the sheep. A show about cloning, icons and individuality, it is full of the duo’s love not just for the country star, but for each other.


Most people wouldn’t be able to name the 14 events in a tetra-decathlon, let alone compete in one. But Lauren Hendry cheerily decided to give a world championships a go despite being a self-proclaimed “serious amateur”. Her one-woman show is a 60-minute stroll through what happened, directed by Jenna Watt, who won strong reviews for Faslane in 2016.


The Edinburgh film festival has long since shifted from August to the start of summer, but the fringe has a double dose of cult cinema courtesy of horror composer Claudio Simonetti and his band Goblin. They’re playing the intoxicatingly creepy original scores for George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and Dario Argento’s Suspiria alongside screenings of the films.


Cabaret star Le Gateau Chocolat has done Shakespeare at the Globe, performed opera at Glyndebourne and addressed his depression in an intimate fringe show, Black. This year he brings his first family show to Edinburgh. His take on The Ugly Duckling draws on his difficulties at school. “Duckie isn’t just about standing up to your bullies,” he says, “it’s about making sure that you don’t become a bully yourself.”


The documentary theatre company Lung have staged politically urgent shows exploring the Chilcot inquiry, the 1985 Bradford City fire and the campaign by single mothers in Newham, east London, against their eviction. This year, Matt Woodhead and Helen Monks (who played the teenage Caitlin Moran in Raised By Wolves) present a piece based on the inquiry into a fake plot to Islamise Birmingham schools.


Katherina Radeva designed the 2017 Edinburgh hit Salt, in which Selina Thompson retraced the transatlantic slave triangle. Now, Redeva – who was born in communist Bulgaria – performs her one-woman show about the end of the cold war and reflects on borders past, present and future.


Gary McNair has already proven himself a deft observer of both macho bravado and adolescent angst, so don’t miss his new play about a fight at the school gates. His co-writer Kieran Hurley, who had a hit with Beats, creates music-fuelled shows whose soundtracks linger long in the memory. Here, the tracks come from members of the Glasgow group Frightened Rabbit. Elsewhere, McNair’s After the Cuts imagines a future without the NHS.


After eccentric comedies about five-a-side (Jumpers for Goalposts) and indie bands (Broken Biscuits) comes Yorkshire playwright Tom Wells’s one-man musical about synchronised swimming and growing up gay, staged for Hull’s year as UK City of Culture in 2017. In his words, it’s about “having a go at stuff with your mates, and being 15, and wearing armbands”. It should make a splash at this popup in-the-round stage, which can really bring Edinburgh audiences together.