Edinburgh Festival top ten: Matt Trueman's picks

Our critic rounds up the shows he’s most looking forward to at this year’s Festival


Northern Stage @ Summerhall, 14.30

It’s three years since Selina Thompson announced herself with a startlingly frank show about binge eating and beauty. Since then, she’s developed into one of the most promising young performance artists around, and salt. is her most ambitious project to date. Last year, Thompson boarded a cargo ship to sail the old transatlantic slave triangle route: Britain, Ghana, Jamaica and back. salt. looks at the residues history leaves behind.

£¥€$ (Lies)
£¥€$ (Lies)
© Thomas Dhanens

£¥€$ (LIES)

Summerhall, 18.30 / 20.30

Ontroerend Goed have been the most vital Fringe force of the decade. In 2007, they bound and blindfolded their audiences, kickstarting the one-on-one theatre craze. Since then, they’ve dated us, offended us and reflected us back at ourselves. Returning to interactivity, £¥€$ (LIES) lets us flutter on the financial markets. Casting us as billionaires at the casino table of global politics, it should be a safe bet.

Out of Love

Paines Plough Roundabout @ Summerhall, 13.25

There’s rarely a word out of place in an Elinor Cook script. She writes with the poise and precision of a principal ballerina. Her last play, Pilgrims, drove a rift between two male mates. Her new one has two female friends drift apart. One goes to university. The other falls pregnant. If that sounds like fertile terrain – a metaphor, maybe, for a wider divide – don’t be surprised. For all its delicacy, Cook’s work digs deep.

The Humours of Bandon
The Humours of Bandon
© George Carter

The Humours of Bandon

Dance Base, 18.30

Fishamble have a great track record. Last year, the Irish new writing company added an Olivier to their three Fringe Firsts. It’s always had an eye for a solo show, as Pat Kinevane’s virtuosic monologues have proved. This year, it’s Margaret McAuliffe’s turn and her Irish dancing teen Annie, facing her biggest competition yet, sounds like quite the character. What does it mean to dance your life away?

Alan Ayckbourn
Alan Ayckbourn
© Dan Wooller

The Divide: Parts 1 and 2

King’s Theatre, 8 to 20 August, 14.00

Alan Ayckbourn isn’t your average international festival headliner. Put it this way: he’s not the Wooster Group. His plays can veer from the dazzling to the deranged, but there’s still something hugely exciting about the idea of a major Ayckbourn world premiere – his 80th. The Divide sounds enticing: a dystopian epic about a disease-ridden future where the sexes are segregated. Orwell or oh, well? Time will tell.

Wild Bore

Traverse Theatre, various times

At some level, I’m dreading Wild Bore. Three offbeat performance artists – cabaretiers Ursula Martinez and Adrienne Truscott, and comedian Zoë Coombs Marr – fix their crosshairs on critics like me. That’s usually off-limits, but in turning the right of reply into art, Wild Bore examines the power dynamics of performance. It’s timely too. Criticism’s in crisis – in life as well as in art – and these three take no prisoners.

Sasquatch: the Opera
Sasquatch: the Opera
© Jonathan Grassi

Sasquatch: the Opera

Summerhall, 21.15

American alt-rockers Faith No More always matched an experimental sound with an oddball aesthetic. Throughout the eighties and nineties, they hoovered up musical influences as diverse as Black Sabbath and the Bee Gees, and that variety makes the prospect of a new musical by keyboardist Roddy Bottum an enticing one – all the more so when it’s about a woman who falls in love with the monster known as Bigfoot.

Trygve versus a Baby

Assembly Roxy, 15.00

Two years after his Comedy Awards nomination, New Zealand’s rubberiest mime is back with not one, but two shows. His acclaimed surrealist office routine, Different Party, is in the theatre listings, but it’s his solo show that I’m really looking forward to. The new(ish) dad will share a stage with his new(ish)born son. Neither of them speaks much.

The Shape of the Pain

Summerhall, 19.30

Chris Thorpe’s work is slowly falling into focus. He likes to bridge unbridgeable gaps. Collaboration sought to cross an ideological divide, far-left to far-right, and The Oh Fuck Moment showed that we all share in personal shame. His latest show, made in collaboration with Rachel Bagshaw, attempts to communicate the experience of chronic pain. It’s a fascinating topic, both philosophically and politically.

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