Including Le Monocle, Where to Belong, The Happiness Project and more
Although it is a familiar categorisation, a top ten of LGBTQI+ shows across the Edinburgh Festivals in August can appear as a bit of a token gesture: how far do these shows share common features, themes and genres, beyond the connection of sexuality? Like other identities and communities, LGBTQI+ performance can struggle to be represented and recognised on a scale that is reasonably reflective of the UK's demographics, although any kind of bracketing of these works together leaves questions about what is the appropriate context for their discussion, and whether their intersectionality is ignored for a blunt association of shows and a click-bait title. Nevertheless, here comes ten shows that address issues within the LGBTQI+ sphere of interest.
First Time Dibby Theatre and Waterside Arts Summerhall, 31 Jul–25 Aug, (not 1, 12, 19), 4.15pm Written and performed by queer activist and performer Nathaniel Hall, this autobiographical story sees Hall explore his experience of HIV and breaking through the stigma of being positive. Taking it beyond the stage, Hall is teaming up with HIV Scotland to offer workshops and associated talks to challenge the treatment of people with HIV and move towards a more engaged and empowering understanding across society.
Le Monocle Great Egg Theatre theSpace @ Surgeons Hall, 2–9 Aug, 7.20pm This historical drama reclaims the story of a lesbian bar in Montmartre and Violette Moss' adventures between the World Wars. Featuring jazz, romance and tragedy, the company promise a meditation on the importance of compassion and a theatre that speaks to 'the mind (the Eggheads) and the heart (the Good Eggs), with the hope of scrambling the two together!'
Where to Belong
I, AmDram Hannah Maxwell Pleasance Courtyard, 31 Jul–26 Aug (not 12), 2pm Queer performance artist Hannah Maxwell has a secret – for 90 years, her family has indulged in amateur dramatics. Using moments from her on-stage life, from My Fair Lady and Gilbert and Sullivan to experimental live art, Maxwell considers the ways in which individuals create their sense of identity in a show that aims to please fans of abstract performance and classic musicals.
Where to Belong Victor Esses and Ellie Keel Productions in association with CASA Festival and Rich Mix Summerhall, 31 Jul–25 Aug, 10.10am The rise of the right in Brazil presents Victor Esses with a challenge: travelling to his childhood homeland in 2018, he discovers that his sexuality is increasingly unwelcome. Jewish-Lebanese, gay and Brazilian, Esses reflects on the diverse strands that inform his identity and exposes the human impact of the resurgence of homophobic and regressive politics.
Traumboy/Traumgirl Swiss Selection Edinburgh, Daniel Hellmann and Anne Welenc Summerhall, 31 Jul–25 Aug (not 1, 19), 8.10pm Performed on alternating nights, Traumboy and Traumgirl is part of the Swiss Selection programme in Edinburgh, emerging from Hellman's insights on sex work – and the response to them from Welenc. Recognising the pressures of hyper-sexual capitalism, the two complementary shows delve into the areas that lie between sex and shame, work and identity.
The Happiness Project / credit: Chris Scott
The Happiness Project Creative Electric Army @ The Fringe, 2–4, 9–11, 16–18, 23–25 Aug, 2.20pm Creative Electric have been developing a reputation for forceful and serious theatre, with an ambitious and experimental sensibility. Consciously placing queer and excluded voices and bodies centre-stage, The Happiness Project ponders non-sexual intimacy and how the ubiquity of digital connection has created a world in which sex has become the only place that many young people experience a human touch.
The Trial StoneCrabs Greenside @ Infirmary Street, 2–17 Aug, 3pm Returning to Brazil, Franko Figueiredo directs a loose adaptation of the novel Tieta do Agreste: when Tieta comes home for justice, the audience are cast as the jury, and contemporary attitudes and struggles are examined in the light of what appears to be an international regression in the matter of rights and respect for trans people.
Splintered Lagahoo Productions Bedlam Theatre, 31 Jul–25 Aug (not 13, 20), 9.30pm Artistic Director Emily Aboud: 'This is the show I needed to see growing up, the show that would certainly be banned back home, and the show that celebrates the people whose very existence is an act of rebellion. Caribbean culture itself is based in rampant homophobia and misogyny (listening closely to any Caribbean song will prove this), and the terrific sadness of this piece is that it is a wholly Caribbean piece that cannot safely exist in the Caribbean. We hope that we can make a small but vital step in creating space for Caribbean artists on UK stages.'
