The best Shakespeare coming to Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2018

This article is from 2018

Best Shakespeare at the Fringe

The Handlebards

Whether it's a rugby-inspired Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet from the perspective of the skull, catch the best of the Bard this August

The continued importance of Shakespeare is not entirely healthy for theatre: the status of the Bard encourages an emphasis on the script as the template of the play (ignoring the fundamental importance of dramaturgy which raises theatre above being an extension of the literary experience) and a colonialist ideal that certain ideas and experiences are universal.

However, he did write some amazing poetry, knew a good, entertaining story and the familiarity of his major scripts allows imaginative directors to adapt, spin or distort his words for surprising or contemporary interpretations.

For some audiences, a trip to the Fringe without at least a token Shakespeare is a wasted adventure, so here are ten ways that Shakespeare can be tasted at the Fringe.

Framed around a 1941 amateur production, Time and Time Again mash up comedy, deliberate bad acting, vintage style and Henry V (with its anti-French subtext adding a little Brexit context to the WWII setting).
theSpace on the Mile, 3 – 18 Aug

Hamlet (An Experience)
Brite Theatre go solo as Hamlet invites the audience to help 'resolve the great questions of life'. Probably emphasising Hamlet's existential crisis rather than the whole mother issue, interactivity is threatened.
Sweet Novotel, 2 – 26 Aug

Hamlet – Horatio's Tale
Dead jesters are undeniably an excluded voice, so relating the Dane's adventures in vengeance from the perspective of the skull who receives Hamlet's poetic mansplaining is well overdue. Featuring Derek Jacobi as the Ghost, probably via the magic of video.
Assembly Rooms, 3 – 26 Aug

King John
Apparently 'the defending National Shakespeare Acting Champions' are doing this 'trip to 13th-century Britain' (it's England, actually). Whether having competitions for acting is a step too far into competitive performance, or an echo of its roots in the Athenian tragedy competitions of the fifth century BC, King John is a less familiar script that deals with notions of absolute power and democracy.
theSpace @Niddry Street, 9 – 11Aug

Much Ado About Nothing
Edinburgh University Shakespeare Company update the play that has amused generations of school-children for the naughty pun in its title to 1980s Sicily.
theSpace@Niddry Street, 20 – 25 Aug

A story of society after monogamy 'inspired by the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community' may not be exactly raw Romeo and Juliet, although it does feature star-crossed lovers. But it is presented by King Edward VI School, which calls itself Shakespeare's School in the Fringe brochure.
C too, 19 – 23 Aug

Romeo and Juliet
Whether it's an interactive version, an LGBTQ+ remix featuring rival rugby teams, a theatre company who ride their bikes to performances (the HandleBards, becoming Fringe familiars thanks to their cycling antics) or a two-hander in a 'glowing white box', the star-crossed lovers are this years winner in the most number of productions for a single Shakespeare play.
Assembly George Square, 15 – 19 Aug
Zoo Chateris, 3 – 26 Aug
theSpace @Niddry Street, 3 – 18 Aug
Romeo and/or Juliet, Central Hall, 3 – 8 Aug
J'n'R, Greenside @ Infirmary Street, Ivy Studio, 6 – 11 Aug

Disappointingly, there are apparently no versions of Macbeth in the Fringe brochure: a few years ago, there were pages listing the productions the Scottish play (probably because it tied in with the tourist board's latest wheeze to get North Americans to enjoy the Caledonian sunshine and discover their ancestry in a kilt shop on Princes Street). However, the Fringe is the best place for a Shakespeare fix: most productions trim them down to fit with the timetable of venues, meaning the Bard's languorous structures are shoved into an hour.

Romeo and Juliet

Summer outdoor Shakespeare with the HandleBards – four actors touring on bicycles.


Drama entwining Shakespeare's famous story of 'warlike Harry' with the everyday trials and tribulations of small village life during WWII.

Romeo and Juliet

An all-male, all-silly adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet using a mix of Shakespearean and modern English, complete with kissing and sausage rolls.


Blue Goat Theatre It’s 4am, you’re stuck in the middle of an airport, and you’re downing coffee to stay awake. You also suspect you might be falling for the weird, oddly familiar guy in the corner who seems to have a thing for iambic pentameter. Problem is, you’re going to Hong Kong, he’s going to Morocco and you have one…


Shakespeare's School (King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon) A dystopian world that reimagines what it means to confine love. As monogamy ceases to exist, so does patriarchy, stigma over sexual orientation, and the media’s unwavering obsession with finding a significant other. In this world of rousing promises, two…

Romeo and Juliet

BoxLit Theatre BoxLit Theatre presents Romeo and Juliet like you've never seen it before! Combining cinematic film projection, live theatre and evocative music. Love battles with hate, passion battles with power, screens replace true human connection. Despite this, Romeo and Juliet find purity in their untainted love for…

Romeo and/or Juliet

Based on Ryan Norths New York Times bestseller, this interactive version of Romeo and Juliet lets you determine the story Shakespeare should have written. We all know the classic tale of two star-crossed lovers, but seriously werent there, like, a thousand ways it could have worked out for them? Maybe she follows him to…

Hamlet – Horatio's Tale

Guy Masterson – TTI in association with Maverick Theatre Co A remarkable solo Hamlet from Horatio’s POV! Shakespeare’s classic tale of madness, murder and betrayal with incredible performance, brilliant original music and Sir Derek Jacobi as Old Hamlet! Something is very right in the state of Denmark! Adapted and directed…

Romeo and Juliet

Curious Pheasant Theatre Curious Pheasant Theatre present 'Romeo and Juliet', an LGBTQ+ male led production. This bold re-imagining of William Shakespeare's classic love story uses physical theatre to portray two opposing rugby teams, grounding the piece in the 21st century. When the two men meet, the integrity of both…

Hamlet (An Experience)

Brite Theater reinvent the Shakespearean classic with an immersive take on Hamlet.

Much Ado About Nothing

Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Group Multi award-winning, Edinburgh-based EGTG, return with this Shakespearean classic. May 1945: the war is over. The Prince and his courtiers, returning from war, have come to visit Leonata and her household. Upon arrival, Claudio falls madly in love with the fair Hero. Not content with their…

King John

American Performing Arts International Direct from the USA, the defending three-time National Shakespearean Acting Champions present Shakespeare’s rarely done history, King John. This heart-pounding 90 minute experience will keep you on your toes. In this experimental theatre experience, the characters will join the…