Sh!t Theatre Drink Rum with Expats / credit: Charlie Cauchi
We round up the best experimental and unfamiliar live art and performance art shows coming to the Fringe this year
The Fringe isn't really a Fringe anymore: it's just a big, unstructured competition for audiences that doesn't have much space for the experimental or unfamiliar. However, it is still possible to find performance art – or live art, which might be a different name for the same thing – nestling between the adaptations of classic novels, wild interpretations of Shakespeare and solo autobiographical monologues. The following ten shows come from traditions that would hate to be considered traditional.
Contra Laura Murphy Summerhall, 31 Jul–11 Aug, 9.10pm Directed by Ursula Martinez, who either disgraced herself or became a Fringe legend through her part in Wild Bore a couple of years ago, Contra is a cross-media look at the female body. Expect circus skills, stand-up comedy and the magic ingredient of 'live art' – a refusal to be pinned down by expectations.
Cyst-er Act Catherine Hoffmann Summerhall, 13–25 Aug (not 19), 12.05pm Hoffmann has made a career refusing the predictable and demonstrating a willingness to take on subjects that are often passed over in silence. With the help of gospel music and heavy metal, she investigates the womb and her own experience of having an ovary removed.
Drone Harry Josephine Giles, Rob Jones, Neil Simpson and Jamie Wardrop Summerhall, 31 Jul–17 Aug (not 1, 12), 7.10pm 'Encasing Harry Josephine Giles' poetry within Jamie Wardrop's striking videography and a menacing soundscape from Neil Simpson, Drone sits within the movement of spoken word artists expanding their performances into a more immersive experience co-founder and curator of Anatomy, Edinburgh's night of alternative performance, Giles refuses obvious traditions and for a lively, sometimes personal, sometimes political, and frequently provocative fusion of media.'
Moot Moot / credit: Theo Seddon Post Popular Lucy McCormick Pleasance Courtyard, 31 Jul–25 Aug (not 7, 12, 19), 8pm McCormick's previous Fringe hit, Triple Threat somehow managed to satirise contemporary culture through the story of Jesus: for Post Popular she promises to trawl through history to break open stories of power and purpose.
Moot Moot Cade and MacAskill, Take Me Somewhere Summerhall, 8–25 Aug (not 12, 19), 1.30pm 'This show consists of riotous back and forth banter between the two identical hosts with no outside responses. They use classic, cheesy and cliché presenter jargon like 'you're not wrong', 'get in touch' and 'we want to hear from you'. Yet, no one gets in touch – they only appear to exist in this universe by themselves.'
Scottee: Class Scottee & Friends Assembly Roxy, 1–25 Aug (not 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20), 4.05pm Scottee is a live art legend, unafraid of hosting cabarets, getting serious about big issues and generally knocking about taboos with glee. Promising a show for the middle-classes, Scottee draws on his own childhood memories of 'mould and clothes off the market'.
Oh Yes Oh No Louise Orwin Summerhall, 31 Jul–25 Aug (not 1, 12, 19), 7.20pm Treading tricky territory – not least recovery from sexual assault – Orwin's distinctive style of audience involvement and serious ideas given a playful working out – Oh Yes Oh No questions the easy answers about sexual desire and challenges taboo with a lively energy and cerebral focus.
Oh Yes Oh No / credit: Field and McGlynn
Leave A Message Jessica Rose Productions and Bad Thursday Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose, 31 Jul–26 Aug (not 12), 2pm While boasting a traditional writer and director and structure, Leave a Message takes autobiographical theatre into unfamiliar places: a man, Ed (played by Ed Coleman) is cleaning out his father's bedsit after his death. Based on Coleman's own experiences, the script is balanced between verbatim episodes and a painful excavation of family secrets, alcoholism and legacy.
Burgerz Hackney Showroom Traverse, 1–25 Aug (not 5, 12, 19), various times Travis Alabanza has worked with Scottee and appeared in the theatrical adaptation of Jarman's Jubilee, but after being pelted by a burger and abused, Albanza 'became obsessed with burgers' and this incident inspired a reflection on how trans bodies can be protected, understood and perceived.
Sh!t Theatre Drink Rum with Expats Soho Theatre in association with Show And Tell Summerhall, 31 Jul–25 Aug (not 1, 12), 8.05pm Having become Fringe favourites by approaching difficult topics from unexpected angles, Sh!t take on Brexit through a visit to Malta. Trying to make a show for ex-pats, they are surrounded by scandals – not their own – and find that the safest place to be is in the boozer.
Hurled words. Thrown objects. Dodged burgers. After someone threw a burger at them and shouted a transphobic slur, performance artist Travis Alabanza became obsessed with burgers. How they are made, how they feel and smell. How they travel through the air. How the mayonnaise feels on your skin. This is…
Written and Performed by Laura Murphy, Directed by Ursula Martinez
Drawing from circus, stand-up and live art, Contra is a solo-cabaret of contradictions. Fierce, witty and uncompromising, this highly physical show interrogates personal, social and historical occupations of the female body and explores, literally…
Cyst-er Act by Catherine Hoffmann. A messy live art musical probing into the bloody realms of the womb. What's it like to have your fallopian tube hacked off or to birth a 10lb cyst baby? This new work is about the personal experience of having an ovary removed and the discoveries of others' womb…
Harry Josephine Giles, Rob Jones, Neil Simpson and Jamie Wardrop
A live jam of music, video and poetry, this multimedia theatre show tells the true story of a military drone's life and fears. The Drone is a weapons system, an office worker, a background hum. The bleak humour and tender fury of Drone sees the unmanned…
Jessica Rose McVay Productions and Bad Thursday
Two friends, Ed and Sarah, travel to the small squalid bedsit where Ed's father passed away a few days earlier. As they wade through the debris, the fragments of one lost life begin to coalesce, just as another starts to show signs of cracking. Will we be remembered for…
Soho Theatre, Johnson & Mackay and United Agents
Following her genre-defying smash-hit, Triple Threat, Lucy McCormick is back to crawl through the annals of history in this enthusiastically humiliating exploration of power and purpose. Joined by friends with benefits, Samir Kennedy and Ted Rodgers, Lucy is back…
Cade & MacAskill in association with Take Me Somewhere
Doppelganger DJs Barry and Barry desperately seek connection with the world beyond… Two of Scotland's finest live artists, Rosana Cade (Walking:Holding, Sister) and Ivor MacAskill (STUD, Alma Mater), spew out their dark and riotous take on modern communication…
This is about having sexual fantasies that don't align with your politics. About understanding what you want and wondering how to ask for it. Award-winning performance artist Louise Orwin asks the difficult questions, taking you on a surreal joyride through female sexuality and violence. Using recorded…
Scottee & Friends Ltd
Scottee grew up around mould, mice and clothes off the market. After a chance meeting with some posh kids, his mum teaching him to talk proper and him successfully persuading her to take him off free school meals Scottee knew he didn't want to be common. Class is a show about what it is to be…
Soho Theatre in association with Show and Tell
Celebrating their final year as Europeans, island monkeys Becca and Louise got invited to the 2018 European Capital of Culture in Malta. Lads on tour and ‘the rising stars of performance art’ (Telegraph) Sh!t Theatre went to drink rum with Brits abroad but found mystery…