WOW's guide to the 2014 EDINBURGH FESTIVALS

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Feature: Great shows returning to the Fringe

Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer returns to the Fringe this year

Published by petersimpson

As the Fringe gets underway, here’s a selection of shows our reviewers have already seen and loved.

Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer returns to the Fringe this year

[Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer returns to the Fringe in 2013]

You Once Said Yes
What is it? An interactive play that encourages audience members to become a part of the show, where all it takes to keep it going is the ability to say yes.
Where we saw it: Fringe 2011
Where you can see it: Underbelly, Cowgate, 12-25 August
What we said: “You realise that, as exhilarating as it is to say yes to everything, sometimes it’s also good to say no. A musical finale brilliantly twists all that has happened into something really special. Seeing the look on the face of the audience member ten minutes behind you is also worth sticking around for.”
SALLY STOTT

Titus
What is it? Drama for secondary school-aged audiences about a teenage boy preparing to jump from the roof of his school.
Where we saw it: Traverse, 2012
Where you can see it: Summerhall, until 
25 August
What we said: “Titus is a simple, austere-looking 45-minute monologue, in which we gradually come to understand the extent of the loss Titus has suffered, and the reasons why he feels so abandoned.”
JOYCE MCMILLAN

Anoesis
What is it? An immersive show about the competitive pressures of formal education and the treadmill of academic and personal assessment.
Where we saw it: Tramway, Glasgow, 2012
Where you can see it: Summerhall, until 25 August
What we said: “It lasts only 65 minutes, and its style is familiar. Yet it’s also powerful, theatrical, perfectly-shaped, moving and real, like no other piece of theatre I’ve seen this week.”
JOYCE MCMILLAN

Chalk Farm
What is it? Political play focusing on a single mother and her vulnerable son during the London riots.
Where we saw it: Oran Mor, Glasgow, 2012
Where you can see it: Underbelly, Cowgate until 25 August
What we said: “The premise is simple; but the writing is brilliant, sharp, poetic, passionate, full of searing insight into the politics of blame, matched with a brilliant eye for the detail of life in divided Britain today.”
JOYCE MCMILLAN

A Respectable Widow Takes to Vulgarity
What is it? A widow enters into an unlikely friendship with a potty-mouthed employee of her ex-husband. Part of the Traverse’s Breakfast Plays.
Where we saw it: Oran Mor, Glasgow, 2013
Where you can see it: Traverse, 13, 15, 17, 20, 22, 24 August
What we said: “A hilarious riff on language, class and communication, perfectly structured by Douglas Maxwell.”
JOYCE MCMILLAN

Hairy Maclary and Friends
What is it? The children’s story is adapted into a stage show, following a dog’s adventures.
Where we saw it: Howden Park Centre, Livingston, 2011
Where you can see it: Assembly George Square, until 26 August
What we said: “There’s some fine use of old-fashioned pantomime tricks to draw the audience into the story, each little yarn told in a jolly, rhythmic song.”
JOYCE MCMILLAN

The Man Who Planted Trees
What is it? A funny and endearing puppetry show following the lovable “Dog”.
Where we saw it: Fringe 2006
Where you can see it: Scottish Storytelling Centre, until 16 August
What we said: “The audience is completely united – everyone laughs at the same gags and everyone falls silent at precisely the same moments when things take a turn for the serious.”
ROGER COX

One Giant Leap
What is it? Ambitious, educational show exploring space science.
Where we saw it: Caol Community Centre, Fort William, 2008
Where you can see it: Summerhall, until 25 August
What we said: “It gradually builds into a tremendous small-scale history of ideas; and what emerges is an impassioned 21st-century elegy for the age of enlightenment.”
JOYCE MCMILLAN

The Garden
What is it? A bleakly dystopian tale about an urban couple who discover an apple tree growing in their living room.
Where we saw it: Sound Festival, Aberdeen, 2012
Where you can see it: Paterson’s Land, 13-14 August
What we said: “The real revelation was the way Harris’ astonishingly expressive vocal lines slipped effortlessly back and forth between speaking and singing.”
DAVID KETTLE

The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs
What is it? A monologue written by a fan and admirer of the legendary late leader of the Apple Corporation, about his own misgivings over the conditions under which Apple’s products are produced.
Where we saw it: Fringe 2012
Where you can see it: Gilded Balloon Teviot, until 26 August
What we said: “The narrative interweaves a history of the remarkable development of Apple under Jobs’ leadership with the story of a trip [original writer Mike] Daisey made to Shenzhen.”
JOYCE MCMILLAN

The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik
What is it? Global warming-themed puppet drama based around the survivors of a world where the ice caps have melted.
Where we saw it: Fringe 2011
Where you can see it: Underbelly, until 
11 August
What we said: “Surely one of the most heart-warming and life-affirming shows you’ll see at the Fringe this year, not to mention a pocket masterpiece of invention, staging and performance.”
DAVID POLLOCK

