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Five shows to see at the Edinburgh Fringe, vol. 1
The Crush Bar is back - with the first in a series of show recommendations at this year's festival. First, a new Isobel McArthur play, a three-handed thriller, and more...
Hello, and welcome to The Crush Bar, a Substack newsletter about theatre written by me, Fergus Morgan. It has been on hiatus since May - but now it is back with all things Edinburgh Fringe.
This issue is the first of a series of specials I will be sending out during late July and August, all focused on shows performing at the festival. Each issue will highlight five shows worth seeing. Three will be picked by me, and a couple will be paid promotions. Hope that is okay.
Some issues will be themed. Most will not be. Some I will have seen and loved. Some I will just have heard good things about. Some artists I will know and admire. Others I will just like the sound of. Please feel free to get in touch if you want to let me know about a show you love.
One last thing: you can support this newsletter in a couple of ways. Firstly, you can share it with anyone that might be interested. And secondly, you can become a paid supporter for the cost of a cup-and-a-half of coffee a month using the button below. That’d be just great.
If you have not heard of Isobel McArthur yet, where have you been? The Glaswegian writer, director and actor was the brains behind the brilliant, Olivier Award-winning comedy Pride And Prejudice* (*Sort Of), and the National Theatre of Scotland’s rollocking adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped, both of which toured earlier this year.
There is more on the way. McArthur is adapting Thomas Heywood’s The Fair Maid Of The West for the Royal Shakespeare Company this autumn, but before that comes her new play The Grand Old Opera House Hotel, which runs at the Traverse Theatre for the entire festival.
Directed by Traverse Theatre chief Gareth Nicholls, the play follows the ghostly goings-on at a dilapidated opera-house-turned-hotel and features reworked versions of famous opera songs, apparently. Knowing McArthur, it will be a total riot. You can and interview I did with her for The Stage earlier this year here, and you can get tickets via the button below.
Producer Ellie Keel having her name attached to anything is an indication that it will be well worth seeing. Last year, she produced Rafaella Marcus’ remarkable two-hander Sap, and in 2019, she was behind Margaret Perry’s one-woman play Collapsible. Both of those shows won one of The Stage’s Edinburgh Awards.
This year, Keel has three shows at the festival. In the Paines Plough Roundabout are Nathan Queeley-Dennis’ Bruntwood Prize-winning play Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz and The Last Show Before We Die, the latest work from Keel’s long-term collaborators Mary Higgins and Ell Potter, AKA Hotter Project.
Then there is An Interrogation, the debut play from Jamie Armitage, the Tony Award-nominated co-director of smash-hit musical Six on Broadway. Inspired by real events, starring Jamie Ballard, Bethan Cullinane and John Macneill, and running at Summerhall all festival - with a few late-night performances, too - An Interrogation is a twisty-turny thriller that follows a detective questioning a successful businessman suspected of murder. You can get tickets via the button below.
The debut comedy from Flawbored - a disabled-led company made up of theatremakers Samuel Brewer, Aarian Mehrabani and Chloe Palmer, It’s A Motherf**king Pleasure arrives at the Edinburgh Fringe - it is at Underbelly Bristo Square for the entire festival - with plenty of hype around it.
The show premiered at VAULT Festival earlier this year - when this newsletter shouted about it - and was showered with critical acclaim and several awards, including the prestigious Untapped Award run by Underbelly, the New Diorama Theatre, Concord Theatricals and Nouveau Riche. It subsequently transferred to the Soho Theatre in April, and is doing a couple of pre-Edinburgh previews at the New Diorama on July 26 and 27, too.
Developed by the company and directed by JMK Award winner Josh Roche, It’s A Motherf**king Pleasure is a satirical comedy about identity politics, set within a top talent agency. The Stage’s Paul Vale praised its “invaluable humour and authenticity” when it ran at the Soho Theatre. You can get tickets for its Edinburgh Fringe run below.
Written, directed and performed by Larisa Faber, stark
bollock naked is an innovative, multimedia show exploring the societal pressures around motherhood. Inspired by her real experiences, the show sees Faber – and her alternating co-performers, Shamira Turner and Eugenie Pastor of Little Bulb Theatre – use comedic storytelling, video mapping, and live music made by an orchestra of gynaecological instruments to examine the questions that come with being a woman in your thirties.
Faber was born in Romania, grew up in Luxembourg, and is now based in London. stark
bollock naked is her first solo show. It was written in 2019, sold out when it debuted at Camden People’s Theatre in 2021, then sold out again at Luxembourg venue Niemenster in 2022. Earlier this year, it had an acclaimed, award-nominated run at VAULT Festival - if Faber looks familiar, it is because this newsletter featured an interview with her around that run back in February - and it was nominated for Best New Play at the Luxembourg Theatre Awards, too.
Now, the show arrives in Edinburgh, running at Assembly Roxy as part of the official Luxembourg showcase. “I’m hoping to meet new people, share the show with more audiences, and connect with international programmers,” Faber says. “stark
bollock naked is perfect for people who have experience of these issues themselves, but also for people who like experimental, totally surreal theatre.”
This is promotional content.
In 2017, Welsh-Iranian musician and performer Roshi Nasehi was on the train back to London from Leigh Folk Festival, said something to her family in Farsi, and was insulted by a man in the same carriage. That hate crime, and others like it, inspired Nasehi’s new multimedia comedy Ramalama Ding Dong, which runs in Summerhall’s Cairns Lecture Theatre over the first half of the festival, after a preview performance at Durham Fringe on July 30, which you can get tickets for here.
Combining spoken-word storytelling, projected animations, and live-looped, vocal-processed music, it sees Nasehi playfully poke fun at the racism she has received, drawing laughs out of its ludicrousness. Written and performed by Nasehi and directed by Peyvand Sadeghian, whose solo show Dual دوگانه is also at the festival, Ramalama Ding Dong arrives in Edinburgh after appearing at Newcastle’s Star and Shadow Cinema, Camden People’s Theatre and Colchester Arts Festival, during which it has earned Nasehi comparisons to comedians Stewart Lee, Hannah Gadsby, and more.
Swansea-born and London-based, Nasehi studied at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and has subsequently built an acclaimed career as a musician and multi-disciplinary performer. “I am performing Ramalama Ding Dong again at The Chelsea Theatre in London on August 16, but I would love to take it on tour, especially to Wales,” she says. “It is a funny, thought-provoking show that involves comedy and music and storytelling, and I would love for more people to see it.”
This is promotional content.
Thanks for reading
That is it for this issue. I will be back in your inboxes in a few days with five more shows to see at the Edinburgh Fringe. If you want to get in touch about anything raised in this issue - or anything at all, really - just reply to this email. Or you can find me on Twitter, where I am @FergusMorgan.
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Right. See you in a few days. Get booking tickets!