The hottest tickets in town – we pick the must-see shows across the festivals
August in Edinburgh: so many festivals, so many programme, only 24 hours in a day. From comedians wrestling to dystopian drama, circus pirates to Shakespearean dance, we round our 25 top picks for the Edinburgh Festival.
Some slabs of marble and a sense of who Rabbie Burns might have been deep inside led the Turner Prize-winning Scottish artist and filmmaker to produce an intriguing new work. As the title Black Burns suggests, the artist has reimagined the poet as a black man. It is the result of a long-standing invitation from the Scottish National Portrait Gallery for Gordon to create a new work.
Douglas Gordon: Black Burns, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 29 Jul–29 Oct
Pester & Rossi
The Glasgow-based art duo host Lunarnova Campout, an all-nighter with installations, music, food and all kinds of surprise nocturnal happenings. The live elements of the work will be site-specific taking place in scenes throughout the grounds of Jupiter Artland, with attendees free to roam wherever they wish. We spoke to Ruby Pester and Nadia Rossi about the busy night they have planned.
Pester and Rossi: Lunarnova Campout, Jupiter Artland, 26 Aug
Celebrating a 70th birthday alongside the EIF and Fringe, the evocative New York storyteller was almost fated to make his way here this summer. His latest work, 4 3 2 1, has taken his the best part of 10 years to write and is the story of Archibald Isaac Ferguson, an only child whose life takes four simultaneous and independent fictional paths.
Paul Auster at 70, King's Theatre, 14 Aug; Paul Auster, Charlotte Square Gardens, 18 Aug
Puncturing prejudice and mocking misogyny is Penny's bag as she offers up vignettes from her Bitch Doctrine. She may also be in town to skewer sexism.
Laurie Penny, Charlotte Square Gardens, 18 Aug
The event formerly known as Edinburgh Digital Entertainment Festival relaunches with a virtual reality extravaganza plus talks and plays.
Digital FuturePlay, Assembly Rooms, 3–26 Aug.
A long-awaited return to the Fringe from the man previously known as Bing Hitler as he showcases his chat show-hosting skills with an array of stars across the festival.
The Craig Ferguson Show, Gilded Balloon at Rose Theatre, 7–18 Aug
Adam + Eve
Transgender issues are set to play a major role at the Fringe this year including this Trav double-header: Adam is directed by Cora Bissett and Eve stars Jo Clifford.
Adam, Traverse Theatre, 5–27 Aug; Eve, Traverse Theatre, 3–27 Aug
Arab Arts Focus
A showcase of theatre and dance which sheds fresh light on both the past and present in the Middle East.
Various venues, 2–27 Aug
Next year will be the Fifer's time to produce bold new work; this year is about laying on his Edinburgh Comedy Award-winning show for those who failed to see it last time or want another peek.
Richard Gadd: Monkey See Monkey Do, Summerhall, 18–27 Aug
Veteran of the dance world, Valda Setterfield once again portrays a man on stage, this time Shakespeare's troubled monarch. Performed by Scott's Dublin-based company, Irish Modern Dance Theatre, the show met with strong approval in both Ireland and New York.
Lear, Dance Base, 23–27 Aug
The one-off night to end them all as some comics grapple with actual wrestlers. This year features the first ever ladder match. Yes, it will have you gripped.
The Wrestling, Pleasance Courtyard, 15 Aug
Arr We There Yet?
From the Aussie dudes who last year brought you Elixir comes a kids show all about the madcap shenanigans aboard the Red Rubber Duckie. There are head balances and hand balances, quick-fire tumbling, plank walking and a riotous soundtrack of souped-up shanties and rock tunes. We spoke to the trio after their show at Brighton Fringe.
Arr We There Yet?, Underbelly's Circus Hub, 5–26 Aug
China Goes Pop
Another spectacular and jawdropping physical and musical work from the Shandong Acrobatic Troupe, this time with a love story at its core.
