Did you know this year there are around 3,400 different shows on offer at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe? It’s definitely overwhelming choosing what to see. To help you along, I’ve compiled the 20 shows to add to your must-see list.
If you need advice on how to survive the madness of the Fringe, I’ve posted my guide here.
But first, here’s a quick run down of the most famous venue families that you’ve probably seen on posters all over the city:
Underbelly – one of the largest Fringe groups, covering comedy, theatre and cabaret. There are four Underbelly locations this year, including the Circus Hub on the Meadows. Shows include Brainiac Live, Courtney Act, and Silent Disco Tours.
Assembly – Assembly is hosting over 200 shows in 2018, with eight venues including the flagship Assembly Rooms. Shows include Jason Byrne, Don Quixote, and Jonny Woo’s All Star Brexit Cabaret.
Pleasance – Pleasance is located on the edge of the Old Town, and offers a mixture of contemporary plays and comedy. Shows include Frank Skinner’s Nina’s Got News, Brexit the play, and comedian Daniel Sloss.
Gilded Balloon – Gilded Balloon spans four venues in and around the Edinburgh University Teviot Campus (and the slightly more randomly located Rose Theatre on Rose St). These shows largely focus on comedy, with some variety thrown into the mix. Shows include Trumpageddon, Edinburgh Fringe Magic Gala, and Spontaneous Potter.
And now, for the Fringe shows you’ve got to add to your list! I’ve separated them into categories, depending on the mood and type.
Life’s a circus
2018 marks the 250th anniversary of the circus, and with all the buzz around this artform (largely thanks to The Greatest Showman) there’s never been a better time to visit the Big Top. These shows provide a unique twist to the circuses you remember from childhood.
Universoul: Hip Hop Under the Big Top
Going to the circus just got cool with this hip hop makeover. This is a colourful and dynamic show that will certainly leave a smile on your face with its stunning acrobatics and funky dance moves. This show has been wowing audiences in America for 25 years, and I’d definitely recommend taking the opportunity to see it in Edinburgh while you can.
Tickets from £19.50. Underbelly’s Circus Hub on the Meadows.
I can’t say I understand the premise of this show, but it doesn’t matter. Circolombia features some of the most jaw-dropping, terrifying acrobatics I’ve ever seen. This is a modern circus with a great soundtrack (and some very beautiful people). My only word of warning is that there are some stunts that involve performers using their necks and heads, which made me a little uncomfortable. You’ll sweat, and want to cover your eyes, but this is a must-see.
Tickets from £17.50. Underbelly’s Circus Hub on the Meadows.
It’s some kind of magic
Chris Dugdale: Up Close!
Card tricks are fine and all, but thanks to the likes of Britian’s Got Talent we all expect a little bit more these days. Thankfully, Chris Delivers. His mind reading abilities are INCREDIBLE. I consider myself difficult to read when I want to be, but Chris cracked me. This is quite an intimate performance, and its location on George St is ideal for a pre-night out show.
Tickets from £12. Assembly Rooms, George St.
Dinner and a show
What’s better than going to see a Fringe show? Why, having dinner while you watch it, of course! These performances are immersive theatre where you’ll be right in the action. As they are 70% improvised, anything could happen.
Faulty Towers Dining Experience
If you like the TV show, then you’ll love this immersive experience! From the moment you walk in to the gorgeous Printing Press restaurant, Basil, Sybil and Manuel will take care of your every dining need… with often disastrous consequences. Often I find immersive theatre a bit awkward or cringey, but the cast of Faulty Towers made us feel totally at ease. This is the perfect show to see with either your family or friends.
Tickets from £49.50. The Principal Hotel, George St.
The Wedding Reception
I really enjoyed Faulty Towers, but I enjoyed Wedding Reception even more. After all, who doesn’t love a good wedding? This show is like every disastrous family party you’ve ever been to, times 10. Four actors play the entire family party in this brilliant piece of interactive theatre. My only criticism is that the meal is nothing special – surprising really as The Principal’s Printing Press restaurant is so good.
Tickets from £42. The Principal Hotel, George St.
Get the party started
Holla if you’re looking for a big night out! These performances will start the evening with a bang, and are perfect to enjoy a drink to. If you’re looking for a reliable, enjoyable show for a group of your friends, these are sure winners.
What’s better on a girl’s night out than a show full of shenanigans and daft dancing? Pamela’s Palace is a hairdressers, and you’ll be part of the performance from the moment you arrive. Pamela will provide you with a glass of prosecco to enjoy as she competes to be crowned hair stylist of the year. Warning: Be wary of drunk women trying to steal the show.
Tickets £15. The Principal Hotel, George St.
The Thinking Drinkers’ Pub Crawl
I’ve been dying to do this show but I’ve struggled to get tickets – unsurprisingly as Thinking Drinkers has sold out seven years in a row. What’s better than a great Fringe show than a great Fringe show with five free drinks?! Of course, it’s not just about the booze. The Thinking Drinkers’ Pub Crawl will take you through the history of our favourite boozers, so you’ll have something interesting to add to the conversation next time you’re at the pub.
Tickets from £13. Underbelly, Bristo Square.