Yours Sincerely Quick Duck Theatre Assembly Rooms, 1–24 Aug (not 13), 8pm Will Jackson wants to revive the art of letter writing: having robbed, by accident, 300 stamps, he realises that the best way to hide the evidence is to send letters. Using storytelling and lipsync cabaret, Jackson finds the comedy in connection and the joy of reinventing a moribund medium.
Misfit Warrior Stuart Saint theSpace on North Bridge, 2–24 Aug (not 11), 9.20pm Citing Soft Cell and Bowie as influences, Stuart Saint brings together his music and theatrical imagination for an autobiographical journey into HIV and cancer. Having been praised for his queer sensibility that ranges across multiple genres, from the musical to this, his 'testimonial gig', Saint is a bracing and distinctive voice who has worked to give space to stories that are so often excluded.
A Partnership Paper Mug Theatre Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose, 31 Jul–26 Aug (not 12), 2.45pm On the eve of Ally's 30th birthday, it is time for a serious conversation about monogamy. Is it possible in the sexualised 21st century? How does homophobia become internalised, and what does it do to two men who are facing a decision that will determine the course of their lives?
Electrifying synths, beats and casual choreography generate Stuart Saint’s resplendent testimonial gig, where Misfit and Warrior collide. His autobiographical story of HIV and cancer manifest a domino effect of destruction, leaving survivor-in-crisis Stuart rescuing his mortality. As writer/director his…
Paper Mug Theatre
Can two men in modern-day London have a long-lasting, monogamous relationship? A Partnership, a relationship comedy-drama featuring two men, has no angels, no AIDS and no other characters – it looks into the changing face of homophobia, as partners Ally and Zach are forced to have a conversation nine…
Nathaniel Hall presented by Dibby Theatre with Waterside Arts
Remember your first time? Nathaniel can't forget his. Now the party's over, the balloons have burst and he's living his best queer life: brunching on pills and googling kangaroo vaginas on a weekday morning – or is he? HIV+ theatre-maker Nathaniel Hall…
Quick Duck Theatre
The year is 2017. Average graduate debt has hit £50,000, Kylie Minogue is making a comeback and Will Jackson has accidentally stolen 300 second class stamps from the post office. But he's making them count. He's going to write letters. From reconnecting with old friends and ex-boyfriends to run-ins…
Daniel Hellman, Swiss Selection Edinburgh
Daniel is an artist. He is also a sex worker. Through accounts of clients and their desires, Traumboy explores why he chose this profession and why having sex for money is still considered taboo. Told with humour and honesty, this interactive performance challenges audiences to…
Victor Esses and Ellie Keel Productions
What makes a home for you? Victor Esses is Jewish-Lebanese, Brazilian and gay. In 1975, Victor's mother flees Lebanon as a refugee of the civil war. In 2017, Victor visits Lebanon for the first time. In 2018, amidst the elections that will see Brazil choose a far-right president…
Anne Welenc, Swiss Selection Edinburgh
Kim is an actress. She is also a sex worker, a bartender, German, Polish and more. Which identity is most important? Traumgirl is a brand-new solo show about female sex work in all its forms – and who pays the price. Welenc takes an auto-fictional approach to explore what a woman…
Part stand-up, part gig, with a sparkling performance by Inês Sampaio, The Trial is an interactive new play that questions gender constructions in the 21st century. Can we reject authority, and live and love in a different way? This interactive hyper theatrical performance is loosely inspired on Tieta do…
Great Egg Theatre
Le Monocle follows the story of Francine as she discovers the eponymous lesbian bar. Her story is interwoven with that of Violette Morris, an acclaimed athlete-turned-Nazi SS agent, and the LGBTQ+ community of 20th-century Paris. A story of compassion and community, Le Monocle is about how we cope…
Amateur dramatics: the unspoken past of many a Fringe performer. From four generations of leading ladies comes one queer Londoner, sharing a story of return and reconciliation – with her history, hometown and love of musical theatre. Step-ball-changing between suburb and city, I, AmDram minds the gap…
'What you are about to witness, theydies and gentlethem, is a cabaret of truths. This is a show about Caribbean people being queer. In our experience, it is damned hard'. Splintered is a theatre-cabaret of rebellion and empowerment, celebrating being queer and being Caribbean. Based upon interviews…
'At first you feel a winding pain… you get used to it, then you develop a liking to it…' The Happiness Project explores our need for non-sexual physical contact in our highly digital era. It features scenes of graphic reality TV binge-watching, Whitney Houston and spooning. We're not sure if any of it…