In Depth

Edinburgh Fringe 2016: 10 shows not to miss

From biting satirical stand-up to improvised musical theatre, these acts will astound and amaze

Originally established as an alternative to the Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe is now the world's biggest arts festival. 

Running over three weeks, parallel to the main festival, it showcases hundreds of acts, from big names in comedy, physical theatre and cabaret, to newcomers hoping to get noticed.

Here are 10 shows not to miss out on:

Us/Them

Given that Us/Them presents the Beslan terror siege of 2004 from the point of view of two unnamed child witnesses, audiences would be forgiven for expecting a rather harrowing theatrical experience. But the performance is "playful, surprisingly and painfully funny as well as moving", says The Guardian's Lyn Gardner.

In her five-star review, Gardner praises the performance for forcing the audience "to question the way such events are usually presented and the way myths are constructed".

Perhaps most impressively, she adds, the show is made with family audiences in mind.

Summerhall

James Acaster: Reset

The acerbic and bitingly satirical comic brings his fifth show to the Edinburgh Fringe, hoping to go one better than the previous four and finally win a Foster comedy award. 

The East-Midlander rattles through routines on everything from Kenya to kettles in a "hugely enjoyable hour of confident, charismatic comedy", says Fergus Morgan for The Reviews Hub

Undoubtedly a comedian on a meteoric rise, Acaster "will be a household name" in five years' time "and you'll want to be able to say you saw him when he was still cool", Morgan concludes.

Pleasance Courtyard

Goodbear

Last year's most talked about sketch double act are back with a new show. Billed as "a selection of characters and occurrences from around the world on a single day in 2016", the duo keep the laughs coming thick and fast. 

"The skits are often very funny," says the Daily Telegraph's Mark Monahan, who highlights the show's "seductive playfulness" and enriching "dash of melancholia" which helps to hold the audience's attention.

Bedlam Theatre

Life According to Saki

Based on a collection of short stories by the little known Edwardian writer Hector Hugo Munro, better known by his pen name Saki, this stage production has garnered rave reviews from the critics.

Set in the trenches of WWI shortly before his death, Saki regales his men with stories in between bouts of monologues.

"The cast are exceptional at inhabiting the myriad of characters they play," says Broadway Baby's James Woe, adding that the key to the show's success is that the actors "make the characters believable rather than actively looking for laughs"

"If you see this show and have not had the pleasure of reading Saki before, I can ensure you'll want to run to a local book shop and pick up a copy of his works," he concludes.

Venue C

Showstopper! The Improvised Musical

Arriving at Edinburgh after a West End run, this Olivier-winning company takes musical theatre to new heights with a performance improvised from the suggestions of the audience each night. 

In his four-star review for the London Evening Standard, Bruce Dessau praises the show as a "success story that could run and run and never repeat itself". Audience members can even tweet suggestions at the interval in time for the big musical finale.

Pleasance Courtyard

World Without Us

Acclaimed Belgian theatre group Ontroerend Goed presents a meditation on the end of the world through a visionary poem performed by Flemish actor Valentijn Dhaenens. The piece explores the idea of a world from which human beings have suddenly vanished. At first, their machines continue to function independently, then gradually the technologies decay and disappear, until beasts and vegetation have taken over.

What's On Stage says it wouldn't work on the page, but as theatre "it's something you sit with, turning things over in your head". It taps into the sense of theatre as a sealed-off space, where the outside world carries on without us, while also bringing the whole world into the room, and it's all "meticulously done: delicately thought and diligently researched".

Summerhall

Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons

Sam Steiner's quirky love story is set in a dystopian world where the government has introduced a daily word limit of 140 words per person. After wasting these on trivial activities, a couple begin to horde their words for each other, but this also begins to create its own tensions.

One of the clever things about this "tightly packed", "beautifully choreographed" piece is the way it portrays "the shifting distance between the couple", say Lyn Gardner in The Guardian. It "takes the can opener to a typical opposites-attract romcom", she adds, in order to explore wider issues of democracy and free speech. "Because when we are lost for words, we are at our most powerless."

Roundabout at Summerhall

Ada/Ava

Chicago-based company Manual Cinema handcraft a film directly in front of audiences, letting them see the process as they conjure phantasms using puppetry, live music and action. This charmingly eerie tale draws on the visuals of black-and-white silent films from FW Murnau and Fritz Lang to tell the story of an elderly woman learning to cope alone when her identical twin sister unexpectedly dies.

Ben Brantley in the New York Times calls Ada/Ava "an unclassifiable story of spectral beauty". While mirrors play an important role in its scenes from a surrealist's dreamscape, it is the show's "air of do-it-yourself humility" that makes "its soaring enchantment all the more impressive".

Underbelly, Potterrow

Limmy - Daft Wee Stories

Glasgow-born Brian Limond, aka Limmy, is a popular TV personality, comedian, Twitter and Vine star. He has now written a best-selling book of daft observational short stories and will appear on stage for four nights, reading and discussing the stories and sometimes singing.

The tales range from nostalgic musings on the seaside town of Millport, conspiracy theories, cyber crime and the impact of the internet on our brains.

Jay Richardson from Chortle says the show will satisfy Limmy's existing fans and prove "once again that his wickedly anarchic sensibility moves effortlessly between media".

Edinburgh International Conference Centre

Starman – Sven Ratzke

This David Bowie tribute act has won over audiences and snapped up the Critics' Pick from Time Out New York as it gathers fans mourning the departure of a musical icon. Sven Ratzke patches together a picaresque tale that takes us from the discovery of a starman suit from outer space on Edinburgh's the Meadows to the starry decadence of New York's Chelsea Hotel, with encounters with Andy Warhol and Lou Reed, mirroring Bowie's own creative and personal journey.

It is certainly a "crowd-pleaser", says Nick Awde at The Stage. The plot is moved along by Ratzke's "cabaret-steeped arrangements of Bowie classics", backed by a versatile three-piece band. There's a surprise in every interpretation of songs you thought you knew, he adds, from a "loose but edgy Rebel Rebel" to a "lounge-lizard" rendition of Starman, and Ratzke chooses his songs wisely to fit the "raucous madcap humour" of the narration.

"Surreal, funny and musically sublime, Starman introduces cabaret to rock and lets rip utterly gloriously," Awde concludes. 

Assembly, George Square

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