Here they are, with ONE MONTH TO GO – our pre-Edinburgh Fringe picks for 2019.
Listed below are our choices of shows on our radar, to help you plan your Fringe trip, entirely free of posh white guys with microphones (we’ve heard quite enough from those dudes, thanksvmuch).
These are the shows that are the very TOP of our to-see list, by the artists we trust to make exciting work. They make up a tiny selection of the shows we’re excited to see in a festival with literally thousands of options. If you want to browse a bigger list, we are sharing our shows-to-see spreadsheet for the first time this year, and we’ll be doing our best over the summer to keep it updated for your convenience. Follow us on twitter, instagram, and fb, and subscribe to our podcast for updates of more favourites & hot tips as and when seen them.
If you’re an artist going to Edinburgh with a show that you think we should be talking about, please contact us by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. And make sure you say hi if you see us walking around Edinburgh!
If you enjoy our Fringe coverage, please support our work by becoming a Patreon, buying us a ko-fi, or donating to our GoFundMe. Bechdel Theatre has no outside funding and exists independent of any bigger organisations, and would not exist without the financial support of individuals who value the work we put into championing the theatre that we want to see more of.
Happy Bechdel testing ❤
Beth & Pippa
PS. If you’re NOT going to Edinburgh Fringe this year, or don’t have time while you’re there to cram all these amazing shows in – we got you covered! Many of these productions are previewing so we’re flagging those up below, and as always we’ll be updating you on our podcast and social media whenever they announce a new transfer or tour. You will not miss out!
Bible John Pleasance Courtyard 15:50
Bible John was an Old Testament-quoting serial killer who murdered women in 1969, and has never been caught. In 2019, four women bound by their obsession with true crime try to solve the case, once and for all in an exploration of violence, gender and one of Scotland’s darkest mysteries. A show for anyone who has ever pondered why so many consumers of the “true-crime” podcast genre are often those most likely to be victims of violent crimes.
Not going to Edinburgh? Bible John previews in London at Omnibus in Clapham on July 22 & 23.
FOC It Up Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose 23:15
Hosted by inimitable comedy talent Kemah Bob, FOC It Up is the night that recognises and represents the fierce, fabulous and funny perspectives of women, trans and non-binary comedians of colour. FOC stand for ‘Femmes Of Colour’, but it also stands for ‘Future Of Comedy’: They disrupt the status quo, fight tokenism and spill diversi-tea with a 100% no-white-dudes-onstage guarantee – and there’s nowhere that needs that guarantee more than Edinburgh Fringe.
Not in Edinburgh? Follow FOC It Up on fb for upcoming London shows
Burgerz Traverse Theatre (times vary)
After someone threw a burger at them and shouted a transphobic slur, performance artist Travis Alabanza became obsessed with burgers. This show is the climax of their obsession: exploring how trans bodies survive and how, by them reclaiming an act of violence, we can address our own complicity. We’ve fallen in love with Travis’ work, from their phenomenal performance in 2018’s ‘Jubilee’ to their beautifully vulnerable dialogue on intimacy & loneliness ‘I Tried To F*ck Up the System But None Of My Friends Texted Back’, so we’re counting down the days til we get to see this hotly-tipped solo performance.
Not going to Edinburgh? Burgerz post-Fringe European tour dates
Splintered Bedlam Theatre 21:30
A brand new cabaret-theatre show from Lagahoo (lead by Emily Aboud, one of the most exciting young theatre directors around and the cabaret artist behind drag king ‘TriniDad & TooGayThough’). Splintered is based on interviews with women in Trinidad and Tobago and devised with a team of actors. Expect lip-sync, drag, carnival, and a show unlike anything to ever grace Edinburgh Fringe. ‘This is a show about Caribbean people being queer. In our experience, it is damned hard’.
Not going to Edinburgh? Splintered is previewing at The Bunker on July 28.
Butch Princesa SpiegelYurt 18:20
Character comedy, dance and Latin beats guide you deep into a surreal queer immigrant wonderland. Sharp-suited feminist dream-clown Andrea Spisto promises you “an unflinchingly emotional art explosion”, and if her previous Fringe show was anything to go by (‘Miss Venezuela ‘- one of our favourite brand new Edinburgh discoveries of 2018) this show will be the sexiest intersectional comedy art show you could ever imagine.
