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The ten best shows of the Edinburgh Fringe 2023*
*According to this extremely tired critic, who has reviewed 69 shows in 23 days.
Hello, and welcome to The Crush Bar, a Substack newsletter about theatre written by me, Fergus Morgan.
We made it. This is the tenth and final issue of this newsletter focused on shows performing at the Edinburgh Fringe 2023 - and this is a particularly special one, shouting about the top ten shows I have seen so far. I have seen 66 shows in 22 days, and these are my ten favourites. If you are in Edinburgh this weekend, you can still some of them. If not, keep your eyes peeled for when they are visiting a theatre near you. I am sure several of them definitely will be.
I want to take a quick moment to thank-you for reading this newsletter over the last month or so, whether you have recently subscribed or you have been with me since the beginning. Apologies if it has felt like I have been inundating you with emails at times, but you can breathe a sigh of relief - I will be taking a break from this newsletter now until October.
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Written by Martha Watson Allpress, this is a mightily moving one-woman poem-play about a female drug dealer losing her sense of self. Directed exuberantly by Emily Aboud and performed with swaggering style by Alexa Davies, it is a terrific piece of work with a tear-jerking and totally unexpected twist towards the end. You can read my five-star review for The Stage here.
This is a wonderful new hour of work from the Edinburgh Fringe’s foremost performance poet, one that exhibits his versatility, his humour and his honesty across poems that range from the profoundly personal to the passionately political. Twenty-five years into his career, Wright is at the peak of his powers. You can read my five-star review for The Stage here. His run in Edinburgh is over, but you can catch him on tour throughout the Autumn. Use the button below to see when and where.
Produced by Edinburgh Fringe favourites Breach Theatre, this utterly original verbatim musical traces the impact of Section 28 – Margaret Thatcher’s legislation prohibiting the “promotion of homosexuality” in schools and elsewhere – and does so in hilarious, heart-breaking, heart-warming fashion. I did not review it for anybody, but if I did, I would have given it the full five stars.
Every Edinburgh Fringe, I discover an artist that makes me really excited. This year, that is ClusterFlux, a graduate company making intriguing, devised work. This debut show - sadly now finished in Edinburgh - explores the thrillingly thought-provoking topic of nuclear semiotics with originality, imagination – and karaoke. I think it is excellent and I cannot wait to see what ClusterFlux does next. You can read my four-star review for The Stage here.
This show from Aarhhus-based company Teater Katapult is like a sophisticated European theatre version of The Big Short, or The Wolf Of Wall Street. Written by Anna Skov Jensen, directed by Johan Sarauw, and performed by Christoffer Hvidberg Rønje, it tells the story of the Cum-Ex scandal – a huge financial fraud that saw bankers rob billions from European treasuries – with gripping technological flair. You can read my four-star review for The Stage here.
Developed by Glasgow-based company Superfan and performed by David Banks and Sadiq Ali, this funny and physical show explores masculine violence – its influences, origins and impacts – with a combination of ultra-violent comic-book silliness, anecdotal storytelling, and energetic, acrobatic movement. You can read my four-star review for The Stage here.
Remember the name Nathan Queeley-Dennis. The Birmingham-based writer and performer won the 2022 Bruntwood Prize for this exuberant and engrossing play about one man’s search for romantic fulfilment – and he now performs it with astonishing, infectious vibrancy in Dermot Daly’s production. It is an entertaining and effervescent piece of theatre. You can read my four-star review for The Stage here.
This documentary show from Edinburgh-based company Tortoise In A Nutshell uses puppetry, micro-cinema and various other theatrical devices to shine a spotlight on the terrible topic of drug deaths in Scotland. Performed by Alex Bird, it is an intricate and emotional show, full of shocking statistics and stunning visuals. You can read my four-star review for The Stage here.
Mandi Chivasa’s magical-realist one-woman-play follows Ruva, a student, as she channels her Zimbabwean ancestors and transforms into a lion to take revenge on the men that harass her in the street. It is a fantastically fluid piece of writing, staged sleekly by co-directors Imy Wyatt Corner and Sarah Stacey. You can read my four-star review in The Stage here.
Written by Scott Organ and produced by New York City-based company The Barrow Group, this stylishly staged six-hander follows the life of a police officer after he witnesses a school shooting – but does nothing to prevent it. It is both a harrowing portrait of one man’s mental disintegration, and a compelling contemplation of gun violence. You can read my four-star review for The Stage here.
Other shows I have really enjoyed
Her Green Hell at Summerhall, No Love Songs at the Traverse Theatre, Please Love Me at Pleasance Courtyard, How To Bury A Dead Mule at Pleasance Dome, Unforgettable Girl at Pleasance Courtyard, An Oak Tree at the Lyceum Theatre, Two Strangers Walk Into A Bar… at the House Of Oz, Maureen at the House Of Oz, Tom Moran Is A Big Fat Filthy Disgusting Liar at Pleasance Courtyard, The Body Show at Pleasance Courtyard, Soldiers Of Tomorrow at Summerhall, Woodhill at Summerhall, Chicken at Summerhall, It’s A Motherf**king Pleasure at Underbelly Bristo Square, Scots at the Ghillie Dhu, Rewind at Summerhall, and An Interrogation at Summerhall.
Catch them if you can - in Edinburgh or elsewhere!
Thanks for reading
That is it for this issue, for the Edinburgh Fringe, and for this newsletter for next few weeks. I will be back in your inboxes in October. If you want to get in touch about anything before then, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can find me on Twitter.
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See you in October.