The Queerest Shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe | Playbill

Playbill Goes Fringe The Queerest Shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

The Playbill staff picks the most memorable shows created by, for, and about the LGBTQIA+ community.

William Robinson and Corey Montague-Sholay in Bacon Ali Wright

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world, with nearly 3,500 shows. This year, Playbill is in Edinburgh for the entire month in August for the festival and we’re taking you with us. Follow along as we cover every single aspect of the Fringe, aka our real-life Brigadoon!

Cheers, queers! With so many productions at the Fringe this year, the Playbill Staff has collected a list of some of their favorite shows starring, created by, or about members of the LGBTQIA+ community. 

From a musical set in an all-gender bathroom to multiple works exploring queer love, take a look below at some of our most memorable queer shows at the Fringe. 

Fabulett 1933 Georgina Bolton King

Fabulett 1933

Fabulett 1933 is a one-man show that follows the shutdown of Fabulett cabaret. It's also the story of emcee and outcast, Felix. Set in the fall of Berlin and the rise of the Nazi regime in February of 1933, the audience is transported to Berlin’s counterculture, where we experience the main character’s self-discovery, glory, pain, and an urgent message. As you enter the space, you’re met with live jazz piano, setting the tone for the speakeasy society of the Fabulett. The story delves into the liberation these cabarets brought to the bohemians of Berlin who lived in hiding, and the tragedy and loss as those creative hubs of expression and art were attacked by the Nazis.

Michael Trauffer portrays the emcee of the Fabulett with a passion and intense vulnerability that urges the audience to “live and let live.” Trauffer commands the stage with a simple spotlight and music director/pianist, James Hall. The show is as if Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret had a prequel exploring the backstory of the Emcee. The piece speaks to the human necessity to express freely, to love freely, and our resilience in the face of hate.

Fabulett 1933 runs until August 27 at Underbelly Bristo Square.

Kathy Maniura Akta Photography

Kathy Maniura: Objectified

Ever wondered if only objects could talk? Well, in Kathy Maniura’s Objectified, they do, and they have something to say. She gives “objectification” a new definition. Maniura can find humor in just about everything. Her superpower: bringing to life objects, each complete with their own gripes, quirks, and stories. Her stand-up act is a simple but creative concept: transforming the most mundane, inanimate objects into hilarious characters that might remind you of that one quirky friend, insufferable family member, or even yourself. Each object has its own body language, distinctive accent, and personality. Maniura combines her incredibly fast wit and laid-back charm to bring to life these absurdly relatable or not-so-relatable objects.

Accompanied only by a small table and a small sack where audience members randomly draw miniature objects, Maniura has the crowd in the palm of her hand as she effortlessly slips into each of her alter egos—from a guitar with a Spanish accent to a skittish fire alarm. Maniura's niche comedy about objects reminds us all to find the humor in everything, even the little things all around us: paper straws, wine bottles, contemporary Scandinavian lamps, etc. Maniura’s humor is brilliant, relatable, and objectively entertaining.

Objectified runs at the Gilded Balloon Teviot until August 28.

Cowboys and Lesbians

Cowboys and Lesbians

Cowboys and Lesbians, by writer/director Billie Esplen, is a queer romantic comedy that’s jam packed with laughs and even more heart. As you walk into the theatre space (Dome 10) at Pleasance Dome, you’re met with backdrops painted with the scenes of fields and barns of stereotypical rural America. Georgia Vyvyn and Julia Pilkington brilliantly play 17-year-old best friends from London who are two goody two-shoes, fantasizing about their hot professors, school drama, and the wonders of sex…or at the very least, just a first kiss.

At the same time, the pair of friends make up a romantic story together between a misunderstood teenage farm girl and a macho cowboy—which is also depicted onstage in front of the audience. As the fake Western plays out, it reveals hidden feelings between the two young women. The show is self-aware, silly, and incredibly charming. You’ll leave the show with a smile and full of warm, fuzzy feelings.

Read our full Playbill Pick review of the show. Cowboys and Lesbians runs until August 27 at Pleasance Dome.

William Robinson and Corey Montague-Sholay in Bacon Ali Wright


The play by Sophie Swithinbank follows Mark and Darren through their tumultuous and tormented relationship. Both are Year 10s at the same London high school, though their demeanors couldn’t be more different. Mark is shy and studious, tended to by a loving mother in a well-to-do home. Darren flips the bird at authority at school while enduring a grisly life at home. Soon enough, they form the shadow of a bond in detention (Darren plants pornography on Mark’s phone and shows it to the principal). The imprints they leave on each other, mental and physical, over the course of their time together are the subject of this fascinating, beautifully written play. 