China Goes Pop, Assembly Hall, 2–27 Aug
Those mean critics make life hard for writers and performers, don't they? Well, Adrienne Truscott, Zoë Coombs Marr and Ursula Martinez have had quite enough and are hitting back in some style.
Wild Bore, Traverse Theatre, 8–27 Aug
He upset Mel B on America's Got Talent, which is yet another reason to go and see the silently majestic New Zealand mime act Sam Wills. We spoke to the comic about how recent success in America has led to some curious consequences.
The Boy with Tape on his Face is TAPE FACE, Pleasance Courtyard, 2–27 Aug
Just the two brand new shows from the Leith lad as we get a musical about a Chicago songwriting class (Creatives) and a play about London's swinging sixties (Performers). The latter is co-written with Welsh's longtime collaborator Dean Cavanagh and features two gangsters auditioning for roles in the, now cult film, Performers.
Creatives, Pleasance Courtyard, 2–28 Aug; Performers, Assembly Rooms, 3–27 Aug
Choir of Man
Serving up some exhilarating cover versions is this nine-man team of singers. And as if this wasn't enough of an attractive proposition, they're setting their show in a fully functioning pub. No style of music is off limits for these blokes, who perform pub classics, rock, folk, choral and opera. You're advised to come thirsty and ready to sing.
Choir of Man, Assembly Rooms, 3–27 Aug
FRINGE BY THE SEA
Before she decides to fully rock out on her next album, catch KT headlining Fringe by the Sea while she's still strumming the delightfully jangly stuff. This is the first time the Brit Award winner has played in North Berwick.
KT Tunstall, Palais Des Glaces Spiegeltent, North Berwick, 7 Aug
Taking the rare move of not directing his own work, Alan Ayckbourn, the always innovative Scarborough playwright imagines a future world where contact between men and women can prove to be fatal. This dystopian drama set over a hundred years into the future is spread across two parts.
The Divide: Part 1, King's Theatre, 8–20 Aug; The Divide: Part 2, King's Theatre, 9–20 Aug
Jarvis Cocker and Chilly Gonzales pay musical tribute to an ill-fated hotel room in LA which is deemed partly responsible for the suicide of Jean Harlow's stricken husband. Like the album itself, the stage show is a fully immersive experience, with clips from old Hollywood movies, film footage shot in the hotel, a bell boy, dancer, string quartet and more. We spoke to Jarvic Cocker the creation of Room 29.
Room 29, King's Theatre, 22–24 Aug
Those innovative folk at Canongate started this project four years ago, and it makes an Edinburgh debut with a hush-hush cast of letter-readers taking to the King's stage for two performances. Previous Letters Live performers have included Benedict Cumberbatch, Olivia Colman, Russell Brand and Nick Cave but you won't find out until the night who is taking to the stage.
Letters Live, King's Theatre, 27 Aug
The eclectic sitar player takes her ancient instrument and pushes forth into contemporary terrain with Land of Gold. The album is a searing cry against injustice, created in the context of the humanitarian plight of refugees. Her concert is opened by Pakistan's Qawwali legend Faiz Ali Faiz.
Anoushka Shankar, Usher Hall, 16 Aug
Blak Whyte Gray
Hip hop makes its breakthrough at the EIF as Boy Blue's Olivier-nominated show proves that breaking and popping are very much here to stay. Those deliberate misspellings are not for affect but to move us away from the idea of colour. We spoke to Michael Asante, Boy Blue co-founder, about the inspiration behind the show.
Blak Whyte Gray, Royal Lyceum Theatre, 16–19 Aug
The Nashville singer was willingly fed the music of jazz greats as a child and she's taken on their inspiration to find her own voice. She's been a protégé of Prince, toured with Gregory Porter and released her first album on Blue Note in 2016.
Kandace Springs, West Princes Street Gardens Spiegeltent, 15 Jul; Spiegeltent, George Square 16 Jul
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
The tartan gets rolled out this year as the main theme for this heavily anticipated display of bands, dancers and, of course, fireworks.
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Edinburgh Castle, 4–26 Aug