10 Fringe theatre shows that explore history and forgotten stories of the past

Fringe theatre that explores history and forgotten stories of the past

Fempire: Cleo, Theo & Wu by Kirsten Vangsness

Including Cleo, Theo & Wu, Hitler's Tasters and Chaika: First Woman in Space

According to Aristotle, theatre is better than history because it tends towards the abstract and therefore is more like philosophy. That logic aside, theatre can be used as an emotive and intelligent way to consider the past, taking true stories as an inspiration, delving into paths less travelled or reconsidering narratives that have become stale and ossified. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is a fertile field for researchers who might want to experience empathy or sympathy with characters who made history but have been ignored by historians.

Dead Equal
Palmer and Hall Music
Army @ The Fringe – Drill Hall, Fri 2–Sun 25 Aug (not 5, 12, 17–19), 7pm
'Celebrating the disruptive power of a female identity forged in blood and sweet,' this opera pulls on verbatim testimonies to describe two volunteer nurses during World War I. One became the only serving female soldier – a century before the UK allowed women to serve on the front line, she won Serbia's highest military honour – and writer Lila Palmer explores the hidden history of these exceptional women to reflect how 'women negotiate differences of experience in the extremity of a theatre of war'.

Fempire: Cleo, Theo & Wu by Kirsten Vangsness
Theatre of NOTE
Assembly Rooms, Thu 1–Fri 23 Aug (not 2, 5, 8, 11, 14 & 15, 18, 20 & 21), 8.15pm
Kirsten Vangsness was inspired by the darkness of the last US election: pondering the fake news directed at Hillary Clinton, she discovered that voices from the past were offering commentary on the present. Her script follows a woman's journey towards self-realisation, with the help of some women who have been undermined by historians and are ready to manifest and tell her stories.

Dispatches on the Red Dress
Rowan Rheingans
Scottish Storytelling Centre, Thu 15–Mon 26 Aug (not 20), 6pm
Rheingans grapples with her family history, with her grandmother's red dress becoming a symbol of both an unwanted past and future optimism. Gig theatre coming from a folk tradition, Dispatches meditates on legacies, the personal enmeshed in the political and showcases Rheingan's deft songwriting and subtle storytelling skills.

Fringe theatre that explores history and forgotten stories of the past

Dead Equal / credit: Nick Rutter

Hitler's Tasters
New Light Theater Project
Greenside @ Infirmary Street, Fri 2–Sat 24 Aug (not 11, 18), 6.35pm
Nazism rarely receives a new perspective – still the go-to villains for Captain America after over fifty years – but writer Michelle Kholos Brooks explores the lives of the women employed to make sure the Fuhrer didn't get poisoned over dinner. Through their lives and loves and gossip and laughter, four women risk their lives and reveal what Hannah Arendt called 'the banality of evil'.

The Burning
Incognito Theatre Company
Pleasance Courtyard – Upstairs, Wed 31 Jul–Mon 26 Aug (not 13), 3.15pm
Going back as far as the origins of the word 'witch', Incognito chase through time and space to consider the relationship between horror and capitalism, witches and their persecutors, and promises to expose the moments in history that fractured female identity into the dualism of Madonna or Whore.

Your Sexts are Shit: Older Better Letters
Rachel Mars
Summerhall, Tue 13–Sat 25 Aug (not 19), 11.30am
Before social media, people wrote love letters. Mars has teamed up with two sexologists to discover that many of these letters contained 'proper filth'. Partially a meditation on queer desire, but also a reminder that love has never been as vanilla as the official version would like to believe.

Fringe theatre that explores history and forgotten stories of the past

It's True, It's True, It's True

Chaika: First Woman in Space
Acting Coach Scotland
theSpace on North Bridge, Fri 2–Sat 24 Aug (not 4, 11, 18), 2.20pm
Although the space race is less urgent than it was during the Cold War, the USSR and the USA made it a competition between capitalist and communist virtue and stamina. Valentina Tereshkova was a textile worker before the machine decided that she was to lead a team to the stars.

