Summerhall launches its 2019 Fringe programme

Extinction Rebellion take over two spaces, Kathryn Joseph headlines Nothing Ever Happens Here, Rachael Young brings her Grace Jones celebration NIGHTCLUBBING and the mighty Trevor Lock delivers his stand-up sermon COMMUNITY CIRCLE

Article by Jamie Dunn | 16 May 2019

Lovers of performance art wouldn’t want to be anywhere else during the Fringe than taking in the fresh and forward-thinking programme at Summerhall. This morning the multi-arts venue announced its typically overflowing line-up of cutting edge theatre, visual art and music, which encompasses work from 14 countries, with topics ranging from parents to health, migration and global politics.

Music at Summerhall

In terms of Summerhall’s live music programme, Nothing Ever Happens Here, the first act to catch the eye is Kathryn Joseph. Joseph will be heading to the Dissection Room to perform the stage version of her second album, from when i wake the want is, in collaboration with Cryptic. Another Skinny fave also set to perform her most recent album at Summerhall is Scottish songwriter Siobhan Wilson, who’ll play songs from The Departure, while former Delgado Emma Pollock makes a welcome live return.

There’s more live album action in the form of New York art-rockers Bodega, who’re crossing the Atlantic to perform Witness Scroll. Welsh singer-songwriter Cate Le Bon will also be here performing her fifth studio album, Reward, and for all you Swifties out there, Glasgow’s Start To End have a treat in store with a night performing Taylor Swift’s 1989 in its entirety. There are also gigs from Glasgow italo-disco titans Free Love and Andrew Wasylyk, plus parties from Shoot Your Shot and Optimo (Espacio)

Extinction Rebellion's art exhibitions and COMA

The Summerhall Visual Arts programme tends to see artists casting an eye over current political shifts, and that’ll certainly be the case with Extinction Rebellion, who take over two spaces in the basement. They’ll be curating a month of performance, visual art, films and documentaries.

We’re told the overall aim of the exhibition will chime with XR’s three demands: “to tell the truth about climate change and the ecological emergency, to call on governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025, and to create a Citizens Assembly to oversee the process.”

There’s always something interesting happening in the shipping container in front of Summerhall from "container mavericks" Darkfield. Previously they’ve spooked us with Séance and taken us up in the air with Flight; this year we’re in for COMA, where we’re going to be asked to simply lie down and trust.

Theatre at Summerhall

One of the most talked about shows in last year’s Summerhall programme was Zanetti Production’s The Basement Tapes. Zanetti are back again with Melbourne Fringe-winner My Best Dead Friend, a 90s-set New Zealand play about friendship, unfulfilled love and, curiously, a possum. Another of last year’s standouts was Trojan Horse from LUNG, who are back at Summerhall with Who Cares, which is concerned with the impact of austerity in the care system. There should be some crossover in Cardboard Citizens: Bystanders, which tells a series of stories exploring the lives and deaths of homeless people.

Plenty of other hard-hitting subjects are explored this year. Pizza Shop Heroes, from Phosphoros Theatre, brings a new show about former child-refugees settled and working in the UK. Before the Revolution looks at the stalemate, apathy and anger that preceded the Egyptian Revolution. And the taboo of paying for sex is explored in duel one-person shows Traumboy (Daniel Hellman) and Traumgirl (Anne Welenc), which tell the stories of two sex worker – one a cis-male, the other a cis-female – on alternate nights, one made in response to the other.

We like the sound of NIGHTCLUBBING, in which Rachael Young and her "badass band of superhumans" embrace Afrofuturism and the cult of Grace Jones. LipSync also sounds fascinating. From the multi-award-winning Cumbernauld Theatre company, it concerns two people on stage, both telling the same story, with the story’s true owner restricted to lip-syncing. Our interest is also piqued by Hold On Let Go, mainly because its music comes courtesy of Paul Smith of Maximo Park fame, who’s making his Fringe debut.

The mighty Trevor Lock is a Fringe staple, but he’s finally admitted to himself that his comedy is really performance art, so he’s making a move to Summerhall with his brilliant deconstructed standup show COMMUNITY CIRCLE, which is part therapy session, part town hall meeting, part cult gathering, and different every time. Audience participation is also the key to Neither Here Nor There – starting in the Courtyard, it prompts audiences to make the show with a starting point and six minutes in which to talk about whatever it may be.

Fancy a dolphin love story? That’s what’s in store from Like Animals, from circus tour-de-force Ellie Dubois. Your Sexts are Shit, meanwhile, is a performance about exactly what it sounds like from Kim Donohoe and Peter Lannon. And Volcano Theatre Company’s The Populars is described as a dance party for a divided nation, which sounds exactly like what we need right about now.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg of Summerhall’s programme. For full details, head to