Sh!t Theatre: Or What’s Left Of Us, Summerhall, 2024
Photo: Claire Nolan

The best theatre shows to see at Edinburgh Fringe and EIF 2024

These are the best shows at the 2024 Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Andrzej Lukowski
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The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is back for summer 2024. For three weeks (August 2 – August 26), the Scottish capital is home to comedy giants, serious thespians and hilarious first-timers, all putting on shows left, right and centre. It’s a huge, colourful celebration of all sorts of performing arts, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.  

But with so much choice on offer, it’s difficult to know where on earth to start. Here’s our pick of the best theatre shows accounced so far. The programme is famously enormous (over 3,500 shows), so we’ll keep adding to the list in the run up to the festival and will update it based upon reviews when the festival actually starts. 

While most of our recommednations are from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2024, the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) is also running alongside, and we’ve included some picks from that. 

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Best theatre shows at Edinburgh Fringe

  • Experimental

Shambolic and profound, hilarious and inspiring, the mighty Sh!t Theatre – that’s Becca Biscuit and Louise Mothersole – return to the Fringe for the first time in five years with a show about folk music. Expect a show that’ll be ridiculous and beautiful in equal measures; each performance will end with a singaround in the Summerhall bar.

  • Experimental

Animated theatre maestroes 1927 return to the Edinburgh International Festival with a new visually ravishing spectacular – their third to show at EIF – that’s based upon writer-director Suzanne Andrade’s childhood. 

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  • Drama

Duncan Macmillan’s funny and beautiful monologue about a boy listing reasons for his depressed mum to stay alive – and later, when he’s a grown up, he himself – is synonymous with the Edinburgh Fringe and Paines Plough Roundabout. So for its tenth anniversary ‘Every Brilliant Thing’ returns to thr Fringe in a new production directed by Macmillan himself, performed by the show’s original star Jonny Donahoe. if you’ve never scene it, it’s unmissable, but even if you have it should offer something new this time around. 

  • Experimental

Legendary experimental theatre company Forced Entertainment make their return to the Edinburgh Fringe with a new show that is one scene – a customer orders a drink from a waiter – repeated over and overm with increasingly bizarre results until it becomes a nightmarish farce.  

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  • Experimental

What happens to actrobats when they hit middle age? That’s what feminist German circus collective Still Hungry (styled as still hungry) are looking to find out in this intriguing new show, a collaboraton with Brit performance artist Bryony Kimmings, who made her name at the Fringe and is now returning for the first time in aeons.

  • Drama

This queer, gender-flipped, somewhat meta take on Edmond Rostand’s classic story of a shy poet who lends his – in this case her – words to a handsome young man in order to woo Roxanne (the object of both their desires) has gone down a storm in its native Australia and now transfer to the Traverse to form a centrepiece of its Fringe 2024 prohgramme. Writer Virginia Gay stars as Cyrano in Clare Watson’s acclaimed production.

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  • Shakespeare

Undoubtedly one of the most intriguing and potentially divisive shows of the 2024 Edinburgh International Festival, pioneering Peruvian company Teatro La Plaza’s version of ‘Hamlet’ is a wild mixture of Shakespeare’s 400-year-old masterpiece combined with personal anecdotes and reflections from the eight-strong company, who all have Down’s Syndrome. 

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  • Musicals

Oliver Emanuel’s ‘A History of Paper’ started life as a radio drama; following the Scotland-based English playwright’s sadly early death aged 43, Gareth Williams has adapted the drama into a musical love story about a relationship that blossoms after the sending of a shirty letter. 

  • Experimental

Following the brilliance of 2022’s dystopian ‘we were promised honey!’, YESYESNONO – aka performer and writer Sam Ward – returns with a new show set in a normal sort of town, ‘where nobody gets hit on the head with hammers and there aren’t bodies buried underneath the swimming pool’. Hmm. It’s hard to work out exactly what we’re going to get – ‘a detective thriller and a spring through history’ – but the odds are it’ll be quietly mindblowing.

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  • Comedy

Love him or hate, caustic Northern Irish playwright David Ireland is certainly a thing, and a few months after an ultra-starry London revival of his old Fringe hit ‘Ulster English’, here’s his debut at the Edinburgh International Festival – albeit in a co-production with his regular collaborator the National Theatre of Scotland. Playing a suprisingly brief fun at the Lyceum as part of a short tour of Scotland, ‘The Fifth Step’ stars Jack Lowden of ‘Slow Horses’ fame as Luka, a recovering alcoholic searching for a sponsor who falls in with James, an older man. Both of them are forced to comfront their uncomfortable pasts. Finn den Hertog directs. 

  • Musicals

To be absolutely frank a one woman show called ‘June Carter Cash: The Woman, Her Music and Me’ sounds like the ultimate Edinburgh Fringe cliche. Scratch the surfuce, though, and it}s instantly apparent that this show about the country singer legend and second wife of Johnny Cash is clearluy going to be a cut above. Staged in the perennially hip Summerhall, the show is a collaboration between the National Theatre of Scotland and site specific legends Grid Iron. Cora Bissett – herself a Fringe legend as both performer and director – will help the cabaret-seated show, which wil star writer Charlene Boyd as she explores Carter Cash’s life and what it’s meant to her over the years.

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  • Experimental

You kind of know what you’re getting with trippy blackout theatre specialists Darkfield, and yet what happens when you step into one of their darkened shipping container performance spaces is always a profound mystery. Due to have its world premiere at the 2023 Fringe but cancelled for technical reasons, second time will hopefully be the charm for ‘Arcade’, a show that uses the aesthetics of ’80s arcade machines to explore human identity. We don’t know a huge amount else, but we do know each participant is stationed at their own arcade machine. There are multiple performances through

  • Comedy

It smells like a trend to us! Bizarrely this year’s Fringe features two mini musicals based on the Gwyneth Paltrow skiing trial – one is queer mischief makers Awkward Productions ‘Gwyneth Goes Skiing’, which debuted in London last year; the other is ‘I Wish You Well’, a slightly more conventional looking affair that features pop star Diana Vickers as Gwynnie. Although nominally in rivalry with each other you suspect that there will be quite a lot of audience sharing – if this is your niche, the Fringe really has it covered.

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  • Drama

The current war in Gaza is a difficult topic to really focus on at the comedy-centric Edinburgh Fringe. This play from Israeli-Palestinian British theatre company Floating Shed is not exactly about that. But it does feel highly relevant, a drama about conscription into the IDF based on playwright Nadav Burstein’s own experiences of being drafted as a teen. 

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