Returning favourites and big names dominate the programme for EdFest.com as Assembly, Gilded Balloon, Pleasance and Underbelly announce their line up for this year’s Fringe.
Alongside regulars such as Paul Merton, Lucy Porter and Ed Byrne, there’s also some familiar faces returning after lengthy absences from the Fringe. Two of these are work in progress shows as Frank Skinner returns to Assembly George Square with sixty minutes of new material ahead of the start of a UK wide tour in the autumn, and Eddie Izzard brings his reading of Dicken’s Great Expectations to the same venue.
Elsewhere Rhod Gilbert returns to the fringe with his first stand up show in seven years, The Book of John, at Pleasance at EICC. A lengthy absence, but not quite as long as that of Craig Ferguson who performs his first UK stand up show in 25 years when he brings Hobo Fabulous to Gilded Balloon at The Edinburgh Playhouse for one night on 11 August.
Ferguson was a regular on the UK comedy circuit in the late 80s and early 90s but has since made his name in the States with sitcoms and a highly successful chat show. His return will be a chance for new audiences to see him for the first time and older audiences to see how his stand-up style has changed after such a lengthy absence.
With no absence at all from the Fringe, Mark Watson’s How you Can Almost Win will also be highly anticipated. Watson debuted the show last year as a work in progress piece at The Stand and now brings it to Assembly George Square. Telling the story of his failed attempt to win Celebrity Island in 2017 it is both funny and an inspirational manual for the virtues of underachieving.
Away from comedy, ones to watch out for include Musik at Assembly Rooms. A sequel to their 2001 show Closer to Heaven, it promises a stunning performance by Frances Barber, reprising the role of Billie Trix, alongside six original songs by Pet Shop Boys and a script by Jonathan Harvey.
Stepping away from his regular appearances with Paul Merton and Whose Line is it Anyway – both of which are likely to be the main improvisational comedy draws – American comic Mike McShane returns to the stage alongside Phil Nichol in Hughie at Gilded Balloon Teviot.
Older readers should avoid the temptation to think that this is a show about a seventies TV talent show host, as it’s actually a new production of one of the last plays by Eugene O’Neill, writer of Long Days Journey into Night. Meanwhile Greg Proops, McShane’s American compatriot from Whose Line, also returns with a stand-up show at Gilded Balloon Teviot.
Adaptations of films and TV shows are once again in plentiful supply and, in a year that has seen the hugely successful stage adaptation of Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero, an adaptation of Forsyth’s other iconic movie Gregory’s Girl at the Rose Theatre should be a great draw both for people who saw that film or Local Hero at the Lyceum.
All of the big name acts and shows are, of course, just part of the story and this years EdFest.com programme boasts a total of 948 shows from 29 countries that will be performed in 107 spaces across 24 venues.
As ever, it’s worth digging further into the programme to search out hidden treats, and a personal recommendation is Cream Tea and Incest by Peracals Productions. Romance, adventure and murder in a knockabout Edwardian comedy, the show had a highly successful run at Space@Surgeon’s Hall last year and deserves further success at the Rose Theatre as part of the Gilded Balloon programme this year.