Beachy Head, Pleasance, Edinburgh
The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church, Traverse, Edinburgh
Midsummer (A Play with Songs), Traverse, Edinburgh
Chronicles of Long Kesh, Assembly, Edinburgh

Death permeates the stages of Edinburgh this year, but there's some hope among the doom and gloom

This is Beachy Head, the south coast's notorious suicide spot. A woman named Amy stands on the clifftop, staring over the edge into the darkness. She is struggling to cope with the recent death of her husband, who chose to end it all here.

In fact, Emma Jowett – the pale, thin actress playing Amy – isn't standing still. In this absorbing piece – devised by the young troupe Analogue – she is expressionistically sliding across the stage, clinging to a narrow platform on wheels. It's as if she is reeling from grief. A stagehand is pushing her and – as she leans out to stare down – another cast member suddenly billows her hair back, by swishing a sheet of cardboard.

Beachy Head is most inspired when it's lo-tech. Its live video projections and digitally modified images aren't always so good. The ghost of Amy's spouse, Stephen, (played by Sam Taylor) – implicitly in her mind's eye – appears on the set's rolling screens looking appallingly pixillated. He's a mass of juddering rectangles which is far from atmospheric.

Analogue wants Beachy Head to be objectively scientific in parts. Woven into the plot is an anti-emotional pathologist who, unbelievably, leaves a message on Amy's phone about common injuries sustained, severed feet and so on. Nonetheless, Amy's journey towards letting go of the past becomes, gradually, poignant. And it is tied in with an astute, barbed depiction of two documentary makers who've caught Stephen's suicide on film and persuade themselves that tracking his story and Amy's isn't exploitative.

In terms of recurrent themes, this year's Edinburgh Fringe is strikingly morbid. Not exactly festive. However, the comedian turned storyteller Daniel Kitson's new monologue, The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church, is a wonderfully idiosyncratic epistolary drama.

Kitson is a weirdie-beardie with pebble glasses and a paunch. Draping his tweed jacket over a rickety pine chair, he relates the strange tale of how he was innocently house-hunting, in an English village, when he discovered an attic stuffed with letters: 30,659 of them to be precise, including the last – seemingly a suicide note – still furled in the ex-inhabitant's dusty typewriter.

Kitson then takes us through his two-year, obsessive-compulsive reading of these carbon-copied reams: his personal mission to rescue the late Mr Church from oblivion.

The Interminable Suicide ... ought to be dreary, but it's gently hilarious and unexpectedly comforting. Kitson relishes quirkily eloquent turns of phrase: twinkling verbal pirouettes about his pathological fondness for glimpsed lives and about hauling himself into the attic in spite of his unmanageable heft.

Furthermore, the first flurry of missives from Church threatening suicide – apparently sent to the local rag, the Inland Revenue, a boy he saw bullied at the bus stop, and others – results in a trove of flamboyantly truculent correspondence and friendships. Kitson creates a remarkably sympathetic biography of a nobody here. A lovely antidote to celebrititis, The Interminable Suicide ... is an ingeniously simple and hopeful piece of work, turning loneliness into communion.

The latest play from writer-director David Greig – entitled Midsummer (A Play with Songs), with a nod to Shakespeare's Dream – is concerned, in turn, about dropping dead. But this is a midlife-crisis romcom with a carpe diem impulse.

Cora Bissett's Helena is a swanky Edinburgh lawyer, who reckons she's only after a one-night stand when she picks up Matthew Pidgeon's Bob, a frustrated criminal lowlifer. They go on a wild bender and both prove more tenderhearted than they think, bridging the class divide and ditching their old lives.

Sometimes Greig's sense of humour feels a mite immature, or like an attempt to be populist, especially when it comes to the caricatured mafia subplot. But it's hard not to be charmed by his two rumbustious actors. Bissett has gorgeous, what-the-hell vivacity. Pidgeon makes whoopie with abandon, when they hurl themselves into bed. And this is a refreshingly alternative musical, too, with the duo stepping out of the action to strum guitars and mellifluously croon nu-folk songs (by co-writer Gordon McIntyre).

On the subject of off-beat musicals, it's also surprisingly entertaining to find shorn-headed political prisoners breaking into a cappella disco hits in Chronicles of Long Kesh, from Northern Ireland. Martin Lynch's play is mainly, and most importantly, a docudrama, moving from the humorous to the harrowing. Based on interviews with ex-inmates and guards (from both sides of the religious divide), it bears witness to what it was like being stuck in the grim Maze Prison during the Troubles and its era of internment without trial.

The cast speeds through the years, boldly mixing verbatim-style authenticity and stylisation, with role-swapping and vigorous mime on a set of battered rostra. In the final scene, brutally beaten-up hunger strikers stagger to their feet and stubbornly chorus one last song from their cells: "All Right Now" by Free; pop turned into a startlingly trenchant protest song.

'Beachy Head' (0131 556 6550) to 30 Aug; 'The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church' and 'Midsummer' (0131-228 1404) both to 30 Aug; 'Chronicles of Long Kesh' (0131-623 3030) to 30 Aug

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Anthony Hopkins in Westworld

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Rock and role: Jamie Bell's character Benjamin Grimm is transformed into 'Thing' in the film adaptation of Marvel Comics' 'Fantastic Four'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Hopkins veered between sycophancy and insult in her new chat show
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
In his role as Hamlet, Benedict Cumberbatch will have to learn, and repeat night after night, around 1,480 lines

Arts and Entertainment
Belgian sexologist Goedele Liekens with pupils at Hollins Technology College in Accrington
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Judges Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
The rapper Drake

Arts and Entertainment
The gaffer: Prince Philip and the future Queen in 1947
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Style icons: The Beatles on set in Austria
Arts and Entertainment
By Seuss! ‘What Pet Shall I Get?’ hits the bookshops this week
Arts and Entertainment
The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after Enola Gray and her crew dropped the bomb
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Elliott outside his stationery store that houses a Post Office
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Film review Tom Cruise, 50, is still like a puppy in this relentless action soap opera

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Off the wall: the cast of ‘Life in Squares’

Arts and Entertainment

Books And it is whizzpopping!

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future
    Berlusconi's world of sleaze: The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM

    Berlusconi's world of sleaze

    The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM
    Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

    Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

    Films and theme parks are just the beginning. Disney believes its control of the now decades-old franchise can bring in merchandise and marketing millions for years to come
    Could the golden age of the gaming arcade ever be revived in the era of the Xbox?

    Could gaming arcades be revived?

    The days when coin-ops were the only way to play the latest video games are gone. But a small band of enthusiasts are keeping the button-pushing dream alive
    Edinburgh Fringe 2015: The 'tampon tax' has inspired a new wave of female comedians to reclaim period jokes

    Heard the one about menstruation?

    Yes, if you have been at the Fringe, where period pieces are taking centre stage