The best shows at the Edinburgh Festival 2018

The Guardian / Mark Fisher, Brian Logan, Alex Needham, Kate Wyver, Catherine Love, Chris Wiegand , Alice Bain and Bridget Minamore

Woogie Boogie

Summerhall, 10am, until 26 August

A delight in doodling is at the heart of this inventive escapade for the over-threes from Korean company Brush Theatre. Our mischievous hosts, Youngkyun Yeom and Seungeun Lee, are wearing matching costumes – white T-shirts, black trousers and braces – and armed with marker pens and big imaginations. First, the duo invite us to sketch pictures of them on mini whiteboards, then they draw our portraits and we become characters in their show. Before long, they are animating their scribbles and smudges on a huge screen to create a nautical adventure. There’s a twinkle in both performances and in the jaunty keyboard accompaniment, too. CW

Fallen Fruit

Summerhall, 11.25am, until 26 August

Writer and performer Katherina Radeva lives between two places: the Bulgaria of her birth and the Britain she has called home for years. In Fallen Fruit, she journeys back there and then to the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, in the dying days of communist power. The show weaves together Radeva’s childhood recollections of 1989 with her parents’ memories, the story of two family friends and the complex upheavals that rippled through the continent that year. CL

After the Cuts

Summerhall, 12pm, until 26 August

The future Gary McNair imagines is a raggedy one, worn down and patched up with dodgy stitches. In 2042, when the NHS has long been dismantled and patients are charged for doctor’s appointments by the minute, most people can’t afford medical treatment. With sad warmth and dark humour, After the Cuts tests how far we’d go to save the person we love, anaesthetic or no anaesthetic. KW


Summerhall, 12pm, until 26 August

The sharp-suited Valentijn Dhaenens cuts a convincing figure as a slippery, ambitious politician. The show opens with a speech bloated with metaphors and empty of content. It’s familiar stuff, eliciting wry laughs from the audience. Later, we see him talking strategy, giving statements to the media, making video calls to the family he barely sees, and sending regular, occasionally explicit missives to his lover. It recalls his performance in Ontroerend Goed’s Fight Night, another show about how we vote for the who rather than the what. CL

The Ballad of the Apathetic Son and His Narcissistic Mother

Summerhall, 1.45pm, until 26 August

Parents of children who love the songs of Sia may be a small subset of its likely audience, but if – like me – you occupy it, Lucy Gaizely’s show with her 15-year-old son Raedie, made with the Glasgow company 21CC, is a potent experience. This dance/live art piece opens with a full-frontal assault of movement and Sia’s tunes, then devolves into a meditation through very loud music on having, and being, a teenage son. Raedie’s apathy and Lucy’s narcissism aren’t much in evidence; in fact, Raedie comes across as a fine (and clearly very game) young man. But if there’s nothing very particular about the show’s reflections on who we were and aren’t any more, on ceasing to be needed, on loving and letting go, those remain profound – and, in Lucy and Raedie’s company, often moving – subjects with which to spend an hour. BL

The Political History of Smack and Crack

Roundabout @ Summerhall, 5.30pm, until 26 August

An empathetic portrait of two long-term addicts locked in an almost unbreakable cycle of dependency and recovery. With humour and honesty, Eve Steele and Neil Bell give an unsentimental account of a pattern of behaviour from which death is often the only release. Juxtaposed with this impossible love story is an analysis of how the situation came to be and the political insight is shrewd, blaming the rise in heroin use on a toxic combination of British appeasement of the regimes in Nicaragua and Afghanistan and a Brave New World-style attempt to quieten an angry working class. MF

Everything Not Saved

Summerhall, 5.50pm, until 26 August

Dublin-based Malaprop Theatre play mind tricks on us. In three discrete scenes, John Doran, Breffni Holahan and Maeve O’Mahony interrogate ideas about faking history, questioning absolute certainty and curating cultural memory. In each, they pick at a nugget of a conversation – their own or one remembered – smoothing the bumps of memory and creating a thin new film of fiction over fact. A stage manager bustles around the set, manipulating the story, and Malaprop’s deeply layered meta-theatricality dances a step ahead of the audience, teasing and probing. KW


Summerhall, 7.55pm, until 26 August

Chris Thorpe says his one-man show is not about Brexit. That’s a moot point. He’s right in the sense that it’s not about leavers and remainers, adverts on buses or dodgy data harvesting. But he’s wrong – and, of course, he knows he’s wrong – in the sense that Status is a play about the questions of nationhood that the divisive referendum and the impending split from Europe throw up. With characteristic punchy delivery, Thorpe describes an impulsive journey of escape from the UK on a quest to find the sense of identity that has been stripped from him. MF

Square Go

Roundabout @ Summerhall, 8.20pm, until 26 August

The playground is a battlefield. Max and his best mate, Stevie, know that more than most. They’re the boys ducking punches and running from bullies, the boys who try to talk tough but feel scared. And for the hour we spend with them in Kieran Hurley and Gary McNair’s new play, they’re the boys hiding out in the school loos, waiting for Max’s imminent fight – his square go – with resident tough guy Danny. CL

Sticks and Stones

Roundabout @ Summerhall, until 25 August

In this dystopian satire, to deviate from the politically correct rules is to initiate social and professional suicide. B (Katherine Pearce) makes a misjudged joke and trips into a world of cultural landmines and magnified consequences. B’s caricaturish colleagues live in a perpetual state of forced, grim wokeness, wearing anonymous suits and tight corporate grins. Under Stef O’Driscoll’s direction, virtue signalling becomes a tangible action: every time an actor says a particular word, their arms wave or knees dip like exaggerated air quotations. The absence of banned words makes the audience fill in the gaps, and allows for the debate to work for any social issue. Let’s start talking to each other, the play begs, before our words start slapping us across the face. KW

Island Town

Roundabout @ Summerhall, until 26 August

The unnamed setting of Simon Longman’s play is a dead-end place, robbed of jobs and hope, where getting drunk is the only way to pass the time. Sam’s focused on survival, while Pete just wants to get laid. Only Kate plans to escape – if the town will let her. In the encircling space of Paines Plough’s Roundabout theatre, Stef O’Driscoll’s staging creates a clammy sense of imprisonment, making us feel the constraints of geography and circumstance. Kate, Sam and Pete are vivid personas from the moment we meet them, slugging cider and taking the piss out of each other. The laughs keep coming until suddenly, with a shock, they start to feel like kicks to the gut. CL


Summerhall, every half hour from 1pm-9pm, until 26 August

Binaural headphones, which offer extremely realistic 3D sound, have opened up a new avenue in theatre-making. Complicite took us into the Amazon jungle with The Encounter. Now Darkfield are leading intrepid audiences somewhere even further out of their comfort zones. So what happens? You enter the venue (a shipping container) and suddenly you’re in the cabin of a plane. You load your bags in the overhead lockers, fasten your seatbelt and put on the headphones. Then everything goes dark – really dark. And there’s something untoward going on between the captain and the crew. Suffice it to say, this show puts the uneasy into EasyJet and is most definitely not recommended if you have a fear of flying. AN