With 3000 different shows in the 2015 programme, you could pick practically any subject from fruit carving to nudity and try and argue that it’s some kind of a theme at the Edinburgh Fringe. But if there’s any one subject in particular that seems to be generating a lot of interest and attention this year – and there's always one – then it’s mental health. Everyone from The Guardian to BBC News and i-D have reported on the trend in Edinburgh this August for shows tackling depression and other mental health issues.
Perhaps it’s got something to do with the fact of Tory cuts drastically reducing spending in mental health care? Or possibly the fact that depression and addiction-suffering comedian Robin Williams committed suicide exactly a year ago? Or maybe the performing arts is simply reflecting a loosening of the traditionally stiff British upper lip when it comes to the stigma of discussing, y’know, feelings and stuff? (The Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival, which announces its 2015 programme on September 9, has been using the arts to raise awareness of mental health issues for many years). Whatever the explanation, it’s encouraging to see a once taboo subject become so widely addressed and discussed at the world's biggest arts festival. Here’s a round-up of some of the specific shows and events that have been piquing such interest.
Fake It ’Til You Make It
A four-star hit says our expert, Fringe First-winning Edinburgh regular Bryony Kimmings’ ‘Fake It ’Til You Make It’ is a very personal play responding to the discovery that her partner Tim was secretly on anti-depressants. Once too ashamed to discuss his mental health issues even with loved ones, Tim (Grayburn, who works in advertising) features as himself in his stage debut, providing a laconic foil and backup dancer to Kimmings, who’s on top form throughout a series of semi-abstract set-pieces.
Traverse Theatre, times vary, August 12-16, 18-23 and 25-30.
Le Gateau Chocolat: Black
Another familiar face at the Fringe and festivals around the world, you could be forgiving for thinking that massive, bearded, makeup-glistening Nigerian transvestite Le Gateau Chocolat’s life is a feast of gaiety. But appearances can be misleading. The cabaret star’s latest show addresses the ups and downs of his life and career, and his long-term struggles with depression. Through frank chat – dark and bleak at some points, hilarious and uplifting at others – and what else but songs, from Wagner to Whitney Houston. We’ll take two slices, please.
Assembly Hall, 4.50pm, August 12-16 and 18-30.
Jack Rooke: Good Grief
Death: it happens to us all at one stage or another. Comedian Jack Rooke’s ‘Good Grief’ – which was written with his 85-year-old nan (really), and blends storytelling, comedy, film and a sharp critique of proposed 2016 welfare cuts for grieving families in Britain – looks at loss and bereavement and how humour is sometimes the best way of sorting out the mess left behind in your mind after the passing of a loved one. If you’re dubious of Rooke’s credentials for writing a show laughing in the face of the grim reaper, know that on the day of his father’s funeral when he was aged just 15, his home town was voted The Happiest Place To Live In Britain.
Underbelly Cowgate, 4pm, August 12-16 and 18-30.
Check out more Edinburgh Festival recommendations.