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Edinburgh Festival top ten: Sarah Crompton's picks

Sarah Crompton chooses what she's looking forward to at this year's festival

I love the Edinburgh Festival. I've been going since I was a teenager sleeping on friends' floors. Over the years a lot has changed, but not the buzz of having so much gathered in one place, and not the floors. There's always too much to choose from and part of the fun is sailing into the unknown – sometimes I just walk up a road, popping into the shows I find en route. But these are ten things I will definitely book this year.

The Glass Menagerie

The Glass Menagerie
© Michael J Lutch

John Tiffany's radical reimagining of Tennesee Williams' classic play finally gets its European premiere three years after it first won Tony-award nominations in the US. Apart from the excitement of Bob Crowley's non-realistic set, with its pools of black water, there's the thrill of seeing Cherry Jones, a Broadway legend but barely known here, tackle the role of interfering matriarch Amanda Wingfield.

Edinburgh International Festival, King's Theatre, 7.30pm, 5-21 August, www.eif.co.uk

Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs

Alan Cummings Sings Sappy Songs
© Steve Vaccariello

The last time I saw Alan Cumming on stage was his electrifying performance at the Edinburgh International Festival in The Bacchae in 2007. Since then, his multiple commitments on TV (The Good Wife) and film (including voice work in The Smurfs) make his stage appearances (a star turn in Cabaret excepted) few and far between. So hurrah that he's back, for the entire festival, doing exactly what the title suggests, in a cabaret show first seen in the US and much admired.

Edinburgh International Festival, The Hub, 10.30pm, 6-27 August, www.eif.co.uk

Scottish Ballet

Scottish Ballet
© Angela Sterling

A highlight of a strong dance programme in the International Festival is likely to be the home-grown prowess of Scottish Ballet, on fine form at present and offering an enticing double bill of MC14/22 (Ceci est mon corps) a striking work for 12 male dancers by Angelin Preljocaj and Emergence by Crystal Pite, the choreographer of the moment, which uses the entire company to devastating dramatic effect.

Edinburgh International Festival, Festival Theatre, 7.30pm, 18-20 August, www.eif.co.uk



If I am truthful, I'd be happy spending my entire festival in the welcoming surroundings of the Traverse Theatre, and will, by the end, have seen most of what this dynamic theatre has to offer. But I am particularly interested in Milk by Ross Dunsmore. It's his first full play and arrived at the Traverse through open submission and is therefore proof of the theatre's commitment to new writing. It explores our universal need to feed and be fed and is staged by the team responsible for last year's Swallow , including artistic director Orla O'Loughlin.

Traverse Theatre, 7pm, 5-28 August www.traverse.co.uk

Breakfast Plays

Breakfast Plays' writers Tim Price, Stef Smith, Morna Pearson and Rob Drummond
© Mihaela Bodlovic

There is not much that makes me happier than watching a play while eating a bacon roll and being surrounded by other people doing the same. So I will also try to see at least one of the Traverse's four Breakfast Plays, on the theme Tech Will Tear Us Apart (?), script in hand performances of new work by the theatre's associate artists Rob Drummond, Morna Pearson, Tim Price and Stef Smith. A perfect antidote at 9am and whatever you have been up to the night before.

Traverse Theatre, 9am, 16 to 28 August, www.traverse.co.uk

Clean Break

Shvorne Marks as Pat in House
© Katherine Leedale

The pioneering company that uses theatre to transform the lives of women with experience of the criminal justice system arrives at the Fringe with a double bill of new plays directed by artistic director Róisin McBrinn. House by Somalia Seaton examines the tensions of family and culture when a woman returns home after a five years absence; Amongst the Reeds by Chino Odimba is a study of a friendship that has to change when one becomes pregnant. Certain to be thought-provoking.

Assembly George Square, 4 to 27 August, www.assemblyfestival.com

Pajama Men

Pajama Men

The offbeat American comic duo of Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez who tell wild stories while shifting between characters and wearing pajamas is so unusual that the worldwide fame they deserve has slightly eluded them. I try never to miss a show – and have never sent anyone to see them who has been disappointed. They bring to the Assembly 2 Man 3 Musketeers which is sure to be deliciously silly and surreal.

Assembly George Square, 8pm, 22 to 25 August, www.assemblyfestival.com

Bricking It

Bricking It
© Elly Hopkins

An unexpected trend in this year's Fringe is the number of shows featuring family members discussing life and relationships. This father and daughter combo of 73 year-old Pat and 29 year-old Jo Griffin, looks one of the most promising as it uses comedy and improv to explore class, loss and the generational divide. Pat, as you might guess from the title, is a builder, who is not at all sure about his daughter's comic career.

Underbelly, Iron Belly 5.30pm, 5 to 28 August, www.underbellyedinburgh.co.uk

Letters to Windsor House/ One Day Moko

Sh!t Theatre's Letters to Windsor House

Two shows that look at the pressing problem of homelessness. The first, by Shit Theatre, at Summerhall, combines songs and politics; the second from Portable Union at Gilded Balloon uses real encounters with people living on the streets to tell the story of a man whose entire life fits into one shopping trolley. I like the look of both.

Summerhall, 1.35pm 3 to 28 August, www.festival16.summerhall.co.uk

Gilded Balloon, 3.45pm, 3 to 28 August,www.gildedballoon.co.uk


© Brian Hartley

On the grounds that you should always recommend something that simply catches your own, I'm choosing this dance theatre piece choreographed by Natasha Gilmore, artistic director of the Glasgow-based Barrowland Ballet, presented as part of Made in Scotland 2016, at Zoo Southside. Combining digital projections with live performance, and the music of Luke Sutherland, it is informed by the personal experiences of Gilmore as a woman in a bi-racial relationship (white European/black African) with three children of mixed-heritage.

Zoo Southside, 5pm, 5 to 27 August, www.zoovenues.co.uk

Head to our dedicated Edinburgh Festival page for everything you need to know about the fringe