Our top 5s for the Edinburgh Festivals 2014

Our section editors narrow their Edinburgh Festival picks down to a tick-'em-off-as-you-go top 5...

Article by Dave Kerr | 28 Jul 2014
  • Meursault

MUSIC

1. Meursault

Having survived multiple incarnations across the span of eight years, three albums and two EPs, Meursault mainstay Neil Pennycook hangs up his main songwriting guise with one last splash. It’ll all end in tears, but the man himself offers a solemn promise: 'Death to Meursault... I will kill again...' 13 Aug, The Queen's Hall, 8pm, £12

2.  LuckyMe: Annual Festival Party

There’s a fair degree of secrecy around who will take to the decks for this Scottish clubbing institution’s annual festival ho-down, but with past participants including such leading lights from the dance and hip-hop worlds as Rustie, S-Type, Hudson Mohawke, Machinedrum and TNGHT, you’re going to want to stay glued to their Twitter feed for the next fortnight. 15 Aug, La Belle Angele, 11pm, £10

3. Gruff Rhys: Super Furry Odyssey

With American Interior, Rhys retreads the steps of 18th century ancestor John Evans – an explorer who sought to find a fabled lost tribe of Welsh speaking Native Americans – in Bob Marley’s old tour bus no less, creating a book, a documentary, an album, an app, and a live music experience along the way. The most multi-media performer of the Fringe? 22 Aug, ScottishPower Foundaton Studio, 8.30pm, £10 (£8)

4. Glen Matlock: I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol

From his formative years with the original Agents of Anarchy to teaching Sid Vicious how to play before he walked away at the height of their powers, founding Pistols bassist Matlock documents The Filth and The Fury in his own words, a complement to his 1990 autobiography. 31 Jul-6 Aug, Assembly George Square Gardens, 7.30pm, from £9

5. The New Mendicants

Based in Canada and born in a pub, it’s not often that this side project from Joe Pernice (Pernice Brothers, Scud Mountain Brothers), Mike Belitksy (The Sadies) and Glasgow’s own Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub) find the opportunity to go globe-trotting. Acoustic lullabies just don’t come any more precious; don’t miss their second ever Edinburgh gig. 7 Aug, The Famous Spiegeltent, 8.30pm, £15 (£10)

  • Red Bastard

THEATRE

1. Biding Time (Remix)

With a killer soundtrack, and an ominous white rabbit, this multidisciplinary show confronts the music industry and the way it treats female musicians. A response to Pippa Bailey’s Biding Time, it follows aspiring singer/songwriter Thyme (played by Louise Quinn), fusing live music, immersive theatre, and film as it goes. Various dates 5-23 Aug, Summerhall, 10.20pm, from £5

2. KLIP

Livingstones Kabinet make their Fringe debut with a show they describe as a ‘theatre collage experiment’. They descend with extreme precision into the absurd, using fragments of a collage to make a new one, playing upon the human brain’s need to make sense of things, even when they seem nonsensical. Various dates 1-24 Aug, Summerhall, 5.20pm, from £6 (£5)

3. Red Bastard

Last year’s five-star comedy monster returns to force self-reflection through the medium of physical and interactive theatre. If you are willing to engage with this bizarre masterclass on life, on both a philosophical and practical level, it will soon become obvious that holding back from what you want in life is not an option. Various dates 30 Jul-24 Aug, Pleasance Courtyard, 7pm, from £7

4. Christeene: The Christeene Machine

Paul Soileau's Fringe debut bursts onto the stage alongside C Baby and T Gravel, and top brass DJ JJ Booya. And as for preconceptions of gender, fashion, and how people are supposed to look or behave… best leave them at the door. Various dates 31 Jul-23 Aug, Underbelly, 10.10pm, from £6

5. Fragile

BAFTA-winning writer Geoff Thompson's new solo show follows the tale of a man who is abused at the age of eleven by his teacher; as a grown-up, he tries to find peace by confessing it to a tape recorder. Dark and raw, the play grapples with the effects of child abuse on the psyche. 1-25 Aug, Zoo, 9pm, from £8.50

  • Knightmare Live

COMEDY

1. Kim Noble: You Are Not Alone

For the first time in five years, shock comic genius Kim Noble returns to the Fringe. Following the success of 2009’s award-winning Kim Noble Will Die, proprietor of a 6-star review, his new show uses performance, comedy and film to get closer to the people we otherwise dismiss as social ephemera. Limited run, so book early. 19-24 Aug, Traverse Theatre, 23.15pm, from £13 (£7)

2. Eleanor Morton: Lollipop

One of the Scottish comedy scene’s most coruscant rising stars, Eleanor Morton’s debut promises a jack-in-the-box journey through anxiety, bravery, anthropomorphic alcoholic animals and more. Described by Josie Long as 'clever, inventive and super funny' – an endorsement any young comic would wish for. 31 Jul-24 Aug, The Stand Comedy Club III & IV, from £7 (£6)

3. John Robertson: A Nifty History of Evil

Last year’s The Dark Room earned a clean sweep of 5-star reviews, and is back for a second run, but in addition John Robertson brings a second show – A Nifty History of Evil. Promising a romp through 2000 years of humanity, it’s set to be another wickedly funny hour from the award-winning loudmouth. Various dates 31 Jul-24 Aug, The Stand Comedy Club III & IV, from £7 (£6)