Not going to Edinburgh? Butch Princesa is at the Arcola on July 19
Butch Princesa Photo: Jahel Guerra
Cactus Bar Bados 20:15
Award-winning spoken-word artist Jemima Foxtrot’s solo show features new poems and songs exploring what it means to put your life into your art. Jemima’s voice is a ray of sunshine that we bet will cut through the grey Edinburgh rain as she reminds us how to find excitement in the tiniest of every day things.
Electrolyte Pleasance Courtyard 17:20
Last year we featured Electrolyte on our Fringe Faves list, calling it the ULTIMATE gig theatre. It went on to win an astonishing list of awards, including: The Mental Health Fringe Award, The Stepladder Award, The LET Award, The Voice Mag Pick of The Fringe Award and the Pleasance Best Newcomer Award. We told you so. Luckily for anyone who missed it in 2018, Wildcard are bringing it back this year for a month-long run at the Pleasance Courtyard.
How To Catch A D*ck Pleasance Courtyard 20:15
Stand-up comic and TV star London Hughes’ Pleasance show explores, in her words: “how as a woman, you can be incredibly awesome and successful yet incredibly single, and how f*ckin’ ridiculous it is!” London is not exaggerating in the slightest when she says she’s incredibly awesome – she’s one of the most infectiously energetic stage performers we’ve ever seen in any context, and we are hyped to see her live again after she’s spent a couple of years building herself the kind of big-time household-name fame she deserves.
Collapsible Assembly Roxy 13:20
Essie’s lost her job. Her girlfriend’s left. But she’s alright. Except lately she feels more like a chair than a person. Collapsible is a new monologue about holding on in this collapsing world. Writer Margaret Perry is one to watch – she had her previous play produced at Ireland’s National Theatre: The Abbey in Dublin, has been commissioned by several London venues, and won an Origins award from VAULT Festival for Collapsible.
Not going to Edinburgh? Collapsible is coming to The Bush in February.
FATTY FAT FAT Pleasance Courtyard 15:15
We caught Katie Greenall’s FATTY FAT FAT in it’s first round of previews this year, and even in its early stages it was full of well-aimed laughs and powerful honesty. We’re not just saying this because we got offered crisps halfway through, but this show is a joyous hour as well as an important and challenging testimony of living in a body the world tells you to hate. Leave your diet books at the door.
Who Cares Summerhall 18:20
LUNG theatre company are well-reknowned for plays addressing social and political issues “with communities, by communities, and for communities”, and their latest Fringe offering stays true to that commitment. ‘Who Cares’ has been adapted from real-life testimonies to examine our failing care system, the impact of austerity and what happens when a child becomes the parent.
Backward Pleasance Courtyard 19:00
Rosie “triple threat” Jones is bringing her second hour of comedy to the Fringe to explore the difficulties of navigating the world whilst being the only disabled, gay, northern comedian with a penchant for sexual aggression. Rosie’s hilarious 2018 show ‘Fifteen Minutes’ was a massive hit, and she’s spent the last year growing her indomitable reputation even further – Fringe 2019 is hers for the taking.
Tricky Second Album Pleasance Dome 23:00
In Bed With My Brother (aka Nora, Dora, and Kat), promise that their new production is nothing like their previous show ‘We Are Ian’ (the incredible immersive theatrical-rave-experience inspired by their pal Ian’s account of living in 1980s Manchester). Even if ‘Tricky Second Album’ takes them in an entirely different direction from ‘Ian’, we trust them with an hour of our lives based on the fun we had in their company back in 2016. Also, they have the best website of any Fringe artist we’ve seen while researching this blog.
I, AmDram Pleasance Courtyard 14:00
Writer/performer Hannah Maxwell step-ball-changes between suburb and city, revealing her familial legacy: this queer London live-artist-type hails from four generations of leading ladies of the Welwyn Thalians Musical & Dramatic Society. Hannah’s debut solo show is not quite Gilbert and Sullivan, but the “Learned Urban Lesbian” does her family proud, regaling us with hilarious tales from her performance history with a warmth and affection which – while not uncritical of her hometown, left us with a spring in our steps when we caught an early draft of it last year.
For the first half of the month (until the 11th) Rachael Young and her badass band of superhumans embrace Afrofuturism and the cult of Grace Jones in Nightclubbing. For the second half of the month (from the 13th) she will be joined by non-binary dancer/choreographer marikiscrycrycry to perform OUT: a duet defiantly challenging homophobia and transphobia, reclaiming Dancehall and celebrating Vogue culture.
