20 Best Shows to see at the Edinburgh Festivals

This article is from 2015

The 20 Best Shows at the Edinburgh Festivals

Juliette Binoche stars as Antigone / Credit: Jan Versweyveld

What's a must see this August in Edinburgh? Here's 20 suggestions from across the festivals

Another year and another Edinburgh Festival with far too much to see and just under a month to catch it all. From the Big Top to Bollywood and jazzers to jugglers, we offer the unmissable events for your diary.

Antigone (Edinburgh International Festival)
Last year it was Sofie Gråbøl, this time around it’s Juliette Binoche, as a member of the European acting aristocracy comes to grace the EIF. The French star plays the title role in Sophocles’ most tragic of Greek tragedies.
King’s Theatre, 7–22 Aug.

Luisa Omielan (Edinburgh Festival Fringe)
The bling will be out on display as this force of nature from that there London delivers a short but sensational run of Am I Right Ladies?!. Expect another ‘party with jokes’.
Assembly George Square Theatre, 13–15 Aug.

Frank Sinatra (Edinburgh International Jazz & Blues Festival)
New Jersey’s most famous son would have been 100 in December and the Jazz Festival have a couple of events laid on to pay a typically swinging tribute to Ol’ Blue Eyes.
Festival Theatre, 17 Jul, Spiegeltent, 26 Jul.

Malcolm and Julia Donaldson (Edinburgh Festival Fringe)
The Gruffalo, Zog and the Flumflum Tree all show up for this year’s must-see Julia Donaldson event with her husband Malcolm doing fine guitar work in accompaniment.
Underbelly George Square, 6–31 Aug.

David Bailey (Edinburgh Art Festival)
The iconic photographer most readily identified with London’s Swinging Sixties era has shot them all before and since. Check out his portraits of Johnny Depp, Jerry Hall and Jack Nicholson, as well as some equally eye-catching images of not-famous people.
Scottish National Gallery, 18 Jul–18 Oct.

Circus (Edinburgh Festival Fringe)
This year’s Fringe goes Big Top crazy with its first dedicated circus hub on the Meadows as clowns (both creepy and cute), aerial artists, blokes with beards and an awful lot of intricately detailed tattoos pop up all over town.
Various venues, 5–31 Aug.

Alan Cumming (Edinburgh International Book Festival)
Fans of everything from The Good Wife to The High Life will have sprinted to get their hands on tickets for the Aberfeldy lad’s hook-up in Edinburgh with Ian Rankin.
Charlotte Square Gardens, 29 Aug.

Max Richter (Edinburgh International Festival)
Richter’s recomposing work on Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons has been greedily lapped up by a broad audience, and it acts as the perfect symbol of the EIF’s new direction. His work is also heard during Ballett Zurich’s performances.
Edinburgh Playhouse, 24 Aug.

Joan Armatrading (Fringe by the Sea)
The ‘Drop the Pilot’ singer may insist that she won’t be doing long live tours any more, but she’ll be putting plenty love and affection into this heavily-anticipated appearance.
North Berwick, 11 Aug.

Gandini Juggling (Edinburgh Festival Fringe)
Four jugglers and four ballet dancers take to the stage for a show which considers where different disciplines can meet. 4x4 Ephemeral Architectures is the grand name of this show.
Assembly George Square Theatre, 5–30 Aug.

Lanark (Edinburgh International Festival)
Alasdair Gray’s epic tale of Glasgow (and so much more) takes to the EIF with David Greig and Graham Eatough on writing and directing duties respectively. Let’s find out if this unstageable novel can make the theatre grade.
Royal Lyceum Theatre, 22–31 Aug.

Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat (Edinburgh Festival Fringe)
Fresh from making a cameo turn at Mogwai’s 20th anniversary bash, Mr Moffat teams up with his SAY Award-winning pal, Mr Wells, for a top evening of droll and occasionally dirty tunes.
Summerhall, 12 Aug.

Festival of Politics (Edinburgh Festival of Politics)
Another solid selection of events, workshops, talks and film screenings will make this year’s festival another belter. All the President’s Men, 12 Years a Slave and Made in Dagenham are all screened as tie-ins to particular events.
Scottish Parliament, 14–16 Aug.

Chris Thorpe (Edinburgh Festival Fringe)
Not one but three shows from the acclaimed Thorpe this year, a fresh blast of last Fringe’s incendiary Confirmation plus two pieces about death (Am I Dead Yet?) and stories (Human Resources).
Human Resources, Summerhall, 8–30 Aug; Am I Dead Yet?, Traverse Theatre, 18–30 Aug; Confirmation, Summerhall, 22–29 Aug

Kate Tempest (Edinburgh International Book Festival)
A nomination for a Mercury Prize last year merely proved the crossover appeal which this young Londonder has achieved in a relatively short space of time. Two events (a performance and a chat with Don Paterson) will undoubtedly be Book Festival highlights.
Charlotte Square Gardens, 18 & 19 Aug.

Nish Kumar (Edinburgh Festival Fringe)
Inconceivably passed over for an Edinburgh Comedy Award shortlisting last year, this highly intelligent and instinctively funny comic aims for another strong hour of thoughtful stand-up.
Pleasance Courtyard, 5–30 Aug.

Phyllida Barlow (Edinburgh Art Festival)
The South Bank Award nominee brings us a new solo work in which her brief was to turn the Fruitmarket Gallery pretty much upside down. Come and see if the Newcastle artist was successful in that ambition.
Fruitmarket Gallery, until 18 Oct.

Robert Lepage (Edinburgh International Festival)
The acclaimed playwright returns to Edinburgh for the European premiere of his new work, a meditation on memory and a reflection on the power of theatre.
EICC, 13–23 Aug.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo (The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo)
A spectacular staple of the August calendar, this year’s Tattoo (the 66th) celebrates ‘East Meets West’ with acts from four continents appearing on the Esplanade. Extracts from Bollywood Love Story are sure to stir things up.
Edinburgh Castle, 7–29 Aug.

Penny Arcade (Edinburgh Festival Fringe)
She was part of Warhol’s art revolution and became pals with Quentin Crisp. Penny Arcade has plenty stories to tell, but she’s more concerned by the ills of gentrification, especially within her native New York.
Underbelly Cowgate, 8–30 Aug.