Bite the Bullet
What is it? The story of a once-successful Glasgow band reuniting 21 years later.
Where we saw it: Oran Mor, Glasgow, 2011
Where you can see it: The Assembly Rooms, 16-25 August
What we said: “This 55-minute play contains three performances to treasure as well as some terrific comic dialogue, rich in cultural wisdom.”
JOYCE MCMILLAN

Black T-Shirt Collection
What is it? A global story, visiting Nigeria, Egypt, China, and London, about two young men from Jos in Nigeria who grow up to launch a successful T-shirt business.
Where we saw it: Tramway, 
Glasgow, 2012
Where you can see it: Pleasance Courtyard, 19-24 August
What we said: “What Ellams achieves, in this remarkable solo drama, is a fiercely persuasive vision of a crowded world that is increasingly bound together by the cruel imperatives of commerce and the mounting social tensions that find expression in violent religious fundamentalism.”
JOYCE MCMILLAN

Dark Matter
What is it? A mysterious and poetically visual tale, set in an ordinary Edinburgh garden.
Where we saw it: Victoria Park Hotel, Edinburgh, 2013
Where you can see it: Meet at the Victoria Bar, 265 Leith Walk, 15-24 August (Summerhall)
What we said: “A rich and memorable short burst of theatre cut with a touch of son et lumière, and a fine weaving of live and recorded sound.”
JOYCE MCMILLAN

If These Spasms Could Speak
What is it? Solo show by Robert Softley about how disabilities shape lives.
Where we saw it: The Arches, Glasgow, 2012
Where you can see it: Pleasance Courtyard, until 
26 August
What we said: “In celebrating his own life, he makes us see our own, with fresh eyes.”
JOYCE MCMILLAN

Ring
What is it? Audio theatre that uses headphones and a dark theatre space to construct a new world.
Where we saw it: Tramway, Glasgow, 2012
Where you can see it: Pleasance Dome, 19-24 August
What we said: “What’s exciting about the show is the way it plays with the listener’s position in the story; coming close, disappearing into the distance again, rearranging the chairs in a symphony of sound that bears no relation to real events in the room.”
JOYCE MCMILLAN

The Tobacco Merchant’s Lawyer
What is it? The tale of a pro-Scottish independence lawyer in 1790 Glasgow benefiting from the colonial trade offered by the Union.
Where we saw it: Trades Hall, 
Glasgow, 2010
Where you can see it: The Assembly Rooms, until 25 August
What we said: “A solo play with tremendous wit, peopled with a huge cast of memorable characters.”
JOYCE MCMILLAN

Ulysses
What is it? An adaptation of James Joyce’s classic Irish novel.
Where we saw it: Tron, Glasgow, 2012
Where you can see it: Paterson’s Land, 9-26 August
What we said: “A piece of theatre to remember, as rich and glorious as an old scratched ruby, lying at the bottom of some infinitely cluttered drawer.”
JOYCE MCMILLAN

Long Live the Little Knife
What is it? A story about two art forgers who shift between reality and the play itself.
Where we saw it: Film City, Glasgow, 2013
Where you can see it: Traverse, until 25 August
What we said: “David Leddy’s script is a fantastic exhibition of verbal pyrotechnics; political, satirical, rhythmic, sometimes almost rhyming.”
JOYCE MCMILLAN

Whatever Gets You Through the Night
What is it? Collaborative show about night-time life directed by Cora Bissett, with new writing by David Greig, Alan Bissett, Stef Smith and more plus live music by Emma Pollock, Withered Hand, Meursault, Rachel Sermanni and 
RM Hubbert.
Where we saw it: The Arches, Glasgow, 2012
Where you can see it: Queen’s Hall, 20-25 August
What we said: “A fiercely likeable evening of theatre, rich in talent and musical inspiration.”
JOYCE MCMILLAN

Beats by Kieran Hurley
What is it? Coming-of-age story set in the time of rave culture, performed by Kieran Hurley and accompanied by DJs.
Where we saw it: The Arches, Glasgow, 2012
Where you can see it: Pleasance Courtyard, until 11 August
What we said: “The quality of Hurley’s writing and performance make this an outstanding show; clever, ruthless, compassionate, and full of political insight.”
JOYCE MCMILLAN

The List
What is it? A play about an isolated woman whose ordering of chaos comes in the form of obsessive list-making.
Where we saw it: Fringe 2012
Where you can see it: Summerhall, 
until 25 August
What we said: “The strength of the production comes from the way it illuminates the small details of domesticity and motherhood, which nevertheless link in to primal emotions. It’s about small things, and how sometimes a small thing can turn out to be the biggest thing of all.”
SUSAN MANSFIELD

Originally published in The Scotsman