Fix Us Underbelly Cowgate 12:20
BareFace Collective are Lee Philips, Zara Jayne and Kirsty Adams. Lee has autism, Zara has CHARGE syndrome and Kirsty has Cerebral Palsy. Three wild, wicked and wonderful individuals whose real-life inner anxieties clash with their flamboyant alter-egos. BareFace are not only putting disabled voices centre stage with their show – they’re also using social media to share access information for audience members across the festival. We highly recommend giving them a follow on twitter as well as going to see their show.
Not going to Edinburgh? Fix Us previews at the Kings Head in Islington on July 19th & 20th.
Algorithms Pleasance Courtyard 12:45
Algorithm’s protagonist Brooke is a rare millennial who seems to have it all: the job, the flat, the girlfriend… until things go tits up, just before her 30th birthday. This tragicomic play gives a unique insight into the world of online dating – through the eyes of a bisexual woman whose job is to write the algorithms for a dating website. Sadie Clark’s lovably hapless heroine will likely be sometimes-achingly-often-comically relatable for anyone in our online generation who has struggled with loneliness in a world where we’re meant to be more connected than ever.
Not going to Edinburgh? Algorithms has previews in North London, South London, and Norwich.
The LOL Word Gilded Balloon at Old Tolbooth Market 19:15
This mixed-bill of .LGBTQ+ women and non-binary comedians has introduced us to new favourite comics with a regularity that’s hard to keep up with. It’s a winning formula in which comics can comfortably perform their most marvellously queer material to a wildly friendly crowd, with only one rule: There’s no kicking down (no sexism, transphobia, racism, etc.) but plenty of punching the patriarchy. Their “prom” themed night at VAULT Festival earlier this year proved that The LOL Word isn’t just a reliable compilation staple with guaranteed laughs, it’s a whole night out with a loyal following who return enthusiastically for more than one hour.
Not in Edinburgh? Follow The LOL Word on twitter for announcements of shows throughout the year.
My Father the Tantric Masseur Assembly George Square Studios 22:10
Roann McCloskey is a post #MeToo, queer, British-Algerian woman on a journey of excruciating self-discovery between reserved English father turned Tantric Masseur and Muslim mother who insists on open dialogue. She promises to have us “laughing, crying and pondering the name you’ve given your genitals” – and that, despite the eye-catching name, it’s very much NOT all about a man. We have to say, despite the rules of the test we’re named after, we ARE very curious to hear about her Dad…
My Father The Tantric Masseur
Parakeet Roundabout @ Summerhall 17:05
This new musical from Brigitte Aphrodite (the poet, songwriter, feminist showgirl, and all-round good-soul behind 2015s My Beautiful Black Dog) is about finding your flock and ruffling feathers. In Margate, an isolated teenager forms a band and finds her voice with the help of a gang of parakeets. This show promises to introduce audiences to the new spirit of punk: punk with empathy, which sounds like the movement the world needs right now.
I’m A Phoenix, Bitch Pleasance Courtyard 17:30
Bryony Kimmings, arguably the Queen of the Fringe is returning after an eventful couple of years away during which she had a baby, a break-up and two major shows, the most recent of which is the one she’s bringing before 2019’s Edinburgh audiences. ‘I’m A Phoenix, Bitch’, is a phenomenal emotional rollercoaster of a multi-media show which charts her regaining of strength following a mental health breakdown. It almost broke us when we saw it open in Battersea last year – bring a pal who you can squeeze hands with during the tough moments, and hug after.
Pink Lemonade Assembly Roxy 15:45
Pink Lemonade is performer and theatre-maker Mika Johnson’s debut solo show. Presented by The Queer House and HighTide, Pink Lemonade is a piece of experimental theatre which explores femxle masculinity, racial fetishism, sexuality and gender identity with poetry, movement and original beats.
