From Frankenstein to a Rock'n'Roll Suicide, the Fringe provides plenty of shows where music is just as important as the theatre
Gig theatre has been used to disguise weak scripts, covering up poor characterisation or plot with a thumping beat and the energy of the live music experience. However, it has also been used to add a dimension to traditional theatre, revealing how the integration of sound and visual can enhance emotional engagement and audience enthusiasm. Equally, projections and video can be a great alternative to thoughtful dramaturgy or a dynamic expansion of the theatrical field. But the gig-theatre and multimedia genres have become staples of the Fringe, and here is a selection that has pushed performance beyond its formal boundaries.
The Patient Gloria The Abbey Theatre Traverse, 1–25 Aug (not 2, 5, 12, 19), various times Based on a series of films made in the 1960s – in which a woman reflects on her sexual activity, The Patient Gloria comes from the Abbey Theatre, which has a reputation for strong yet script-orientated theatre. Gloria's films became a staple in sex education, destroying her privacy, and in an age where female sexuality is becoming occupied by political intrusions, this true-life story does offer a kind of warning from history.
Just Desserts Michelle Pearson Underbelly Cowgate, 1–11 Aug (not 5, 6), 10.40pm Cabaret gets in on the gig theatre action as 'Australia's singing cook' whisks up a study of social pressure and body image with a live rock-pop soundtrack. Pearson will cook and serve dessert during the show and has already been heralded at the Adelaide Fringe for her unique combination of food and musical theatre. A rather more complex combination than the usual fusion styles, Just Desserts is a reminder than fighting expectations can be tasteful and playful.
Dispatches on the Red Dress Rowan Rheingans Scottish Storytelling Centre, 15–26 Aug (not 20), 6pm Rheingans is an award-winning composer and songwriter, who has enlisted Liam Hurley, the director of the critically lauded Wind Resistance, to translate her latest album into a fully-fledged production. With her fiddle, banjo and guitar, Rheingans tells the story of her grandmother, who grew up in Germany during the 1940s, yet finds hope even in this dark moment of human history.
America Is Hard to See / credit: Em Watson Pamela's Palace Interactive Theatre International Assembly, The Box, 31 Jul–25 Aug (not 13), 10.40pm Perhaps closer to a traditional musical, Pamela's Palace comes from the company that have made Faulty Towers The Dining Experience, a Fringe favourite over the past decade. Set in a beauty salon, it is described as 'like a girl's night out, only in' and matches dramatic slices of life with spectacular song and dance numbers that celebrate positivity and banish insecurities.
Searchers Insight Inc Gilded Balloon, Rose Theatre, 31 Jul–25 Aug (not 12, 19), 10.15pm Taige Lauren is in search of America, a nation that was forged through genocide and optimism, and is currently touring the world as a tragi-comedy starring an orange-skinned business-man whose tragic flaw is a complete lack of self-awareness. Lauren's journey takes her through the back roads of the States, through the minds of the men and women who have imagined America – and music is an essential element of that history. Lauren's background in film, music and performance art lends her the range of skills to fuse together the multiplicity of identities and forms that might make up a description of the USA.
America is Hard to See Life Jacket Theatre Company Underbelly Cowgate, 1–25 Aug (not 12), 7.45pm Miracle Village is a real place that is inhabited by sex offenders. Through a verbatim script – which may not always be reliable – Methodist hymns and folk music, Life Jacket ask whether redemption is possible for people who have, through their actions, been compelled to live in a community which is bereft of schools and parks or anywhere that children might be able to play for their safety. Even director and writer Travis Russ admits that he feels 'torn and conflicted' when he considers the characters' crimes and hopes: this might be one of the most controversial and challenging plays of 2019.
The Patient Gloria / credit: Luca Truffarelli
Frankenstein Manual Cinema Underbelly Bristo Square, 31 Jul–26 Aug (not 12), 2.45pm When gig theatre first made its presence felt, it would often cleave to the natural structure of the music event: a band on stage, with the theatricality squeezing in between the songs. Manual Cinema have developed a unique visual style, using puppetry and live music to generate the experience of a live silent movie. The familiar tale of Promethean ambition and pride is juxtaposed with the biography of the author, Mary Shelley in a production that places the company's unique dramaturgy at the service of an excavation of the artist's life and how it intrudes into her most famous creation.
