July 26, 2016 From Judy Garland to Evel Knievel: 15 Sure-Fire Edinburgh Festival Hits The Guardian / Lyn Gardner Edinburgh is not cheap, and an awful lot of shows that look promising in the programme turn out to be duds. But the shows listed below have all been seen either by me or a member of the Guardian reviewing team, and they get our vote as being worth your time and money. Thread a handful of these through your schedule and you can be pretty certain – allowing for personal taste – that you will see at least one show a day that delivers or intrigues. They are all very different in form and style, ranging from new plays to dance theatre and beyond. Most have fuller reviews linked, so you can decide whether they might be the kind of thing that you are looking for. I’ll also be giving updates, reviews and reactions throughout the festival on the Guardian site and Twitter – here’s to another excellent year! Dancer – Dance Base, 17 to 21, 23 to 28 August Who is it who gets the chance to dance? Or take centre stage? How does dancing make you feel? Those ideas are explored in this lovable, intimate two-hander, a piece of delicacy and joy. The Destroyed Room – Lyceum, 4 to 8 August Vanishing Point’s three-handed conversation considering the ethics of watching, how the rich world maintains its distance from the poor, and how nothing ever changes. Every Brilliant Thing – Roundabout @Summerhall, 6 to 8, 10 to 15, 17 to 22, 24 to 28 August It could probably run at the Edinburgh fringe until the end of the century, and still there would be a demand for this extraordinary, absurdly uplifting piece … about feeling so down you could kill yourself. The Destroyed Room, moving to the Edinburgh festival this year Photograph: Mihaela Bodlovic I Could Go on Singing – Summerhall, 3, 5 to 7, 10 to 14, 17 to 21, 24 to 28 August In FK Alexander’s piece, she sings along to the final recording made by Judy Garland of Over the Rainbow a few months before her death. Over and over. Nothing will quite prepare you for the emotional impact and intimacy of this quite extraordinary piece. Joan – Underbelly, 4 to 15, 17 to 28 August Apparently this show, which offers an alternative take on the Joan of Arc story, is still changing, and for the better. I loved the two early versions I saw, and in particular Lucy Jane Parkinson (AKA drag king LoUis CYfer) as the crossdressing teenage Joan. Interiors – Lyceum, 5 to 8 August First seen in 2009, like Vanishing Point’s The Destroyed Room, this considers the gaze, cleverly casting the audience as voyeurs watching events unfold in a family home. Leaf by Niggle – Scottish Storytelling Centre, 4 to 9, 11 to 14, 16 to 21, 24 to 28 August Puppet Theatre State lovingly stage JRR Tolkien’s short story about the nature of creativity with a wonderful score by Karine Polwart and MJ McCarthy. Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons – Roundabout @Summerhall, 5 to 8, 10 to 15, 17 to 22, 24 to 28 August The return of last year’s sleeper hit from Walrus – yet another impressive young company to emerge from Warwick University – set in a world where everyone is lost for words because the government has imposed a daily limit of 140. Cheek by Jowl’s production of Measure for Measure. Photograph: Publicity image Measure for Measure – Lyceum, 16 to 20 August Powerful, sometimes shocking Russian language version of Shakespeare’s play from Cheek by Jowl, set in a state where power is brutally misused. My Eyes Went Dark – Traverse, 4 to 7, 9 to 14, 16 to 21, 23 to 28 August When does the victim became a perpetrator? Matthew Wilkinson’s taut play is a cracker, focusing on a man who lost his family in an accident that he believes was murder. Tipping Point – C Scala, 3 to 8, 10 to 15, 17-22 and 24, 25 August Quietly enthralling and unflashy circus piece from the Ockham’s Razor company. It doesn’t have a big wow-factor, but the pleasure is in watching a physically skilled cast test themselves and their relationships to the limits. Once – Assembly George Square, 4 to 29 August Time can burnish a show in the memory, but Derevo’s fairy tale-cum-love story, first seen at Edinburgh in 1998, remains etched on my heart: magical, surreal and utterly heartbreaking. At least I thought so almost 20 years ago, and I hope I’ll feel the same now. Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again – Traverse, 16 to 21, 23 to 28 August Alice Birch’s fragmentary, furious and feminist play is a call for revolution in the workplace and the home, using language like the weapon it so often is in the mouths of men. 30 Cecil Street – Forest Fringe, 16 to 20 August Limerick’s ruined theatre is raised like a spectre in Dan Canham’s haunting, exquisite dance-theatre piece. Watch Me Fall – Forest Fringe, 11 to 13 August Action Hero revisit their early show recreating Evel Knievel’s famed Caesar’s Palace fountain jump with just a 2ft plank, a child’s bicycle and several bottles of Coca-Cola.