Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

edinburgh fringe 2023

Edinburgh Fringe: 10 of the best comedy and theatre shows to watch

As the Fringe returns, Isobel Lewis has waded through the thousands of names in the programme to find you 10 shows to watch

Friday 04 August 2023 06:30 BST
Comments
Clockwise from top left: Mat Ewins, ‘Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder’, Emmanuel Sonubi, Meg Stalter and Patrick McPherson
Clockwise from top left: Mat Ewins, ‘Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder’, Emmanuel Sonubi, Meg Stalter and Patrick McPherson (Handouts/The Independent)

Dust off your waterproofs and prepare yourself for a diet mostly consisting of macaroni cheese pies. Yes, the Edinburgh Fringe – the world’s biggest arts festival – is back, with performers of all types descending upon the Scottish capital for a summer of late nights, long walks and lols.

While this year’s Fringe programme might be a bit lacking on the household name front (many of them choosing to give this year’s festival a miss or perform at the first Roundhouse Comedy Festival instead), 2023’s festival provides a great opportunity for punters to take a chance and discover their new favourite performers. Here you’ll find first-timers arriving to make their reputations, some returning stars of 2022 and a few festival stalwarts, all hoping to produce the next hit of the Fringe.

I’m always a big proponent of opening the Fringe guide on a random page and picking an act with the stab of a finger – or the 2023 version of randomly selecting a show on the thankfully returned app (yes, it’s back after being controversially axed last year). However, for anyone looking for recommendations, here are 10 shows worth seeing at this year’s Fringe.

Christopher Bliss: An Evening with Christopher Bliss

It won’t stop raining and the rental market is a mess – 2023 has been tough on all of us, so who better to guide you through an hour of August than the softly-spoken Christopher Bliss. The creation of character comedian Rob Carter, Bliss – “Shropshire’s worst novelist” and a “son-of-two” – is a sweet, small-town boy with big dreams. But don’t let his demure delivery trick you; among the poetry and lighthearted audience interaction, you’ll find a set packed with comedy gold.

Monkey Barrel Comedy, 3-10 August, 4.45pm

Hello Kitty Must Die

Hello Kitty Must Die, based on Angela S Choi’s novel of the same name, is a dark comedy about Asian-American identity. The titular girl-cat hybrid represents the pressures placed on the lead by her duel identities, in a musical described during its New York run as “Ali Wong meets American Psycho”. Sign us up.

Pleasance Courtyard, 3-27 August (not 8 and 22), 4.50pm

Marjolein Robertson: Marj

Scottish comedian Marjolein Robertson returns to the Fringe with a hell of a lot of hype. Last year, she was a finalist in both the BBC New Comedy and Funny Women Awards, mining her upbringing on the island of Shetland for all its worth with a side-splitting routine about showing up to uni with a suitcase full of lamb meat (from her parents’ farm, naturally). Her 2022 Fringe run sold out and she’s back this year with a new show recommended by Fringe royalty Frankie Boyle. Stardom, I suspect, is imminent.

The Stand Comedy Club, 3-28 August (not 14), 5pm

Bangers

Part-theatrical performance, part-UK garage club night, Danusia Samal’s Bangers incorporates original rap and R&B tracks into its coming-of-age story. We follow two teenagers coming of age amid London’s hectic nightlife, in this pacey play that debuted at Soho Theatre last year.

Roundabout @ Summerhall, 2-27 August (not 8, 15 and 22), 6.50pm

An Evening of Mayhem with Meg Stalter

No one does delusion quite like the US comic Meg Stalter. Online, Stalter specialises in cringe characters, from the “cool girl” attempting to flirt while playing pool at a bar to the corporations greeting that attempts to appeal to LGBT+ customers with the words: “Hi, gay” during Pride Month. On stage, Stalter infuses those same excruciating character traits into her stand-up, pushing her on-stage persona to an 11. As you watch the Hacks star, expect to laugh and squirm in equal measure.

Gilded Balloon Teviot, 12-27 (not 24), 8.30pm

Emmanuel Sonubi: Curriculum Vitae

The antithesis of those twentysomethings who have “never wanted to do anything but comedy”, Emmanuel Sonubi has lived one hell of a life. The comic only recently fell into stand-up, but has quickly carved a name out for himself, his past lives not only providing him with material but an ease on stage. In his 2022 show Emancipation, which earned him a Best Newcomer nomination at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards, Sonubi spoke about his time as a nightclub bouncer and background in musical theatre, while Curriculum Vitae will see him discuss his other trajectories. The term “club comic” is sometimes used as a pejorative, but you’ll struggle to find a slicker crowd-pleaser than Sonubi.

Underbelly Bristo Square, 2-28 August (not 14), 8.10pm

Emmanuel Sonubi (BBC)

Patrick McPherson: The Way, Way Deep

One year after he swept the Fringe with his solo show Colossal, the writer and actor Patrick McPherson is back with his new one-man play The Way, Way Deep. Interweaving theatre, comedy, music and spoken word, McPherson’s explores ideas around friendship, memory and the experience of being in your mid-twenties.

Underbelly Cowgate, 3-27 August (not 14), 5.20pm

Catherine Cohen: Come for Me

There are certain things you expect from a Catherine Cohen show: her luxuriating old Hollywood drawl, the bejewelled outfits, the confessional comedy songs. The US comedian provided this all in her award-winning debut Fringe hour The Twist…? She’s Gorgeous (since turned into a Netflix special), and brings it back by the bucketload with her new show, Come for Me. Expect candid sex stories and millennial angst, put to a lilting jazzy melody and served with a smile.

Pleasance Courtyard, 14-27 August (not 22 and 23), 10.30pm

Mat Ewins: Mr TikTok

In 2022, the Edinburgh Fringe was flooded with “TikTok comedians” of varying quality. Then there was Mat Ewins – the creme-de-la-creme of wacky video comedy, despite him having virtually no online presence. In Mr TikTok, the comedian (ignore the “ventriloquism” and “flamenco” categories on his Fringe site listing) expands with his specialist brand of multimedia comedy, as he continues his quest to become “the king of online”. Despite Ewins having more than a decade of Fringe shows under his belt, he still feels like a comedian’s comedian. Being a fan, I promise, will earn you serious Fringe kudos.

Monkey Barrel Comedy, 2-27 August, 9.15pm

Kathy and Stella Solve A Murder

Has the world had enough of true crime? Not if Kathy and Stella, the stars of Hull’s least successful murder podcast, have anything to do with it! In this comedy musical, which originally appeared in a shorter run in 2022, the two women put their sleuthing to the test as they’re tasked with solving an actual IRL murder. With the team behind previous Fringe hits Baby Reindeer, A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad), and a little show called Fleabag at the helm, this new musical feels like a surefire winner.

Underbelly George Square, 2-27 August, 7.30pm

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in