Once again, it’s time to award our virtual black bouquets to the best performances we saw at this year’s Edinburgh Festival. But of course, it has been a year unlike any other. We were relieved and delighted to see the return of the Fringe, but nobody could ever claim that it was fully back. This was a shadow of its former self.
Still, that said, having fewer shows to choose from did mean that the smaller productions attracted bigger audiences than they might usually hope for – and there was something wonderful about seeing a modest student show pulling in sell-out crowds.
And we did see some brilliant stuff.
So, without further ado, we present our choice of the best shows we saw at Edfest 2021.
Piccolo Theatre’s powerful and compelling slice of verbatim drama was based on the testimonies of four survivors of the 2012 The Dark Knight Rises cinema shooting. Stark and immersive, it was ‘an enervating and thought-provoking theatrical experience, not to be missed.’
Twisted Corner’s production of Samuel Bailey’s affecting play was handled with aplomb by director, Rebecca Morgan and featured memorable performances as three young offenders attempted to get to grips with parenting classes. ‘Powerful and yet humbling – a fascinating examination of masculinity and fatherhood.’
Katherine Soper’s play detailed the travails of a young woman, trying to care for her housebound older brother whilst also attempting to earn a wage by packing goods in an Amazon warehouse. This engaging four-hander, performed by actors from Edinburgh Napier University, showed ‘the extraordinary resilience of everyday people.’
Fionna Hewitt-Twamley’s knockout performance in Brian Foster’s engaging monologue made this one of the festival’s biggest hits, playing to sellout audiences. It was wonderful too to see that it had partnered with two Edinburgh homelessness charities. Twamley delivered her heartbreaking tale ‘with wit and aplomb.’
Clementine Bogg-Hargrove’s wry look at millennial life, based on her own experiences, was charming and off-beat. Though it was mostly very, VERY funny, it had some tender moments too. Cleverly directed by Hargroves and Zoey Barnes, this was an excellent example of ‘art doing what art is meant to do.’
Myra Dubois: Dead Funny
No Fringe is complete without a decent drag act and Myra Dubois was exactly what was required. Providing the oration for her own funeral (why not?), the Yorkshire Diva interacted (or more accurately, picked on) people who sat too near the stage and the result was ‘silly and audacious, eliciting helpless laughter.’
The Importance of Being… Earnest?
Director Simon Paris offered us a radical interpretation of the classic Oscar Wilde play, where certain members of the cast (including Ernest) were missing and members of the audience cajoled into taking their place. ‘Roistering, good-natured stuff, fast, frenetic and farcical. A truly interactive experience.’
On Your Bike
This sprightly musical from Cambridge University’s Musical Theatre Society, written by Joe Venable and Ben James, was all about food delivery riders for… ahem… Eatseroo. All the right ingredients were in evidence. ‘Fabulous voices, upbeat zesty songs, humour and tenderness.’
Cameron Cook: It All
There’s always room on the Fringe for a true eccentric, and Cameron Cook was a perfect example. While it’s hard to define, this was a mesmerising piece, as Cook sang, danced, mimed and performed poetry, whilst inhabiting what seemed like a huge cast of characters. At times it felt like ‘the services of an exorcist might be required.’
Philip Caveney & Susan Singfield