Edinburgh Festivals 2017: Our Top Picks

The Skinny team pick the books, art, comedy, theatre and music they're most looking forward to at this year's Edinburgh Festivals

Preview by The Skinny | 17 Jul 2017


1) Karl Geary & Samanta Schweblin: Deeply Unsettling Secrets
Books Editor Alan Bett’s main reason for turning up at this event will be to hand Samanta Schweblin a therapy bill after her dread-filled English debut Fever Dream brought anxieties of death into his every day. She appears in a strong pairing with Karl Geary, whose novel Montpelier Parade we called ‘an astonishing debut’ in a 5-star review. Two incredible emerging talents. 
Writer’s Retreat, Charlotte Square, 16 Aug, 3.30pm, £6-8

2) Ever Dundas & Hwang Sok-yong: Outlaws and Exiles
There seems a lateral train of thought in pairing these novelists at either end of the literary life cycle. Scottish newcomer Ever Dundas brought a Goblin into our lives with her fantastical tale woven with timely themes. On the other side is the elderly Korean master Hwang Sok-yong, whose own life of imprisonment and exile is as affecting as his legendary body of work. Both have created characters that exist on the edge of society. 
Baillie Gifford Corner Theatre, Charlotte Square, 16 Aug, 7pm, £6-8

3) Jemima Foxtrot, Iona Lee, Sabrina Mahfouz & Sophia Walker: Phenomenal Women Speak Out
The Babble On spoken word strand at EIBF often veers between riotous and reflective moments. We would expect both from the combination of young female poets performing here on themes of womanhood, including Skinny favourite Iona Lee and Sabrina Mahfouz, who brought together the wonderful collection of writing from Muslim Women The Things I Would Tell You earlier this year.
Garden Theatre, Charlotte Square, 20 Aug, 4pm, £10-12   

4) Ryan Gattis & Dave Hook: Words on the Street
When Ryan Gattis isn’t writing the most wild, kinetic and emotionally charged LA gang stories, he’s working with a street art crew – just one more way to tell stories on the street. Here he teams up with Stanley Odd MC Dave Hook to celebrate these many forms of communication. Word and image will combine alongside these two fine storytellers. 
Garden Theatre, Charlotte Square, 15 Aug, 4pm, £10-12

5) Kapka Kassabova: The Edge of Europe
Kassabova’s Border is quite possibly the book of the year. Both timely and timeless, this travelogue around the outer reaches of Europe has Cold War history echoing into our modern times, where desperate refugees attempt to cross those all-too-important lines on a map. It is beautifully poetic, heart-breaking, and humane. The book will transform you. We imagine this event could too.
Garden Theatre, Charlotte Square, 28 Aug, 5.45pm, £10-12


1) Patrick Staff: To Those in Search of Immunity
Film, installation, performance and dance artist Patrick Staff’s work examines dissent, labour and the queer body. This month, Collective presents Staff’s Observer’s Walk of Calton Hill which melds audio essay, memoir and story.
Collective Gallery, 27 Jul - 27 Aug, 10am-6pm, free

2) Pester and Rossi: Lunar Nova Campout
Since 2008, Pester and Rossi have been producing wearable sculpture, DIY costume and props working with an anarchic and feminist approach. On 26 Aug, they host an overnight campout and search for hope in the dark, inspired by nocturnal rituals and notions of destruction and renewal that surround the cycles of the moon.
Jupiter Artland, 26 Aug, 8pm, £20-30

3) Platform 2017 (Uist Corrigan, Rebecca Howard, Kotryna Ula Kiliulyte and Adam Quinn)
Platform is the Edinburgh Art Festival’s showcase of selected emerging artists. This year, previously EAF commissioned artists Graham Fagen and Jacqueline Donachie have put together four artists working across performance, filmmaking, photography, work with archives, sound installation and sculpture.
The Fire Station at ECA, 27 Jul - 27 Aug, free

4) Charlotte Barker: Flotilla
At the meeting point of art and design, Charlotte Barker makes materially and formally elegant work using diverse traditional methods. Tool marks expose the intricacy of their production, and the objects themselves deconstruct the hierarchies of fine art, craft and the decorative arts.
Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, 29 Jul - 26 Aug, free

5) Kate Davis
For her Stills solo show, Kate Davis presents her recent Margaret Tait Award commission, which reimagines the fundamental but overlooked and unpaid processes that we employ to care for others and ourselves. This is presented alongside Davis’ print, drawings and photography, which present aesthetic and political ambiguities from a contemporary feminist perspective.
Stills Gallery, 28 Jul - 8 Oct, free


1) Wild Bore
Zoe Coombs Marr? Ursula Martinez? Adrienne Truscott? At the Traverse for an entire month? Yes, please! This new all woman supergroup bring their blend of political spiky performance and comedy to the Fringe to prove that, as their poster shows, they too, can talk out of their arses. Contains nudity, obviously.
Traverse Theatre, 8-27 Aug (not 14, 21) times vary, £9.50-21.50

2) The Last Queen of Scotland
In 1972, Ugandan dictator Idi Amin ordered the expulsion of all Ugandan-Asians from the country within 90 days. In 2017, Stellar Quines bring Jaimini Jethwa's first play to the Fringe, to tell the story of how her family left their homeland, settled in the schemes in Dundee, before she made the journey back to where once was home. Supported by the National Theatre of Scotland and Dundee Rep.
Underbelly Cowgate, 3-26 Aug (not 9, 16), 6.50pm, £7.30-13.80

