Edinburgh Festivals 2016: Our Top 5s

Our section editors narrow down their Edinburgh Festival picks to an tick-'em-off-as-you-go top five; here are their music, books, comedy, art and theatre selections

Feature by The Skinny | 03 Aug 2016

Best Music at the Edinburgh Festivals

1) Anohni: Hopelessness
“A scream of fury against the evils of today’s world: mass surveillance, drone warfare, ecocide.” It’s fair to say that margin walker Antony Hegarty’s reincarnation as Anohni has arrived with a prescient agenda. Joining her group on stage for this multimedia residency is Daniel Lopatin – AKA Oneohtrix Point Never – who knows a thing or two about balancing light and shade. Edinburgh Playhouse, 17-18 Aug, 7pm, £20-£30

2) Sage Francis and B. Dolan: Strange Speech, Famous Development 
A lyricist since the age of 8, Rhode Island’s Sage Francis brings a lifetime of rhyme, wit and undiminished charisma to the fringe. As hip-hop continues to change shape, Francis and long-term wing man B.Dolan remain at its vanguard. Here’s 20 opportunities to witness the Epic Beard Men on fire. Stand in the Square, 5-27 Aug, 1.40pm, £14

3) Godspeed You! Black Emperor at EIF
Sigur Ros? Check. Mogwai? Oh aye. EIF are at the post-rock bingo this August. Montreal dons Godspeed You! Black Emperor tip up for a three night run at the Playhouse, the first two evenings of which will be backing their countrymen and punk-as-fuck dance company The Holy Body Tattoo in their presentation of monumental. Night three features Godspeed in their own right. We’re all in. Edinburgh Playhouse, 8-9 (with The Holy Body Tattoo) and 10 Aug, 8pm, £20-£30

4) Aidan Moffat: Where You’re Meant To Be
An encore opportunity to see Paul Fegan’s recent documentary of Moffat’s highland tour, which sees the Arab Strap frontman go toe-to-toe with travelling balladeer Sheila Stewart on the conventions of Scottish folk music. The screening is followed by a set from the ever-candid performer; a welcome dose of realism while the news shows us smoke and mirrors. The Hub, 16 Aug, 8.30pm, £20-£25

5) Nothing Ever Happens Here: White & Bossy Love
Who’d have guessed that three quarters of Kassidy and The Low Miffs’ Leo Condie could make such shiny guitar pop together? Far from the CSNY-aspiring folk rock of the former and Brel-indebted presentation of the latter, there’s a bit of Bowie and a splash of The Associates about their union. Joined by righteous R’n’B-inflected electro duo Bossy Love, this smells like a night of alchemy done right. Summerhall, 13 Aug, 7pm, £12

For an in-depth guide to the best music at this year's Edinburgh Festivals, click here.

Top Theatre at the Edinburgh Fringe and Festival

1) The Glass Menagerie
First up, a prime example of EIF’s knack for bringing outstanding theatre-going opportunities to Scotland – The Glass Menagerie. A revival of the acclaimed Broadway production directed by John Tiffany (hot off the heels of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) and starring Cherry Jones, this one’s not to be missed. King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, 7-21 Aug, times and prices vary

2) Trainspotting
Get a punch in the gut from In Your Face Theatre’s production of Trainspotting, a realisation of the classic novel so extraordinary that it shocked Welsh himself. The show became infamous in the 2015 Fringe microcosm, selling out relentlessly and staging extra performances to fulfil audience demand. Book in fast. Assembly George Square Studios (Venue 17), 3-29 Aug (not Tues), 6pm & 8.30pm, prices vary

3) Heads Up by Kieran Hurley
Bit nervous that we’re hurtling inexorably towards an apocalypse? Cool – work through those fears at Kieran Hurley’s solo storytelling masterpiece, featuring a live score from from Michael John McCarthy. If Beat (his 2012 sell-out about rave culture) is anything to go by, this could be terrific. Summerhall, 3-28 Aug (not 4, 15, 22), 7.05pm, £8-11

4) Expensive Shit
Set in the fictional nightclub toilets of a club based on Glasgow’s Shimmy club, Adura Onashile’s new play Expensive Shit tells the story of an attendant whose experiences cause her to reminisce of times spent at the legendary Shrine Club in Nigeria, when she aspired to become a dancer in the revolutionary band of the late Nigerian musician, Fela Kuti. See the world premier this Fringe. Traverse Theatre, 4-28 Aug (not Mon), times vary, £8.50-18.50

5) Bird
Clowning, physical theatre and foley (live SFX) combine to create Sita Pieraccini and Feral’s Bird. The play depicts a lone creature who’s struggling for survival on a small patch of soil in a desolate world; a fascinating piece of physical theatre with a profound message to wordlessly share. Dance Base, 5-28 Aug (not Mon), £8-12, 6.30pm, £8-12

Best Comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe

1) Richard Gadd: Monkey See Monkey Do
Everybody's got something to hide... After dazzling Edinburgh last year with an inventive show, the elusive Mr Gadd returns with a more personal reflection on masculinity, mental illness and the division between our inner world and public face. Banshee Labyrinth (Cinema), 6-28 Aug, 9:45pm, PBH Free Fringe.