Not in Edinburgh? Pink Lemonade previews at The Gate Theatre on July 17 & 18
Since U Been Gone Assembly Roxy 15:45
Last year ‘Polaris’ by Holly and Ted made it into our Fringe recommendations & did a brilliant job of showcasing the creative talents, versatility and likeability of Teddy Lamb. Teddy, who also did a great service to the Fringe community by founding @EdFringeQueer Meet Up, is back this year with their autobiographical show ‘Since U Been Gone’ a mid-noughties story of friendship, grief and growing up queer, with a (presumably Kelly Clarkson-inspired) original pop music score
Not in Edinburgh? Since U Been Gone previews at The Gate Theatre on July 24 & 25
The Ballad of Mulan Assembly Rooms 16:05
A woman, a warrior, a Chinese legend – Michelle Yim brings to life the real Mulan who, to save her family’s honour, disguised herself as a man and joined the emperors army. A must-see for anyone who felt inspired by the Disney movie as a kid, then grew up wondering about the real woman behind the heroine.
Not going to Edinburgh? The Ballad of Mulan is previewing in Buxton on July 21
The Ballad of Mulan
Sophie Duker: Venus Pleasance Courtyard 19:00
Sophie Duker is your Venus, she’s your fire, your desire. Or is she? She’s definitely a firm favourite of ours, we’ve loved seeing her rise to prominence on the comedy scene, from splitting bills with fellow feminist faves and hosting her own always-LOL-filled Wacky Racists nights, to taking mainstream telly and radio by storm. We cannot WAIT to see her “full-fat woke” debut hour, VENUS: Silly, sexy, savage stand-up from a girl who’s definitely not a goddess.
Tokyo Rose Underbelly Cowgate 18:55
The team behind award-winning all-female musical ‘The Half Moon Shania’ are turning back the dial to 1949, with a new rap-packed musical in which five wartime disc jockeys spit piercing verse. Faced with accusations of peddling Axis propaganda, Iva d’Aquino becomes known as the notorious Tokyo Rose – but was she the villain she was made out to be?
Sexy Lamp Pleasance Courtyard 14:00
How could we resist including the show with the title that nods to a “version” of the Bechdel test that calls out the use of women as props, asking: “Could the female characters in this movie be replaced by a sexy lamp?”. Combining comedy, original songs and storytelling, Sexy Lamp sheds a bright light on how ridiculous the entertainment industry can be and why Katie is refusing to stay in the dark any longer.
The Burning Pleasance Courtyard 15:15
Good witch. Wicked witch. White queen. Red queen. Maternal. Frigid. Madonna. Whore. The endless female trade-off between goodness and power. The Burning follows the lives of the women and their witch hunters in an epic story through time, history, capitalism, and the consequences of societal fear when faced with change. It sounds to us like the show to go to for your Fringe dose of Feminist-Battlecry-Theatre.
BBC Radio Drama Summerhall Radio 18:00
The BBC are recording a selection of plays with a live studio audience (to be broadcast in September – so listen out for them then if you’re not going to Edinburgh). This is not only a fun opportunity to see radio drama being recorded live, but also the chance to catch some work by some of the most extraordinary playwrights heading to the Fringe.
We particularly recommend:
The Grape That Rolled Under The Fridge: An Afrofuturist tale about identity, familial relationships and the surveillance state by Matilda Ibini (August 13th)
Pass: A Thelma and Louise for our times about a mother and daughter’s relationship through transition by Kate O’Donnell (August 10th)
About Time/Bully Laughing Horse @ City Cafe 19:10
A split bill comedy show featuring two brilliant rising-stars who we’ve seen pop up on all our absolute favourite line-ups recently so can whole-heatedly recommend. You can’t go wrong spending an evening with Thanyia Moore and Sian Davies.
About Time: growing up is hard, but most people manage it. Sian Davies waited until she was 27 to grow up. Everyone agreed, it was about time.
Bully: was Thanyia Moore bullied? Or was she the bully? Join the Funny Women Award winner as she seeks to find the answer in this hilarious account of her childhood.
Working On My Night Moves Summerhall 21:55
The latest live art work by award-winning New Zealanders Julia Croft and Nisha Madhan, ‘Working On My Night Moves’ is “a search for multiple feminist futurisms while reaching for outer space” and “ode to the search for utopia”. They’re breaking the rules, the patriarchy and the time/space continuum, and we are absolutely here for all of that.
Working On My Night Moves
Gentlemen, Please Laughing Horse @ Sofi’s Southside 13:15
Alissa Anne Jeun Yi (who was a guest on our podcast during last year’s Fringe)and Lily Hyde met at Soho Theatre, where they bonded “over their love of expensive candles and the fact that they were both complex, three-dimensional women”, so naturally they’re sharing a comedy bill at this year’s Fringe, and naturally we are keen to see it.
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