3) The Divide
The latest from one of the UK’s greatest living playwrights, Alan Ayckbourn, The Divide imagines a dystopian England, ravaged by deadly contagion that makes any contact between the opposite sex fatal. With society broken down, and the survivors divided by their gender – the males wear white and are considered pure, while the women dress in black to signal their infection – this world premiere could be both terrifyingly prescient and brilliant.
King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, 8-20 Aug (not 9, 10, 14), times vary, £14-32

4) Mark Thomas: A Show That Gambles on the Future
2016 was an unpredictable shitshow of a year, but is it possible to predict what the rest of 2017 and beyond has in store? This is the question that master storyteller Mark Thomas will attempt to answer by examining his own predictions, as well as those of the audience. Expect the weird, the wonderful, the totally unexpected, and even, possibly, hope, for 2018 and beyond.
Summerhall, 2-27 Aug (not 3, 14, 19), 6pm, £10-15

5) Meow Meow’s Little Mermaid
The Queen of Cabaret, Meow Meow, returns to the Edinburgh International Festival with the European premiere of her subversive take on Hans Christian Andersen’s beloved, yet utterly depressing fairytale. Based on her own “mis-adventures in love”, and featuring original songs by Amanda Palmer, Kate Miller-Heidke and Megan Washington, Meow Meow is a reassuring presence even when the world is going to shit.
The Hub, 3-27 Aug (not 8, 15, 22), times vary, £15-32


1) Tubular Brass with Hannah Peel
What better way to kick off your 2017 Edinburgh Fringe than with a 28-piece brass band playing one of the most iconic albums of the 20th century, Mike Oldfield’s triumphant 1973 work Tubular Bells? The evening will also feature a special performance of Hannah Peel’s latest long player, Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia, which combines synthesizers and brass to stunning effect. The show also features specially commissioned audio visuals by Daniel Conway.
St Cuthbert’s Church, 5 Aug, 7.30pm, £8-14

2) PJ Harvey
The inimitable Polly Jean Harvey is stopping by Edinburgh this August to play not one, but two nights as part of this year’s Edinburgh International Festival programme. Accompanied by her nine-piece band, they’ll be performing tracks from 2016’s Grammy-nominated album The Hope Six Demolition Project, as well as material from her extensive back catalogue.
Edinburgh Playhouse, 7-8 Aug, 8pm, £15-48

3) Frànçois & the Atlas Mountains
It’s been a few years since Frànçois & the Atlas Mountains have played in Edinburgh so we’re looking forward to welcoming them back this August. Comprising members of various groups from France and the UK, including Petit Fantôme, Jaune!, Archipel and Glasgow’s Babe, together they make glorious dreamy French indie-pop inflected with African rhythms.
Summerhall, 15 Aug, 8pm, £12

4) Room 29: Jarvis Cocker & Chilly Gonzales
Inspired by his stay in Room 29 at the Château Marmont Hotel in Hollywood – previous occupants include Jean Harlow and Marilyn Monroe – Jarvis Cocker wrote a new collection of songs using the room’s baby grand piano. Now with the aid of piano virtuoso Chilly Gonzales, and assisted by the Kaiser Quartett, the stories of Room 29 will be brought to life on stage as part of EIF.
King’s Theatre, 22-24 Aug, 8pm, £11-40

In 1891, Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla tamed lightning with his Tesla coil, a device which makes electricity visible; now Glasgow-based artist Robbie Thomson has harnessed the coil’s sonic capabilities to create XFRMR. Part of the Made in Scotland showcase series, XFRMR will also feature audio-reactive projections, so we are 100 percent sold.
The Leith Volcano, 22-26 Aug, times vary, £6-12


1) Sofie Hagen: Dead Baby Frog
2015 Best Newcomer Sofie Hagen explores her grandfather’s psychopathy and discusses a parable where a frog is boiled alive. It’s her third show, and is also “anxiety-safe”, meaning you can email anxietytour2016@gmail.com with specific accessibility requests.
Bedlam Theatre, 2-28 Aug, 2pm, £8-£10

2) Michael Legge: Jerk
Ever been told you should be ashamed of yourself? The team captain from the excellent Do the Right Thing podcast is back after a year away from Edinburgh, and he's wondering if a little shame is no bad thing. 
The Stand Comedy Club 2 (16 North St Andrew St), 3-27 Aug (not 14), 1.20pm, £8-£9

3) Lucy Pearman: Maid of Cabbage
One half of talented comedic duo LetLuce, Lucy Pearman is now flying solo with no less invention. Her debut show seems to be set in the Edwardian era, and revolves around a quest to find the quintessential cabbage - of course.
Heroes at Monkey Barrel (Basement), 3-27 Aug (not 14, 15), 12.30pm, £5/PWYW

4) Ahir Shah: Control
Shah’s Edinburgh hours distil stormy politics into incisive humour. His shows have a knack of getting to the nub of how our day-to-day lives connect with a more panoramic view of the world, mining thoughtful and powerful comedy from big questions and big issues. 
Laughing Horse at Cabaret Voltaire (Main Room), 3-27 Aug, 2pm, free

5) Fin Taylor: Lefty Tighty Righty Loosey
After his acclaimed 2016 show Whitey McWhitefaceFin Taylor returns embracing his inner jingo and defending certain indefensible invasions. Satirising self-serving and tepid lefty bullshit, Taylor isn't convinced by phoney political convictions – and by adopting a contrarian perspective demonstrates his keen eye for bunk. 
Just the Tonic at The Tron, 3-27 Aug (not 14), 10.20pm, £6.50/PWYW