THUNK! The Edinburgh Fringe brochure has arrived – all 438 pages of it. This year there are 3,314 shows, of which around 1,120 are comedy. It’s enough to make even the hardiest fan quail. And while the magic of the Fringe lies in the discoveries and surprises it throws up, here are some shows that are worth booking ahead for now.
Daniel Kitson is bringing his latest, Polyphony, an "epic" play featuring 20 characters, all recorded on cassette, to Summerhall. It will likely sell out fast as will Stewart Lee's A Room with a Stew at The Assembly Rooms and Bridget Christie, who has a new show to promote her literary debut, A Book For Her, at The Stand. Johnny Vegas will make a rare live outing to celebrate the Gilded Balloon’s 30th anniversary on 15 August on a starry bill alongside Alan Davies and Tommy Tiernan, among others.
All eyes will be on rising television stars Katherine Ryan, whose Kathbum, about writing a speech for her sister’s wedding, among other things, is at The Stand, and incoming Daily Show host Trevor Noah, who will do three nights only at the Assembly Hall.
The Last Leg favourite Adam Hills will do eight nights at the same venue. Both Tim Key and Mark Watson will be workshopping new shows, at the Pleasance Courtyard and The Stand, respectively, while Al Murray’s Pub Landlord is back from the political frontline to hold a “Summer Saloon” in the Assembly Gardens. Brilliant sketchers Max and Ivan (last seen mumbling in meetings on W1A) will tell the story of a small town called Sudley-on-Sea at Pleasance Dome while Holly Burn – she of the pitch-perfect Victoria Beckham parody – appears as “Kirsty K” at Just the Tonic.
For something a little different, The Missing Hancocks, Neil Pearson’s show based on four newly rediscovered Tony Hancock plays from 1955 and 1956 - with Kevin McNally as The Lad Himself - looks intriguing at the Assembly Rooms. From Adam Riches, the king of awkward interaction, comes Coach Coach, a "live sports movie" that will be high-octane and bonkers at Pleasance Dome. James Veitch is talking about his time working as a Genius in the Apple Store, former Harry Potter star Jessie Cave is talking about having a baby and Adrienne Truscott is talking about, well I’m not sure, but her last show – performed without knickers - was a blast.
I’d book for any or all of the reliably excellent Nina Conti, Carl Donnelly, Joe Lycett, David O’Doherty, or Blackadder legend John Lloyd, whose last Edinburgh show was witty charm personified. James Acaster, Ivo Graham, John Robins and Liam Williams are all on the cusp of great things - catch them now. Aisling Bea, Alex Edelman, Dane Baptiste, Rhys James and Gein’s Family Giftshop are returning for their second years and are deserving of packed houses.
As for newcomers, I’m intrigued to see Adam Hess, who makes me howl on Twitter, Phil Wang’s new sketch trio Daphne, Danish stand-up and podcast queen Sofie Hagen, and new Footlights alumna Emma Sidi, purely on the basis of a daft spoof contemporary dance video she posted online the other day. Lolly Adefope, the already award-bothering Amir Khoshsokhan, Elliot Steel (son of The Independent's star columnist, Mark Steel) and pop parodist Jenny Bede are also ones to watch. Get booking.
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