2) Foxdog Studios
The rock’n’roll lifestyle might seem unsuited to a pair of IT consultants, but Peter and Lloyd's innovative and interactive style provides the perfect soundtrack for a late-night Fringe joyride. Comparisons to Flight of the Conchords aren't unreasonable, if the Conchords held first class honours in Computer Science. Laughing Horse @ The Cellar Monkey (Cellar), 4-28 Aug, 11:15pm, free

3) Fern Brady: Male Comedienne
An annual brunch takes place each year for the female comedians in Edinburgh – but Fern Brady wasn't invited. In her sophomore show, Brady gives the lowdown on this devastating snub along with reflecting on her strict Catholic upbringing and time as a stripper. The Stand Comedy Club 2, 4-28 Aug (not 15), 12:10pm, £7-9

4) Mat Ewins Will Make You A Star
Maverick character comedian Mat Ewins' use of multimedia and costume changes seems to give his shows the presence of a full cast. This year's hour has been sub-categorised in the official brochure as both "Flamenco" and "Farce" but then we'd expect nothing less from a member of the eclectic set of comedians behind the Bearpit podcast. Heroes @ The Hive (The Bunka), 4-28 Aug, 9pm, £5 in advance or Pay What You Want at the venue.

5) Danielle Ward: Seventeen
Summer, 1996: Wannabe is Top of the Pops, Scotland and England rue missed penalties in the Euros and a guitar strumming Tony Blair shouts education three times and becomes the thrusting young hope of the British left. Danielle Ward makes a slight return to her teenage past and brings her own unique perspective on the era, or as she put it while researching the show, "I feel like I've tapped into a stream of nostalgia I didn't even know was happening." Just the Tonic @ The Caves (Just Out of the Box), 4-28 Aug, 2:40pm, £6.

Our Edinburgh Art Festival picks

1) Platform: 2016
Every year EAF selects its pick of Scotland’s most exciting emerging talent. This year’s programme includes duo Paloma Proudfoot and Aniela Piasecka’s melodramatic, erotic and at times shambolic roleplay demonstrations of mundane tasks (in collaboration with Jamie Robson, 5 Aug, 6pm & 13 Aug, 12pm). Joining them are the Brownlee Brothers, Dorian Jose Braun and Jack Saunders. Edinburgh Art Festival Kiosk, until 28 Aug, 10am-6pm, free

2) Sally Hackett: The Fountain of Youth
Hackett’s ambitious ceramic exhibition The Fountain of Youth is a tongue-in-cheek protest to the blue rinse crew dominating Edinburgh’s monuments. She uses medium-scale, humorous sculptures to investigate society’s obsession with the obvious advantages of youth – and the many downsides so often overlooked. Museum of Edinburgh, until 28 Aug, Mon-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 12-5pm, free

3) Siân Robinson Davies: Conversations
Artist and comedian Siân Robinson Davies exhibits Conversations at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop; a new sound work developed from a series of scripted dialogues between talking objects and concepts. The exhibition humorously ponders over improbably conversations, such as an exchange between a credit card and a penis about contactless payment. Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, until 31 Aug, Mon-Sat 11am-5pm, free

4) I Still Believe in Miracles
A blockbuster show from Inverleith House as it celebrates the big three-zero. Head to the garden to see works from Louise Bourgeois, Philip Guston, Karla Black, Nicolas Party, Ciara Phillips, William Eggleston and Robert Ryman – among many others. Inverleith House, until 23 Oct, Tues-Sun 10am-5.30pm, free

5) Jonathan Owen
Jonathan Owen transforms artefacts; re-carving busts, editing pre-existing images to invigorate the pre-existing forms beneath. This exhibition features film stills, celebrity portraits and documentary images in which Owens has erased the subjects. Ingleby Gallery, until 28 Aug, Wed-Sat 10am-5pm, free

Our Edinburgh Book Festival top five

1) Can Xue: A Hellacious Imagination
In August, Charlotte Square welcomes the world and is home to a truly international, outwardly looking festival. Can Xue is a 2016 highlight, being one of China’s most brilliant novelists and winner of the prestigious 2015 Best Translated Book Award for Fiction. Widen your horizons. Charlotte Square Baillie Gifford Corner Theatre, 17 Aug, 7pm, £6-8

2) Ron Rash on What We Talk About When We Talk About Love
Discussing the short form maestro Raymond Carver’s work is interesting enough, especially in light of his famous editor Gordon Lish recently taking credit for the famous ‘Carveresque’ economical writing style. To discuss alongside the respected American author Ron Rash (Serena) is a rare treat. Charlotte Square Writers Retreat, 25 Aug, 1pm, £12-15

3) Edward Ross: Film: Very Graphic Images
Edward Ross discusses the visual medium of cinema through the visual medium of illustration in Filmish, his graphic journey through film. The big directors (Hitchcock, Tarantino) and big issues (censorship, the male gaze) are covered in smart yet accessible style. Charlotte Square Studio Theatre, 13 Aug, 8.45pm, £10-12

4) Giancarlo De Cataldo: When in Rome…
For those glued to the TV for the spaghetti western inner city wilderness of Gomorrah, why not travel north to the Eternal City and Romanzo Criminale. The author here confronting the politically volatile period in the 70’s known as the Years of Lead. Charlotte Square Garden Theatre, 19 Aug, 5.45pm, £10-12

5) Claire Louise Bennett & Kelly Link: Women on the Edge
Edinburgh International Book Festival’s finest moments are often ones of discovery, made in the sometimes half empty Writer’s Retreat rather than the packed main stage. This year the hot (not so) secret tip is Claire Louise Bennett, the Irish author of Pond. Appearing here alongside Kelly Link, a late replacement for Catalan author Milena Busquets. Charlotte Square Writer’s Retreat, 28 Aug, 5pm, £6-8

Read our Books editor's guide to this year's Edinburgh International Book Festival