You ‘avin’ a laugh?
Most people go to The Fringe for the comedy, but it can be hit and miss. A lot of the best (and so bad it’s good) comedy I’ve seen has been part of the Free Fringe, but if you’re looking for a guaranteed good night I’d recommend the below.
Chris Henry – Around the World in 80 Dates
In these modern times of Tinder and Bumble, dating is a minefield. No one knows that better than Chris Henry, whose comic career has taken him all over the world (and allowed him to go on Tinder dates around the globe). When you’re fed up of laughing at the state of your own love life, at least you can laugh at someone else’s, eh? So far this show has been a sell out – which for a non-celebrity comedian is no mean feat. Add it to your list so you can say ‘I saw him before he was famous’.
Tickets from £9. Underbelly, Bristo Square.
Jamie MacDonald – Blinkered
I love black humour, especially if it’s self-depreciating. No one pulls this off better than blind comedian Jamie MacDonald. In the name of full disclosure, I haven’t seen the show yet but it’s definitely on my list. If you enjoyed Lost Voice Guy on Britain’s Got Talent then Jamie will be right up your street.
Tickets from £10.50. Assembly Rooms, George St.
Jayde Adams: The Divine Ms Jayde
Women often get overlooked in comedy suggestions, but there’s plenty of funny ladies at this year’s Fringe. Jayde has won numerous comedy awards already, and is fast becoming a Fringe favourite. Jayde’s previous work includes performing as an Adele impersonator, and she ends her show by singing opera. She’s mad, sassy, and has an eye for a jazzy outfit. If you’re after subtlety, this isn’t the show for you. But the Fringe is all about chaos, and Jayde’s show exemplifies it.
Tickets from £10. Pleasance Two, Pleasance Courtyard.
Best of the Fest
Sometimes you just want to experience the best bits without the rest. This show provides an opportunity to ‘try before you buy’ some of the Fringe’s top comedians with its comedian speed-dating. I love finishing off my evening with Best of the Fest, and with such variety, you’re guaranteed to have a great night.
Tickets from £14. Assembly Hall, Mound Place.
Some shows and performers come back year after year. While they can sell out quickly, I’d recommend seeing them if you can. They are worth the hype!
This Fringe classic is back, this year with a performance of Hamlet. The concept is simple: each night a different member of the cast gets drunk, with hilarious and disastrous consequences. This is one of my favourite shows ever and I know you and your friends will love it too.
Tickets £12.50. Underbelly, Bristo Square.
I enjoyed the film Trainspotting but I thought the play was even better. The story touches on a lot of important issues that remain relevant 20 years later – relationships, poverty, and drugs. This is a piece of immersive theatre, and you’ll be right in the action – avoid the front row if you’re shy (and don’t sit too close to the toilet!). Prepare for full nudity, bad language and drug taking scenes, but you will not regret going to see this show.
Tickets from £19. The Tunnel, EICC.
The Ladyboys of Bankok: Wonder Women Tour
I’ve seen posters for The Ladyboys at the Fringe for as long as I can remember. This year, the show is inspired by the women rocking pop culture today. From Dream Girls to Ariana Grande, with stunning costumes and epic theatrics. If you’re feeling really baller you can book a champagne table package for £400 for up to eight friends – surely the Fringe’s most expensive ticket? Or you could get a standard seat like the rest of us. Whatever you go for, this is a show guaranteed to impress.
Tickets from £19.50. Theatre Big Tops, Fountainbridge.
The cost of show tickets quickly adds up. That’s why Peter Buckley Hill founded the Free Fringe in 1996. Today there are literally hundreds of free performances to check out. Note: while the shows may be ‘free’, it’s good practice to tip the performers depending on how much you enjoy the show.
Men with Coconuts
Improv can be a risky choice, but Men with Coconuts always deliver. This year they are putting on two shows – a collection of improvised sketches and songs, and their take on a Bond film. There is a chance you’ll be asked to participate, but just go along with it and enjoy!
Free and unticketed. At Liquid Rooms, Victoria St, and Improvised Bond at Subway, Cowgate.
Kiki Mellek: Law of Attraction
CC Blooms is known for its great Free Fringe content, and Kiki Mellek’s show is top of my list. This is a burlesque show… but not as you know it. Expect more shenanigans than sex appeal. This is a great performance to enjoy in a lunch hour.
Free and unticketed. CC Blooms, Greenside Place.
Breaking the Magicians’ Code with Kane and Abel
Good magicians never reveals their secrets… or do they? If you’re like me and you’re driven mad trying to figure out how illusions work, Kane and Abel’s show will be right up your street. There’s a good chance you’ll be roped in for some audience participation, but you’ll have great fun, as this show combines magic and comedy.
Free and unticketed. Liquid Rooms, Victoria St.
Rosie Sings – Facts About Love
Rosie is #relatable, with her tales of dating as a young woman in 2018. Her witty humour and glorious voice make this free show a must-see. Warning: you may be singing the tunes all day. Take your girlfriends.
Free and unticketed. Fingers Piano Bar, Frederick St.
What shows have you enjoyed so far in The Fringe? I’d love to read about them in the comments below!