There’s an array of bold, brilliant British writing on display at this year’s Fringe. Here Katrina Conaglen looks at a selection of sure-to-please shows that deftly discuss difficult topics while keeping you laughing throughout
Every Brilliant Thing
At Summerhall there’s a fantastic programme of new writing and powerful theatre. This one might be already sold out, but it’s worth trying for day-of returns for Duncan Macmillian’s extremely brilliant Every Brilliant Thing. A warm, inclusive, riotously funny look at depression, it details the story of a seven year old boy’s attempt to cajole his suicidal mother out of her depressive state by compiling her a list of every brilliant thing in the world worth living for. Performer Jonny Donahoe holds the audience in the theatrical equivalent of a hug for an hour, as the development of the list charts the boy’s own evolution and dawning comprehension of depression itself. Unmissable.
Every Brilliant Thing, Roundabout @ Summerhall, until 30 Aug, 2.05pm / listings
Chris Thorpe and Rachel Chavkin’s new show Confirmation is a brilliant, angry look at political allegiance, confirmation bias, and the intellectual laziness of ideological tribalism. Delivered with spittle-inflected power by Thorpe, it is also terrifically funny, but leaves you brutally aware of the gaps and flaws in everyone’s thinking and beliefs. Based on real dialogues between the self-confessed “lefty-liberal” Thorpe and a right-wing extremist.
Confirmation, Summerhall, 22 – 29 Aug, 11.50am / listings
Am I Dead Yet?
If Thorpe’s idiosyncratic blend of invective, jokes and theatre hit home, then you’d be well served heading along to the Traverse to check out Am I Dead Yet? which Thorpe co-wrote (and performs) with Jon Spooner in collaboration with Dr Andy Lockey. An energetic, slap-dash exploration of death – its inevitability, our inability to chat about it, and how medical advancements are ever-changing the parameters of it. Altogether a warmer, less abrasive experience than Confirmation, verve, humour and manic quality nevertheless give way periodically to a quietly devastating narrative about a small girl whose life hangs in the balance. Tonally masterful, and ultimately uplifting.
Am I Dead Yet? Traverse, until 30 Aug, 11.15pm / listings
Thom Tuck (of the erstwhile Penny Dreadfuls) is a Fringe veteran, well known to audiences for his brilliantly funny stand-up routines such as Straight To DVD. His talents as a comic performer well established then, his performance of the one-man play Scaramouche Jones (by playwright Justin Butcher) shows his fortitude as a dramatic performer: he’s fantastically mutable, with an astonishing command of accents. The tale of the lily-white son of a Trinidadian gypsy whore who grows up to be a clown, this masterful monologue tracks Jones through his life as an assistant snake charmer in Africa, to an Auschwitz grave-digger. The language is throughout achingly poetic, delivered with absolute relish by a masterful Tuck, and the unexpectedly moving – if utterly implausible- tale will keep you riveted throughout.
Scaramouche Jones, Underbelly, until 30 Aug, 12.20pm / listings
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