The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world, with over 3,000 shows. This year, Playbill will be going to Edinburgh in August for the festival and we’re taking you with us. Follow along this summer as we cover every single aspect of the Fringe, aka our real-life Brigadoon!
With over 3,000 shows in the Edinburgh Fringe and International Festival programs, it can all be a bit overwhelming. But we here at Ghost Light Global can help.
Ghost Light Global is composed of best friends, travel companions, and lovers of theatre: Chris Crouch and Molly Morris. We now have over 25 years of collective Edinburgh Fringe experience as producers, punters, and patrons. And we have made our passion for the festival into a business, curating travel for individuals, families, groups, and theatre organizations from around the county to the world’s largest arts festival in Edinburgh. It is our hope to demystify the Fringe for others, because we think everyone should experience it and love it as much as we do.
So, we have once again scoured the listings and done the homework to provide some highlights of what to see and do this August at the 2023 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. And to make manageable the otherwise daunting plethora of options. But before we tell you our picks for Fringe 2023, we want to give you some piece of advice on how to choose shows—especially if you are new to the Fringe.
- Forget your mom’s advice and talk to strangers! People in lines will have great advice on what to see. Ask them what they’ve loved!
- Take a "lucky dip." Take a flier and see someone’s show. Stroll up to a box office and book for whatever is next. Or on the official Fringe mobile app (sponsored by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society and Playbill), use the "Nearby Now" function on the app to see which shows are steps away from you or the new a "Shake to Search" function that will provide a random show suggestion for users by shaking their phones. Part of the magic of the Fringe is the discovery of the unknown and the possibility of being absolutely delighted. Fortune (sometimes) favors the bold.
- The entire programs at the Traverse, a premier theatre in Scotland for new plays, and Summerhall—formerly a veterinary hospital, now a home for the arts and sciences—are particularly exciting. It’s worth it to spend a day at exploring everything from art, immersive, and installation theatre, along with just about anything you could see on a stage.
- Explore cultural highlights with curated programs such as the Horizon Showcase, House of Oz, Made in Scotland Showcase, Taiwan Season, Dance Base, From Start to Finnish, and #Danish.
Without further ado, here are some of the things we’re most excited to see:
If you are a BritBox binger who loves musical comedy and mystery, Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder is the show for you. From visionary producer Francesca Moody, this show is a return sellout hit from last year’s festival, and likely a future West End hit.
Beautiful Evil Things is a solo show by Ad Infinitum. Their show Ballad of the Burning Star was a past hit and this new offering has been getting great reviews prior to their Edinburgh run.
J.M. Coetzee's Life and Times of Michael K is sure to provide theatrical magic from the puppeteers behind War House and the 12-foot-puppet Little Amal (who is currently traveling through America). This stage adaption of Coetzee's novel (he's a Nobel Prize-winning author) explores the human experience through the lens of South African civil war.
Thrown is part of the Edinburgh International Festival, the Traverse Theatre program, and is a production from the National Theatre of Scotland—a combination of some of our favorite organizations. We can’t wait!
Geoff Sobelle is a theatre maker that we have loved following. He is a unique storyteller, illusionist, clown and actor—and Food is his newest production. We expect it will be delicious.
Daniel Kitson is more than worth the pittance he charges for his shows. In performances from Edinburgh to London to New York City, we have never seen him miss. His shows sell out quickly. Snag a ticket to First Thing (Work in Progress) and find out why for yourself.
We’ve seen everything Mark Thomas has done since being blown away by his auto-biographical Bravo Figaro, which swept awards in Fringe 2012. This year’s England and Son looks to be another personal and moving work starring Thomas and written by Ed Edwards.
If wildly physical theatre grappling with themes of masculinity and how it intersects with violence is your bag, Stuntman from Glasgow company Superman may be for you. The additional combination of a production team and a venue we trust only increases our interest.
American musician/actor Benjamin Scheuer was wonderfully heart-wrenching with his deeply touching and personal story The Lion, which was widely adored in Edinburgh and later in New York City. A Mountain for Elodie is looking to be an equally moving follow up.
The Gods The Gods The Gods is another return hit that looks to be a highlight of the phenomenal Summerhall program. After last year’s Fringe, it has been on a global tour with rave reviews and sell-out runs. It's a great late night out at the festival.
Bloody Elle is back for a very limited run at the Traverse, so move quickly. Lauryn Redding's stellar performance and personal tale is sure to touch your heart if you can get a ticket. It's gig theatre at its best.
Cora Bissett is an absolute legend. Her biographical piece What Girls Are Made Of will rock your '90s nostalgic world with Cora’s reminiscence of her brush with rock-stardom, touring with bands like Blur and Radiohead.
Tim Crouch is another beloved theatre-maker who is bringing back An Oak Tree, his award-winning play. This gorgeous piece of writing has him interacting with a different, unprepared and unaware guest actor every night.
Besides the shows above, here are some other shows, artists, and companies that sound intriguing to us:
- Nova by Obehi Janice
- Scots by Noisemaker and presented by Oran Mor’s A Play, A Pie & A Pint
- Wiesenthal, produced by Nancy Nagel Gibbs at the Pleasance
- Dark Noon, produced by Alchemation and Glynis Henderson Productions
- Oh My Heart, Oh My Home from Fringe First-winning storyteller Casey Jay Andrews
- Duel Reality, from the acrobatic French-Canadian company Les 7 doigts de la main (The Seven Fingers)
- Plus Ukrainian company Kyiv City Ballet, punk rockers Otto & Astrid, and Aussie legend (and Fringe favorite) Reuben Kaye.
These shows only scratch the surface of the festival, but we feel it is a great place to start! For those of you whose curiosity have been piqued by this article, it’s certainly not too late to make Fringe 2023 a part of your summer plans. There are still tickets available to purchase for productions (last-minute ticket purchases, even day of purchases, are common at the Fringe). We admit, hotels can get expensive as you near August. But the Fringe can be done for travelers on any budget, with creative accommodations such as camping in public parks, hostels, and student housing.
We’ll see you at the Fringe!
Chris Crouch and Molly Morris are the founders of Ghost Light Global. Ghost Light Global’s Edinburgh FRINGE Adventure is now booking for 2023 private clients. And for 2024, we are very excited to curate VIP group Fringe experiences in partnership with the Playbill FringeShip. Learn more about us at Ghostlightglobal.com.