The subject matter gets very heavy: instances of violence and sexual assault make this a play for adult audiences only. Both actors deliver excellent, finely-tuned performances. They’re in tears by the end of the show—and so will you. Bacon runs at Summerhall until August 27.

Public- The Musical Courtesy of Pleasance

Public—The Musical

Public: The Musical has a very simple plot: four people get trapped inside a gender-neutral public restroom and have to wait for maintenance to rescue them. Forced to make small talk with one another, these strangers find commonality in most unlikely of people. With only an hour, we’re quick to learn about non-binary Laura (played by Alicia Corrales), who fears that they just spotted their girlfriend cheating…again. Andrew (Andrew Patrick-Walker), who radiates toxic masculinity in his cycling unitard, doesn’t understand what the big deal is with pronouns. Then there is Zo (Annabel Marlow), who claims to be an ally and artist—but even though it's well-meaning, her activism may be more performative than she realizes. And finally, Finlay (Hugo Rolland), a gay man whose crippling anxiety is only exacerbated by his desperation to make it out and to his universal credit (similar to a welfare office in America) meeting on time. Created by queer-led theatre collective Stroud & Notes, the musical features pop, rock, and R&B songs. 

From the instant the first number’s beat drops (“Minute by Minute”), you'll be hooked. The musical is filled to the brim with clever lyrics, cool and modern melodies, and a cast that sings with laser-like precision—often performing in four-part harmonies. And whether as a cast or during a solo, each performer has audiences cheering with “Yaaaas”s and waving their snapping fingers in the air. 

Read Playbill's full Playbill Pick review here. Public runs until August 28 at the Pleasance Courtyard.

Mary O’Connell Matt Crockett

Mary O'Connell: Money Princess

Mary O'Connell is conflicted: She hates capitalism but she loves to shop. Her struggle into adulthood and finding her way into her "girl boss" era has not been an easy one, but at least she can joke about it now. Her show centers around O'Connell's money anxieties, which have slowly risen as she has gotten older. Her hour of comedy is filled with questions about the spending habits of her generation and judging why social media glorifies such financially reckless behavior. O'Connell has a very complicated relationship with money. Can she still be relatable now that she has money in the bank? Does it allow her more opportunities not usually given to comedians (let alone women) of color in the industry? O'Connell's relatable humor about working that steady and reliable day job, while working at comedy clubs at night, is leaving her audiences cheering. 

Money Princess runs until August 27 at Pleasance Courtyard. 

Declan Bennett in Boy Out The City Roberto Ricciuti

Boy Out The City

After fleeing London during the COVID-19 lockdown for a comfortable country home in Oxfordshire, Declan Bennett (who was most recently on Broadway playing the Duke in Moulin Rouge!) finds routine-building, alcohol dependency, and compulsive baking fail to distract him from the darkness on the edges of his psyche. He is then forced to face truths he had been fleeing since his childhood as a tormented gay boy growing up in rough and tumble Coventry. Ebbing and flowing like the waves of a windswept storm at sea, Bennett's ability to tap into the visceral emotions intertwined with his memories is captivating, at times equally hilarious and heartbreaking. 

Read our full Playbill Pick review here. Boy Out The City runs until August 27 at the Big Belly at Underbelly Cowgate. After that, it will play the West End in September.

Monét X Change

Monét X Change: Life be Lifein'

This is the RuPaul's Drag Race winner's Edinburgh Festival Fringe debut. Monét X Change is known for her comedy and fierce lip sync skills, but she gets surprisingly vulnerable in Life Be Lifein'. Over 60 minutes, X Change takes you through her artistic background. But explaining the importance of opera and drag in her life involves all sorts of personal stories, from growing up gay in Brooklyn to a confusing time studying vocal performance at New Jersey's Westminster Choir College. Life Be Lifein' is a story of clearing out the muck and finding your voice.

X Change is an internationally adored drag star and easily could have brought a more traditional drag show to Fringe and still made a splash. But it's refreshing to see her exploring new and more vulnerable territory with Life Be Lifein'. Read our full Playbill Pick review hereMonét X Change: Life Be Lifein' completed its Festival Fringe run August 15. She's scheduled to bring it to Chicago's Park West September 22. You can see X Change's full live performance schedule here.

