Five of the best musical shows at the Edinburgh Fringe
Interactive comedies, gig-theatre Greek myths, classical composers, and more...
Hello, and welcome to The Crush Bar, a weekly newsletter about theatre written by me, Fergus Morgan.
This issue is one of twelve specials I will be sending out during July and August, all focused on shows performing at the Edinburgh Fringe. Each issue will highlight five shows worth watching - three picked by me, plus a couple of promotional ones, too.
Some issues will be themed, some won’t be. Some shows I will have seen and loved myself, some I will just have heard good things about. All of them, though, will be made by exciting, mostly emerging/early-career artists.
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Pecho Mama – a band and a theatre company simultaneously – had a big fringe hit back in 2016 with its debut show Medea Electronica, a raucous, gig-theatre retelling of the Medea myth, set in 1980s England and vividly staged against a soundtrack of energetic, electronic music.
That show was heaped with five-star reviews and went on an extensive tour. Now, the company return to Edinburgh with another show along the same lines. Oedipus Electronica is a radical reinvention of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, written by, directed by and starring Pecho Mama’s artistic director Mella Faye.
The 75-minute show transplants Sophocles’ story from ancient Greece to modern-day Brixton, and retells it as a psychological thriller from the perspective of Oedipus’ mother Jocasta. And, yes, it will be set to an evolving score of jazz, techno and electronica, played live by Pecho Mama.
Writer, director and performer Sam Cochrane – AKA Gigglemug Theatre – has earned a reputation for creating comedy musicals about unusual subjects. Timpson: The Musical was a ridiculous riff on Romeo and Juliet that earned one of The Stage’s Edinburgh Awards back in 2018.
His latest show, RuneSical, is inspired by the popular online game RuneScape. Co-written with Alex Prescot and performed by a seven-strong cast, the interactive show allows the audience to choose what happens next on stage – so no two shows will be the same.
It is one of two shows Cochrane and Prescot are performing in Edinburgh this August. For two nights only, they will also be doing their improvised musical The Bean Spillers – in which the duo invent a silly show from audience confessions – at Gilded Balloon Teviot as well. Catch one show. Better still, catch both.
The Killers’ 2003 single Mr Brightside is – by a long, long way – this country’s longest-running chart hit, having spent over 260 weeks in the UK top 100. There is not a single year since it was released that it has not, at some point, re-entered the charts.
Emerging company Shepard Tone’s late-night show Coming Out Of My Cage (And I’ve Been Doing Just Fine) is something of an investigation into – ahem – how it ended up like this. It had a successful run at VAULT Festival in 2020, but the pandemic delayed its arrival in Edinburgh until now.
Inspired by a viral clip of an Irish bar singing the song in memory of a friend, and using a mix of karaoke, lip-syncing, audience participation and punning, performers Tim Chapman and Hannah Fellows set out to discover why Mr Brightside means so much to us all – and to have a great time along the way. Open up my eager eyes.
Italian-British writer and actor Elena Mazzon’s solo show Clara: Sex, Love and Classical Music could not be playing in a more appropriate venue. An exploration of life and legacy of the nineteenth-century pianist and composer Clara Schumann, it is running in the Pianodrome, Tim Vincent-Smith and Matthew Wright’s iconic venue constructed entirely from upcycled pianos.
The show itself, which is directed by Catriona Kerridge, sees Mazzon play Schumann – both as a character, and on the piano – over the course of an hour, and dives into her complex relationships with her father, her husband Robert Schumann and fellow composer Johannes Brahms, as well as her captivating compositions and the contemporary resonance of her extraordinary, overlooked life.
Clara: Sex, Love and Classical Music has already toured the UK, Europe, Australia and the US, and been adapted into an acclaimed radio play. After its short run in Edinburgh – it is only in town until August 14 – Mazzon hopes to take it on tour again. “It would be lovely to travel with the show around the UK and the US again,” she says. “We have even discussed adapting it for TV, too.”
This is promotional content.
California-born, New York-based actor, writer, director and singer Lori Hamilton has trained at some of the United States’ most prestigious performing arts schools, including Julliard and the New England Conservatory, and sung with some of the country’s most acclaimed institutions, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Atlanta Opera, and the Brooklyn Philharmonic.
With her new solo comedy show North Star (What I Listened To Instead Of My Intuition), which is directed by the award-winning Sean Daniels, Hamilton turns the spotlight on herself and her lifelong search for happiness. “It’s basically about how I got over being suicidal and dealt with all my messy family baggage,” she explains. “That might not sound so funny, but trust me, it is.”
Through opera, original songs, intimate storytelling and character comedy, Hamilton explores everything from inherited trauma to workaholism. Her ultimate aim, she says, is to help other people. “What I hope is that this piece offers some empathy to anyone in the audience who needs it,” she says. “It’s me, coming down to whatever well you are at the bottom of with a ladder.”
This is promotional content.
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