4. Knightmare Live: Level 2

Greetings, watchers of illusion! Level 2 is upon us following a sell-out run of 2013’s favourite 80s nostalgia trip. A visit to Treguard’s dungeon promises more props, puzzles, adventures and monsters than you can shake a knapsack at. And if last year’s ticket sales are anything to go by, this is one you don’t want to pass up. 30 Jul-24 Aug, Pleasance Courtyard, from £8

5. Toby: Fuzzbuzz

Daykin sisters Lizzie and Sarah are back with their third installment of sharp, dark comedy. Gleefully eschewing the traditional double-act dynamic, their cult status has bloomed from the inky depths of their oddball humour. Previous shows have earned the coveted 5-stars, and this one promises more twisted tales of sisterly rivalry. Various dates 30 Jul-24 Aug, Pleasance Courtyard, from £6

  • From the series Places by Melanie Letore

ART

1. The Skinny Showcase

Of course our exhibition is the best – with four graduates, one plucked from each of the four main Scottish art schools of DJCAD, ECA, Gray's and GSA, it's obviously going to be fantastic. Head down to Leith to catch some video from Edward Humphrey, the printmaking/tapestry of Caitlin Hynes, Melanie Letore's pristine photography, and the fluorescent sculptures of Fiona Beveridge. 31 Jul-31 Aug, Creative Exchange, free

2. Jupiter Artland, various

Jupiter Artland offers an enticing reason to escape the baying hordes of the festivals and tramp around the countryside this August. Katie Paterson presents Earth-Moon-Earth (Moonlight Sonata Reflected from the Surface of the Moon); Tessa Lynch enacts an ancient land right with Raising. Mick Peter shows cement wall relief Popcorn Plaza, while Jessica Harrison (interviewed on p36) presents Broken, the largest home turf display of her figurine sculptures. Until 28 Sep, Jupiter Artland, £8.50 (£4.50)

3. Kevin Harman: Open Studio

Local art trickster The Honourable K.W. Harman flings open the doors of his studio to present what is chillingly dubbed 'a glimpse inside the brain of the artist.' Details remain a closely guarded secret, but there are whispers of an all night absinthe bar, and the promise of 'unavoidable engagement.' With supporters including a scaffolder and a firm of criminal defence lawyers, this exhibition is guaranteed to be an eye-opener. 1-31 Aug, The Old Ambulance Depot, free

4. Where Do I End and You Begin

Part of the Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme but taking place in Edinburgh, this grand show brings together new and recent work from 20 artists chosen by five curators from New Zealand, South Africa, India, Canada, and England. Celebrating the diversity of artistic practices within the Commonwealth, the various works also interrogate what the meaning of a Commonwealth, and common wealth, really is in a the contemporary world. 1 Aug-19 Oct, City Art Centre, free

5. FAILE & Båst

For their first Scottish show, Brooklyn-based duo FAILE, aka Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller, join forces with street artist Båst to present a neon interactive wonderland featuring specially designed video games harking back to the golden age of the video arcade. Who can resist the promise of 'psychedelic foosball'? 1 Aug-26 Sep, Summerhall, free

  • Haruki Murakami

BOOKS

1. Murakami – Japan's Greatest Living Author

If you don’t have tickets by now then praying or mugging might be the only viable options, as even the biggest names attending Edinburgh International Book Festival will trail in this man’s wake. Replace ‘Japan’s’ for ‘World’s’ in the title of this event and few would grumble. 24 Aug, Baillie Gifford Main Theatre, 6.30pm, £returns only

2. The Moth – True Stories Told Live

True life, sliced thin, raw and sometimes bleeding. The revelation that is a person on a stage performing a ten minute tale of their life. Storytellers range from top level authors to supposed low level everymen and women, but there is often the extraordinary hiding within the ordinary. 23 Aug, Baillie Gifford Main Theatre, 8pm, £10 (£8)

3. William McIlvanney: Scotland’s George Orwell

It takes time to focus on objects so close, which is why it has been a slow realisation in Scotland of just how great this man is. Inventor of tartan noir, but more importantly creator of prose which flows like poetry, and which shows an unforeseen beauty in the light reflecting off harsh working class life. 11 Aug, Baillie Gifford Main Theatre, 8pm, £10 (£8)

4. Karl Ove Knausgaard: In the Footsteps of Proust

It takes a certain confidence to publish a six volume autobiography, even more to borrow the dubious series title of My Struggle (Min Kamp – Mein Kampf), yet Knausgaard must lack any nerves as they are translated into English, picking up an international fan base along the way. In the words of Zadie Smith: 'I need the next volume like crack.' 10 Aug, Baillie Gifford Corner Theatre, 8.30pm, £returns only

5. Douglas Dunn, Jenni Fagan, Michael Pedersen & Kevin Williamson: Launching Neu! Reekie! Publishing #1

Because the Neu! Reekie! spirit is being captured in print; because it’s a more than welcome return to publishing for ex-Rebel Inc’s Kevin Williamson; because Jenni Fagan’s prose is a punch to the solar plexus. Not to be missed. 21 Aug, Royal Bank of Scotland Garden Theatre, 8.30pm, £10 (£8)