Reuben Kaye Kyahm Ross

Reuben Kaye: The Butch is Back

Reuben Kaye: The Butch Is Back played a sold-out Fringe run in 2022, so it's no wonder that Kaye decided to bring it back. And what a gift it is for the audience. Kaye is an internationally renowned drag artist who straddles the line of masculinity and femininity to create a fabulous androgynous image. In The Butch Is Back, Kaye opens the show wearing a sharp pantsuit, accentuated with a robe à la Française-style skirt. You immediately want to snap your fingers in admiration. But Kaye's show isn't just a display of lewks, wit, and booming vocals (Kaye wrote his own songs). It's also a sensitive look at Kaye's fraught relationship with his father, who was a visual artist and son of Holocaust survivors. Through it, Kaye creates a moving, graceful show about forgiveness and learning how to reclaim the trauma of your past in order to craft a more fabulous future.

Reuben Kaye: The Butch Is Back plays at Assembly George Square until August 27. After, he will tour his show throughout the U.K. and Europe.

Jordan Broatch and Sam Woof in Actually, Love Steven O'Gorman

Actually, Love

If the title of this show sounds familiar, flip the words, because it’s inspired by the box-office hit Love, Actually that starred Hugh Grant and Laura Linney. Except this show deconstructs and calls out the predictable plot lines of those “hetero” rom coms and questions what queer love looks like in the 21st century.

The show tracks a reigniting of an old flame between Alex, a songwriter in pursuit of writing a hit love song, and Stevie, an auditioning actor nailing down his next big part in a stereotypical romantic comedy. Alex and Stevie have a palpable chemistry and are played by Sam Woof and Jordan Broatch, respectively. In preparation for Stevie’s audition, the pair playfully work through his sides in the most ostentatious and animated fashion, only to surface old conflicting feelings. Both characters are navigating their gender queerness and Alex also begins exploring their trans identity. The writing is exceedingly clever, candid, and fun. Read our full Playbill Pick review here

Actually, Love is running until August 27 at the Pleasance Courtyard, the Green.

Bloody Elle

Bloody Elle

Writer and performer Lauryn Redding begins her solo gig musical by informing the audience, in song, that there is no prologue. Prologues, after all, ruin the plot by telling you everything in advance. She wants this story to unfold. Given the title, and my own familiarity with murder ballads, I was pretty anxious for the majority of the show. I instantly liked this storyteller and didn’t want anything bad to happen. Elle is a musician with a day-job at a fast-food restaurant. Her life is upended when a quick friendship is formed with new co-worker Eve, whose wealthy boarding school upbringing is polar opposite of working-class Elle. 

Elle relates the story, through monologue and song, directly to the audience, and what does unfold is not a tale of bloodshed, although there were quite a few tears shed in the crowd. It is a gorgeous story of that skin-tingling first love, the kind of love that teaches who you are, and of that soul-crushing heartbreak, the kind that teaches you who the world is. 

Bloody Elle previously played Fringe in 2022 and only ran for the first week of Fringe this year at Traverse Theatre. But London theatregoers will have a chance to catch it in the West End this September.

Aidan Sadler Louise Youles

Aidan Sadler: Melody

When cabaret performer Aidan Sadler takes the stage, no one knows exactly what will come out of their mouth, only that it will be something fabulous. Sadler is known for their hyperpop songwriting skills and performance style that rests somewhere between Wham! era George Michael and Lodger-era David Bowie. Sadler, who is non-binary, channels club culture in the late 1970s and early 1980s, shutting the door on the outside world. 

Melody, their follow up to the heavily acclaimed Tropicana, is a rumination on binary thinking, outrage culture, and the apocalypse, set to satisfyingly arranged synth pop music. After all, if the world is falling down around us, we might as well dance to armageddon! Melody runs at the Space on the Mile until August 26.

Natasha Roland and Xhloe Rice in And Then the Rodeo Burned Down

And Then The Rodeo Burned Down

What makes a cowboy a cowboy? Or a shadow a clown? Or a rodeo burn down? Xhloe Rice and Natasha Roland’s 2022 Fringe First winner, And Then The Rodeo Burned Down juggles how we define ourselves, what it takes to change, evolve, achieve a dream, and whether or not we really can kiss it better. Rice and Roland (who presented two shows at the Fringe this year) seamlessly slither from character to character, carefully changing hats, jackets, and intonation fluidly and completely—wherever they are on their five-point star. Art imitates life as the writer-creator duo find themselves in a trap of economy of language, and also of being literally, suddenly, and unceremoniously out of the money they need to stoke the spark. 

And Then The Rodeo Burned Down completed its Fringe run but you can learn more about its talented creator duo here.

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