10 body-positive shows to see at the Fringe

This article is from 2018

Body Talk

Hot Brown Honey

Shows and performers creating an important dialogue around body acceptance issues

Our bodies have arguably never been so exposed before as now, where social media means there is nowhere to hide from the pernicious glare of cameras, filter effects and selfie sticks. Duck face poses, bleaching, huge lashes, body con dresses and a desire for total airbrushed perfection mean that there is seemingly no one who is not feeling the pressure. The recent controversy – and subsequent backlash – around actor Nicola Coughlan's weight being singled out by a male critic, guarantees that the following body positive shows have never been more timely, and best of all, there is no mansplaining in sight.

There have been many shows during the festival over the last five years which explore mental health issues; less that explore issues of body acceptance, so these may not be a part of a recurring theme, but they are no less valid, in terms of creating a dialogue around disparate body types, and lived experience. Taking up space with regards to representation, identity and health are all worthy themes ripe for exploration – something to ponder as audiences tackle the doubling population on the cobbled streets this August.

Chemo Barbie
With its deliberately provocative title, this show upon first glance might not appear to be for everyone, but, far from being yet another generic misery memoir, it traces the diagnosis of Heather Keller's breast cancer, and her subsequent recovery, with candour and wit. A true story that will prove uplifting,humane and an extremely touching testament to the strength and resilience of womanhood.
Chemo Barbie, Gilded Balloon,Aug 4–27 (not 13) £9.50 (£8.50) £10.50 (£9.50) 1.30 pm Previews Aug 1–3. £6

Queens Of Sheba
Based on a shocking true story of racism, whereby women of colour were refused entry to a nightclub in 2015 for 'being too black', this powerful and passionate show explores the effects of racism and misogyny, and four women's struggle to be accepted in a society determined to keep them down. Misogynoir may be a societal phenomenon that is rarely tackled in theatre productions – but now Queens Of Sheba is ready to address it, head-on.
Queens Of Sheba, Underbelly, 4–26 Aug (not 13) 6.50pm, £10–£11 (£9) Previews Aug 2–3 £7

Yana Alana: Between The Cracks
Feminist, queer and outspoken, Yana Alana is another not terrifically shy Australian performer whose issue-based show straddles music and cabaret. Unabashed and often nude, she presents a humane look at bodies which is not for the prudish.
Yana Alana, Assembly Checkpoint Aug 4–26 (not 8,13,20) 8pm Previews Aug 2–3 £10

My Left / Right Foot The Musical
The always inspiring, filthy-mouthed Birds Of Paradise return, this time in tandem with the National Theatre of Scotland, with a cheeky look at an am-dram theatre company's attempt to find disabled actors to appear to 'be on trend'. Swiping at able-bodied actors taking on disabled roles, it is sure to be pertinent, and impertinent, simultaneously. Featuring additional songs by the wonderful Richard Thomas, uncomfortable home truths and satirical belly laughs will rub up together.
My Left Right Foot The Musical, Assembly Roxy Aug 6.10pm (not 8,14, 21) £12 Previews Aug 1–3 £10

Body Talk

My Left / Right Foot: The Musical
Skin Deep
In this outrageous musical, Diana and her backing band of four male performers scrutinise the obsession with the human form in this body-conscious era, from the vagaries of cosmetic surgery, to dieting and updating gym memberships. Their cheeky songs and humour are a celebration of real bodies, with all the flaws and imperfection, and absolutely no filter.
Skin Deep, Gilded Balloon Teviot, Aug 4–27(not 13,20) 9.15 pm £12 (£10)

Hot Brown Honey
They are shameless, furious and feminist. Six sassy women from Australia bring their award-winning show back, to dish it out to the patriarchy with witty, political and empowering hip hop. The appropriately named DJ Busty Beats presides as MC and has a tendency to run out into the audience and terrorise various people, so beware all those sitting near the front.
Hot Brown Honey, Gilded Balloon Teviot, Aug 4–27 7.30 pm (not 2,8, 15, 23) £15.50 (£14.50) Previews Aug 1–3 £12.50

My Left Nut
Irish theatre company Fishamble are very good at weaving compelling and humorous narratives from often taboo or uncomfortable sources.So it is with latest play My Left Nut, which charts one man's teenage embarrassment and fear at discovering he has an enlarged testicle. Scientist turned performer Michael Patrick presents his story, a debut monologue which is a moving and funny account of how to survive, and ultimately, how to appreciate, his healthy body.
My Left Nut, Summerhall, Aug 4–26 (not 12,19) 1.15 pm £8-£10 Previews 1–3 £6.50

Am I F#*kable?
A devised theatre show with a vibrant young cast of three, Pop Heart Productions look at the damaging influence of the beauty industry on self-esteem, love and relationships, asks how far these superficial, image-based ideals can go, and challenges a culture which sees young men judging women primarily on looks, rather than character and intellect. Using a comedic, fast-paced format, the trio will attempt to highlight the fleeting nature of youth and looks.
Am I F#*kable?, Sweet Novotel, 13–26 Aug (not 20). 8.30pm £8.50 (£6.50)

Sven Ratzke: Homme Fatale
Particularly well known for his covers of the Unholy Trinity of Bowie, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, Dutch-German singer Ratzke cuts a louche figure in the cabaret circuit. His critically-acclaimed new show explores the androgynous body, and is a celebration of queer performance through music and storytelling. He pays homage to the gender fluid through artists who were themselves gay and queer icons in the time when coming out was dangerous.
Sven Ratzke: Homme Fatale, Assembly Hall, Aug 14–26, 6 pm £12–£14

Based on a harrowing true story about being stripped at gunpoint, four women present a unique theatre show featuring choreography, storytelling and live sewing.With central figure Lydia creating her own clothes, she is in essence making her own protective armour. The show's aim is to reveal how we define identity and how we choose to present- or conceal- ourselves.
dressed, Underbelly, Cowgate, Aug 4–26 (not 14), 6pm, £14 (£13) Previews Aug 2–3 £12