Another year, another Edinburgh Festival Fringe successfully completed. Our Theatre Editor, Daniel Perks, picks out the best shows as ones to watch out for in the future.

Another year, another Edinburgh Festival Fringe successfully completed. Creatives from across the world descended on the festival to celebrate its 70th anniversary and showcase some of the best work in the current cultural sphere climate. Established companies brought back past shows for honorary performances; fledgling companies tested out work in development and sought constructive feedback. Writers, comedians and cabaret performers alike all vied to be the next success story, sharing their visions with the world and with each other. What a year it was.

The 2017 Edinburgh Fringe included performances in a swimming pool, a boat, a bathroom, a football ground, a tunnel & a racecourse, featuring shows that addressed themes of belonging, identity, grief, Brexit, Trump, fake news, the Syrian conflict, gender and activism. An estimated 2,696,884 tickets were issued for shows across Scotland’s capital, a 9% increase on last year. With 52,232 performances of 3,398 shows in 300 venues, that’s an average of 52 people attending every single performance.

Miro Magazine

Here at Miro Magazine, we were blown away by the talent at our first Edinburgh Fringe. Barely scratching the surface of what was on offer, our Theatre Editor Daniel Perks and Social Media Editor Ellie Woolman together:

  • Profiled 13 acts as Spotlights before the festival
  • Interviewed a further 6 writers, comedians and producers during the fringe
  • Saw and reviewed 56 shows
  • Gave out 180 stars, at an average of 3.2 stars per show

Our Theatre Editor, Daniel Perks, picks out the best shows as ones to watch out for in the future:

Best Theatre Show – Secret Life Of Humans

Best Theatre Show

This was always going to be an exciting year in Edinburgh for theatre, with around 950 productions performing across the month of August. It was a British Council Showcase year; Paines Plough and Northern Stage brought their own stunning programmes of work up to venues like Summerhall; the Traverse Theatre (as usual) presented an exceptional selection, including some of the Made In Scotland’s 24-strong programme.

But topping all this for me was New Diorama Theatre’s flagship piece, Secret Life of Humans. Written by Artistic Director David Byrne and co-directed by himself and Kate Stanley, the show exceeded the exceptionally high bar it set itself – literally, since half of its cast spent time suspended in the air, walking along the walls. It was also awarded the JustBe Loved Award during its time in Edinburgh. As one of the two 5-star reviews for Miro Magazine:

Secret Life of Humans is full of depth, artistic merit and intellectual passion – it juggles so many aspects and keeps them perfectly in balance. With characters that literally walk on the walls, the audience perspective is that of Gods, a bird’s eye-look upon our more primitive, earlier selves striking out below. Byrne and Stanley seem to achieve the impossible – they take a philosophical construct and breathe creative life into it, giving us a story that we buy in to but also question our place in. This is intellectually, visually and creatively astounding work.”

Best Musical – A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad)

 

Best Musical

This year’s Edinburgh Fringe saw over 100 musicals ranging from new work to reimagining classics, from student productions to touring professionals. Experimental operas like The Marriage Of Kim K sat alongside cult film-inspired works like The Toxic Avenger. Brexit was also on everybody’s minds.

For me, A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad) sat head and shoulders above the rest. Winner of the Musical Theatre Review Best Musical Award and one of recipients of The Scotsman Fringe First Awards, Jon Brittain’s astonishingly written production shined a light on mental health, a huge topic that was featured left, right and centre in this year’s offering. As the other 5-star review for Miro Magazine:

A Super Happy Story is, exactly as it promises, both happy and sad. But more importantly, it’s real life.”

“Jon Brittain’s script perfectly encapsulates the normalisation of mental illness in today’s society.  More and more young people are identifying with mental illness and talking about it in an open and inviting setting.”

“Alex Mitchell’s prowess lies in effortlessly fusing text and verse – both book and lyrics have equal impact and feel like natural extensions of each other. This is direction with innovation, insight and instinct, glorious to observe.”

Outstanding Performance – Michael Jinks in Flesh And Bone

Outstanding Performance

The Edinburgh Fringe is a place for budding actors to get noticed too – agents, producers and journalists alike are all on the lookout for future stars. This year held many highlights worth mentioning: Adam Scott-Rowley’s exposing performance in This Is Not Culturally Significant; Madeleine MacMahon’s exquisite portrayal of mental health in A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad); Lauren Gauge’s ballsy look at the binge culture in The Unmarried, to name a few.

But the individual that tops them all for me is Michael Jinks’ show-stealing turn as a jack-the-lad geezer with a closeted secret in Flesh and Bone. This show was rightly recnogised as a debut fringe piece, winning both the Holden Street Theatres Award and as one of recipients of The Scotsman Fringe First Awards. As a four-star review for Miro Magazine:

“It’s hard to tear your eyes away from Reiss – Jinks has an incredible understanding of the nuances within his character. His monologues are dynamic and paced, but also tender and touching. His physicality and reaction to everything around him is carefully considered and precisely executed, a role that steals a scene even when standing in the background.”

Oustanding Writer – Milly Thomas for Dust and Brutal Cessation

Outstanding Writer

There is more and more pressure on theatre makers to stand out from the crowd – the triple-threat writer/ director/ performer is a staple of today’s fringe scene. This year Edinburgh held an incredibly high standard of productions that elevated themselves above the traditional script – Louise Orwin and a mystery actor without any prior knowledge of the show in A Girl And A Gun; Theatre Ad Infinitum’s unspoken tenth anniversary showing of Translunar Paradise; Concrete Drops Theatre’s Moonlight After Midnight, questioning the perception of reality, are a few worth mentioning.

But the hotly anticipated Dust, written by and starring Milly Thomas, did not disappoint. Thomas was a recipient of The Stage Awards for Acting Excellence for her emotional and uninhibited portrayal of suicide and its after-effects. As a four-star review for Miro Magazine:

“From the first few lines, it is clear that Thomas has a knack for writing relatable, honest characters who aren’t afraid to be imperfect or ugly. Even when dead, she’s attention-seeking, cutting and defensive. This script takes no prisoners, exposing everything in its harsh glory. But it’s also funny – if you can’t laugh in the face of death, when can you? And fuck it, you only die once.”