Cherie – My Struggle
Lumbago TC
Imagination Workshop, Fri 2–Sun 25 Aug (not 9, 19), 10.30am
Mary Ryder brings a more recent figure to the stage, ready to spill the secrets on the personalities behind the Blair government. From the early death of John Brown to Peter Mandelson's career writing pornography, a light is shone on the closets of the cabinet.

Clouds
Time and Again Theatre Company
theSpace on the Mile, Fri 2–Sat 17 Aug (not 11), 7.55pm
Time and Again have expressed their commitment to raising awareness of the disparity between women and men in STEM fields: here they tell a story from the early 20th century, as Winifred Baxter battles prejudice to enter an air-race. The suffragettes meet the study of clouds and Laura Crow's script considers whether the past century has removed the barriers for women who want to be part of the scientific and technological adventure.

It's True, It's True, It's True
Breach Theatre
Underbelly, Bristo Square – Fri 16–Mon 26 Aug (not 17), 1pm
'Fluid, multiple perspectives, the slipping between genres, a refusal to follow predictable structures, a confrontational use of the naked body: It's True integrates historical documentary and a rolling attack on the intrinsic masculine assumptions of theatrical genre.' Read the full review.

Clouds

Time & Again Theatre Company After their successful run of Greyhounds in 2018, Time & Again return with Edwardian epic, Clouds! The year is 1913 and women are rising up… Winifred Baxter is determined to become the first Englishwoman to enter an air race, learning to fly amidst the chaos of the suffragette…

Hitler's Tasters

  • 3 stars

Play based on the true story about a group of young women who tasted Adolf Hitler's food for poison.

The Burning

  • 4 stars

Incognito stage this physical theatre work about the women throughout history who refused to conform to patriarchal demands and were subsequently branded as 'witches'.

Cherie – My Struggle

  • 3 stars

Lumbago TC An intimate, gossipy memoir recounting Cherie’s amazing journey from an obscure Liverpool convent to the epicentre of power in Downing Street. She witnessed all the chief controversies of Tony Blair’s premiership and she delivers her private reflections on well-known figures such as Alistair Campbell, the…

Chaika: First Woman in Space

Acting Coach Scotland Discover the true story of Valentina Tereshkova, a young textile worker plucked from obscurity to lead the Soviet Union’s race to the stars. With her nation competing against the United States to put a man on the moon, Tereshkova, (code name – Chaika: Seagull) becomes the first woman in space.

Fempire: Cleo, Theo & Wu by Kirsten Vangsness

  • 2 stars

Theatre of NOTE Lucy (Kirsten Vangsness of Criminal Minds) is just trying to work out how to be the best cool girl, lady boss, and all around woman she can be when suddenly, the fate of universe is in her hands. Never fear! Space creatures and the forgotten women of history are teaming up to get Lucy on track.

Your Sexts Are Shit: Older Better Letters

  • 4 stars

Rachel Mars Total Theatre Award-winning Rachel Mars returns following her gleeful sell-out hit Our Carnal Hearts. This time, she’s unearthing the hot-as-hell letters from history that make sexts blush. Before tech, there were hand-written letters. And loads of them were proper filthy. Come! Take pleasure in James…

Rowan Rheingans: Dispatches on the Red Dress

  • 3 stars

Rowan Rheingans 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…

Dead Equal

  • 4 stars

Palmer and Hall Music A herstory opera about women warriors; weaving together verbatim testimony of contemporary army servicewomen with the story of Flora Sandes, heroine of the Allied front line in World War I, created by Rose Miranda Hall and Lila Palmer with The Band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland. We are a proud…

It's True, It's True, It's True

Breach Theatre Fringe First and Total Theatre Award-winning Breach (Tank, The Beanfield) restage the 1612 trial of Agostino Tassi for the rape of baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi. Based on surviving court transcripts, Breach dramatise the seven-month trial that gripped Renaissance Rome, and asks how much has…

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