A Rock'n'Roll Suicide! Theatre of the Wild, Beautiful and Damned Zoo Southside, 2–26 Aug, 9pm Performed by a veteran of the punk scene (Lee Mark Jones AKA Gypsy Lee Pistolero), Ziggy Stardust is revealed as the ADHD of the rock-star who nearly was. A one-man show with a roll-call of virtual celebrity guest stars, this suicide is by turns glamorous, punky, anarchic and tragic.
Tokyo Rose Burnt Lemon, Untapped and New Diorama Underbelly Cowgate, 1–25 Aug (not 12), 6.55pm Rap meets history as a woman stands trial accused of being Tokyo Rose, the propagandist DJ who broadcast during WWII to sap the morale of the British-speaking troops. Although Tokyo Rose was a collection of women, one is made to face the court, and questions of trust, deceit and fake news flit around this detail of the battle for hearts and minds in the 1940s.
Nearly Human Perhaps Contraption Pleasance Dome, 31 Jul–26 Aug (not 13), 11.50am A nine piece progressive brass band investigate fundamental questions of existence through complex rhythms and choreography. Perhaps Contraption have made their name through their use of diverse influences, from classical to avant-garde music, and have decided to take it one step further into theatricality.
Life Jacket Theatre Company
This daring new play uses a blend of verbatim interviews, Methodist hymns and original songs to investigate the lives in and around Miracle Village, a rural American community for sex offenders buried deep in Florida's sugarcane fields. Direct from a sold-out, award-winning run in NYC.
Michelle Pearson Music
Australia's singing cook turns up the heat in her award-winning musical food cabaret. Featuring a live rock-pop-powered soundtrack, this sensual chanteuse explores empowerment, social pressure, our obsession with perfection and desire through song, sex and sugar. Includes dessert! Winner of Best…
Returning to the Fringe with an exciting UK premiere, Manual Cinema (Ada/Ava, Lula del Ray) find a special affinity with Mary Shelley’s gothic story about the reanimation of obsolete materials. Creating their own Frankenstein, against the backdrop of Shelley’s own fascinating and little-told biography, Manual Cinema…
How unlikely is your fleeting existence? This nine-piece, multi award-winning progressive brass band embark on a curious audio-theatrical journey. Replete with intricate rhythms, enormous choral harmonies, dynamic choreography and ruminations about stars and happenstance. This is gig-theatre which…
Interactive Theatre International
Strutting their way through jaw-dropping, fearless Fosse dance routines and uniquely satirical songs, the three tenacious comedians deliver cheeky, tear-jerking humour in beautifully crafted layers, just like your favourite haircut. Embrace self-empowerment, forget your imperfections…
Gina Moxley and Abbey Theatre with Pan Pan Theatre Company
The Patient Gloria wowed audiences at the Abbey Theatre during its sold-out world premiere at the Dublin Theatre Festival. Inspired by the 1965 films Three Approaches To Psychotherapy (the Gloria Films), this provocative and upfront meditation on therapy and…
Theatre of the Wild, Beautiful and Damned
Ziggy Stardust takes us on a Tragical Mystery Tour through the life of a nearly-was rock star! Drama, tragedy and hilarity ensue to a live rocking backdrop. Does this poignant inner struggle lead to damnation or salvation? We shed light on some of the more bizarre choices of…
A courageous new work by twice BBC Radio 2 Folk Award-winning songwriter Rowan Rheingans. Adventurous new writing meets the warmth of a live gig in this heartfelt and personal show, uniquely weaving immersive storytelling with live fiddle, banjo and genre-melding original songs. Unravelling a story of…
Taigé Lauren presents one woman's journey to find what makes an American. But where does this journey begin? History? Personal experience? Culture? Politics? Religion? As she travels west, to the land of tomorrow, she digs further into the past where she meets unlikely strangers, becomes part of the…
Burnt Lemon Theatre / Untapped by Underbelly and New Diorama
Turn back the dial to 1949. Iva d'Aquino stands accused of treason in one of the most controversial trials in American history. Faced with accusations of peddling Axis propaganda, Iva becomes known as the notorious Tokyo Rose – but was she the villain she was…