It’s that time of year again, when it seems that anyone with even a passing interest in theatre is in Edinburgh soaking up all that the city’s many festivals have to offer. It’s a deliciously hectic month – I’ve written before about how to enjoy the madness and still leave with your health and sanity intact at the end of the month. But what about those of us who are watching from afar? For the first time in a few years, I will not be diving in to the festival fun in Edinburgh. I have to admit, it feels odd, like I’ve accidentally skipped part of the year!
With a few hundred festival press releases languishing in my email inbox, round-ups of the best shows to catch in every publication, and social media awash with pictures, reviews and thoughts about every aspect of Edinburgh’s many festivals, it’s hard not to feel a little bit left out. However, even though it seems like the entire industry has decamped to Edinburgh, that is not quite the case; there is still plenty on offer to satiate your theatre cravings for the month.
Read on, and dive into my top ten picks for Not-The-Edinburgh-Fringe!
The Big Chapel X, Kilkenny Arts Festival, 11-17th Aug
We may not be in Edinburgh with this one, but my first recommendation will take you to a festival. The Big Chapel Project began at Kilkenny Arts Festival last year, and has come to fruition over the past year with numerous events inspired by Thomas Kilroy’s award winning novel, The Big Chapel, including this adaptation by John Morton. The Big Chapel X is a promenade performance, staged in Callan, which asks “What happens when a town takes on the re-telling of its own dark history?” Kilroy’s original novel is based around the 1870 “Callan Schools Affair,” in which the parish priest at the time attempted to set up a school, was denied permission, and subsequently took the bishop to court, a move which created long-standing division within the town. The Big Chapel X has taken this as inspiration to explore questions of truth, rhetoric and public opinion.
Scrapefoot, The Ark, 2nd July - 31st Aug
Created by a combination of grown-up and child artists, and presented by Anu Productions and The Ark, Scrapefoot is a walk-through visual art experience that delves into new corners of the old story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Audience members can explore the three-bears’ house in small groups, following the path of Scrapefoot, a fox that was a forerunner of Goldilocks.
It looks set to be a delightful explorative experience for adults and children.
Skin Tight, The New Theatre, 6-17th Aug
A play I had never heard of until recently, but am looking forward to exploring, Skin Tight is based on Denis Glover’s short poem The Magpies. Though written and based in New Zealand, Gary Henderson’s 1994 play seems to have had mass appeal, having toured internationally and won a Fringe First Award on its initial run at the Edinburgh Fringe. Stories of love, of the ups and downs, of the memories and the ghosts of a relationship, have a timeless appeal on stage.
The Roaring Banshees, Smock Alley Theatre, 12-31st Aug
You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, nor a play by its title, but this one had me caught from the off. With a poster bearing a group of seven bold-looking women, and a name like The Roaring Banshees, this production from Devious Theatre Company is definitely on my want-to-see list. Fresh off a run in the Watergate Theatre, Kilkenny, The Roaring Banshees are on their way to Smock Alley to tell the story of a rogue Cumann na mBan group who end up selling poitín in Prohibition Chicago while on the run from the law following an assassination attempt on De Valera.
Much Ado About Nothing, Kilkenny Arts Festival, 8-17th August
I’m a sap for Shakespeare, a sucker for a some of iambic pentameter, especially if it’s performed under the stars. After Rough Magic’s brilliant production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Castle Yard at Kilkenny Arts Festival last year (which I returned to see more than once!), this production of Much Ado About Nothing, set in the unusually mundane location of the decking outside a mobile-home, is set to sparkle.
Ask too Much of Me, Abbey Theatre, 19-24th Aug
For years, Youth Theatre Ireland’s National Youth Theatre production has been a theatrical highlight, and has featured many of those who are now rising or established names in Irish theatre over the years. Exploring ideas of faith, and promising to ask more questions than it answers, Ask Too Much of Me sounds like a production well suited to a place on our national stage. Written by Dylan Coburn Gray and directed by Veronica Coburn, in collaboration with the 16-strong ensemble, Ask Too Much of Me is sure to continue the NYT’s trend of bringing the exciting and impressive ideas of the next generation of theatre-makers to the stage.
The Woman is Present: Women’s Stories of WWII, Rathfarnam Castle, 22nd Aug
Smashing Times are returning with their acclaimed production exploring the forgotten stories of several women who played instrumental roles in 20th Century history, fighting oppressive and destructive regimes. Not only do they bring these women’s stories to life with theatrical imaginings of key moments in their lives, Smashing Times also bring the themes of their stories into the present, with a post-show following every performance, in which the artists and invited guest speakers to explore powerful women’s stories in history.
The Odd Couple, The Everyman, 16th Jul - 17th Aug
Moving from history and activism to comedy, next up on our Not-The-Edinburgh-Fringe top ten is The Odd Couple at The Everyman in Cork. Best known through Gene Saks’ film version starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, Neil Simon’s play about two mismatched housemates is a comedy classic. This production, directed by Conor Hanratty, promises all of the original humour, with an up to date splash of comedy as the gender-swapped casting plays with the original script.
Bingo Wings, On Tour, Sept - Oct.
We may be creeping into September with this one, but we all need something to wean ourselves off of the theatrical mania of August. Last but not least in our list is Fidget Feet’s new work Bingo Wings. Touring to the Lime Tree Theatre in Limerick, An Grianán in Letterkenny and Siamsa Tíre in Tralee, Bingo Wings is described as a “family friendly inter-generational show.” Telling a story of an attempted rigging at the bingo in the town of Ballydawn, Fidget Feet’s latest offering looks to be a feast of theatrical family fun.
Give your Edinburgh Fringe envy the boot and head out to see what’s on your doorstep.