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10 Edinburgh Festival shows about the First World War

It's 100 years since the end of the First World War, so we look through shows responding to the Centenary

The Troth, Private Peaceful and Xenos
© Carrie Davenport, Jonathan Keenan, Jean Louis Fernandez

This year marks a century since the First World War ended, and the Edinburgh Festivals have a number of shows marking the occasion. From traumatised soldiers to the impact overseas, a variety of subjects are tackled through a number of performance forms. We round up the shows that have stood out for us.

Private Peaceful

Private Peaceful
© Jonathan Keenan

Michael Morpurgo's wartime novel is celebrating its 15th birthday this year, and there has been a stage adaptation around for almost as long, but the piece feels all the more pertinent given the timing. The show follows a young boy, Tommo, whose best friend Charlie is unjustly charged with cowardice.

Underbelly, Bristo Square, Cowbarn, 1 to 12, 14 to 27, 2:40pm


© Jean Louis Fernandez

Dancer and choreographer Akram Khan will perform his last ever full-length show this summer as part of the Edinburgh International Festival. The piece examines the First World War through the eyes of an Indian soldier, and the horrifying consequences of conflict. The piece has a sister show, Kadamati, which is a community-orientated exploration of the post-War legacy featuring 500 local participants.

Festival Theatre, 16 to 18 August, 8:00pm

Earnest & Wilde: Let's Face the Music (and Franz)

Earnest and Wilde: Let's Face the Music (and Franz)
© Rhymes with Purple

Many see the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand as the kickstarter of the First World War (and really all international conflict of the 20th century). So it'll be interesting to see how Erik Igelström and Ciadhra McGuire transform the piece into a lighthearted cabaret ditty, running across the month at C Venues.

C Venues - C Royale, 1 to 27 August, 7:55pm

Tobacco Road

Tobacco Road
© Incognito Theatre

While Tobacco Road doesn't find itself situated on the Western Front, it does examine the brutal consequences of the First World War and the despondency of former soldiers who return to a life of crime. Having picked up the Greenwich Partnership Award earlier this year and following London gangs in '20s Britain, Tobacco Road could be one for Peaky Blinders fans.

Pleasance Courtyard, Upstairs, 1 to 27 August, 3:15pm

Fall of Eagles

Fall of Eagles
© Green Ginger Productions

Edinburgh Fringe has long been an ideal location for new musicals, a space to try out exciting ideas for shows. Green Ginger Productions' Fall of Eagles fits the bill entirely – the darkly comic musical explores the decline of key monarchical figures during the war. With all profits going to the War Heroes Fund, definitely one not to miss.

Gilden Balloon Teviot, 4 to 19 August, 11am

The Troth

The Troth
© Carrie Davenport

[email protected] Fringe, with shows programmed by and performed at the Army Reserve Centre in New Town, has been a staple of Summerhall's programme lately, and this year is no exception. The programme will have a look at the experiences of overseas soldiers in the Army, with The Troth moving from rural Punjab to the Belgian trenches. With dance, music and archive film, Akademi's show has already had some exciting feedback during a UK and Indian tour.

Summerhall, Drill Hall, 10 to 11, 14 to 18, 21 to 25 August, 8:30pm

The Unknown Soldier

The Unknown Soldier
© Grist to the Mill Productions

A sell-out show of the 2016 Fringe, The Unknown Soldier returns to the Edinburgh Fringe, once more performed by writer Ross Ericson. Exploring the personal and psychological impacts of war by focussing in on the life of one man, the show seems a heavy-hitting monologue with a resonant historical theme.

Assembly Rooms, The Blue Rooms, 9,11,16,18, 23 August, 2:50pm

Letters for Peace

Letters for Peace
© Graeme Stephen Music

Bringing another angle to the wartime experience is composer Graeme Stephen, who presents Letters for Peace at the Out of the Blue Drill Hall. Part of the Made in Scotland showcase, the music, spoken word and image-driven show explores the role of conscientious objectors in the war and the importance of their protestations.

Out of the Blue Drill Hall, 15 to 17 August, 8pm

Author, Composer, Soldier-of-a-Sort

Author, Composer, Soldier-of-a-Sort
© Kim Hardy

The First World War forms the backdrop for this story highlighting the unifying power of culture, music and poetry. Based on the relationship between composer Ivor Gurney and music critic Marion Scott, Jan Carey writes and performs this real-life tale that contrasts Passchendaele and Gloucester.

Pleasance Courtyard, 1 to 27 August, 2pm

Woodbine Willie: Poet and Padre

Woodbine Willie: Poet and Padre
© Living Witness

Woodbine Willie tells a great story about moral transformation during the war, told from the perspective of Reverend Geoffrey Studdert-Kennedy as he surrounds himself with the lads on the front. Searchlight Theatre's production mixes war songs and poetry to explore belief – certainly an intricate topic.

Greenside @ Nicolson Square, 3 to 15 August, 5:20pm

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