Boasting over 50,000 performances in over 300 venues, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe will once again be the talk of the arts world this summer. For three weeks in August (4–28 2017), the Scottish capital becomes home to comedy giants, serious thespians, hilarious first-timers - and a bunch of genuine weirdos - all putting on shows left, right and centre. So where to start? Cut to the chase with our pick of tickets to fight for at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2017, plus the Edinburgh International Festival.
Top shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Not every new Alan Ayckborn play gets a big production these days, but that's certainly not true of 'The Divide, something like his eighty-second show (that's not a joke btw). It's a two-part dystopian drama set in a plague-wracked England that will form the centrepiece of this year's Edinburgh International Festival, then transfer to London's Old Vic in the autumn. Annabel Bolton directs the mammoth drama.
Magnificently shambolic performance art duo Sh!t Theatre follow up a string of piss-taking but hard-hitting shows – including last year's housing crisis odyssey 'Letters to Windsor House' – with 'DollyWould', a show that celebrates their unabashed love for Dolly Parton. And why not?
The Young Company of London's brilliant, daring Almeida Theatre rock up at the Fringe with an intriguing piece of interactive theatre. 'From the Ground Up' is written by Joeri Smet of Belgian provocateurs Ontroerend Goed, and barrages the audience with a fiendish set of dilemmas, both political and personal.
Performer Jamie Wood came to wider notice with his wonderful 2015 show 'Beating McEnroe'. This latest has a baffling description, but should be good: 'I Am a Tree' takes its title from Wood's girlfriend's observation that 'he is like a tree that dogs like to piss on' when it comes to randomly sharing their life stories with him. More as we find out.
This looks fascinating: Jess Thom – who has Tourettes, and has achieved great acclaim with the anarchic project Touretteshero – tackles Beckett's precise, complicated 'floating mouth' monologue verse in what is being descibed as 'a theatrical experience the explores neurodiversity, asking who is allowed to perform what and who gets the final say'.
Experimental theatre legends Forced Entertainment bring their latest up to the Edinburgh International Festival. 'Real Magic' is a sort of nonsensical, rigged gameshow – that may or may not serve as an allegory for contemporary politics – in which a group of contestants find themselves trapped in an unending series of futile, impossible tasks.
This dance/theatre hybrid, directed by the brilliant Chris Goode, is a response to the assumptions heaped upon its performer, Pauline Mayers, a black dancer and choreographer in her mid-forties. Her story is interwoven with that of James Sims, the 'father of modern gynaecology' who operated on black female slaves without anaesthetic believing they didn't suffer as much.
Leftfield humourists Zoe Coombs Marr, Ursula Martinez and Adrienne Truscott join forces for an already acclaimed show that sees them take lines from reviews they've received and fling them back in their writers' faces. If it sounds indulgent, it is, by all accounts, very funny and hugely inventive.