#EdFringe2019: More shows on our radar

We’ve been in Edinburgh for a couple of weeks now, hunting down the best & most Bechdel-friendly theatre, comedy and performance – and there are still 10 more days left to catch any you’ve missed out on so far!

If you’re in Edinburgh for this final stretch and still looking for recommendations with representation in mind, we can guarantee that a scroll through this list and our pre-Fringe shows-to-see blog will leave you spoilt for choice, whether you’re looking for belly-shaking lols, heartbreaking drama, or mind-expanding live art.

We’ve also recorded three podcasts so far, featuring some of the finest Fringe artists (in our opinion) listen to: Mika Johnson & Teddy Lamb talking Pink Lemonade & Since U Been Gone, Travis Alabanza on Burgerz, and Emily Aboud & Charlotte Dowding chatting about Splintered – they also all have some great recommendations to offer.

We’ll be back at the end of the festival to give you a more detailed write-up of our very favourite shows from #EdFringe2019. Don’t forget to keep an eye on our insta stories and twitter feed for constant updates on our stickering adventures, and reactions to the shows we love most.

Deer Woman 14:30 CanadaHub

Presented by Indigenous Contemporary Scene, ARTICLE 11’s Deer Woman is a comedic-dramatic solo warrior-woman work of righteous vengeance about one of 1,600 officially recognised missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada.

Life’s No Laughing Matter 13:00 Summerhall

Life is No Laughing Matter’s a performance about mental illness, suicide and radical cure attempts. It tells the exhausting and hilarious account of living with depression, from the urgency of finding a cure, dissecting the cultural disease, to eating a f*ck ton of bananas. Expect shit metaphors, codependency, holy water and Yoko Ono.

Citizens of Nowhere? 14:00/16:00 Sweet Novotel

British-Chinese matriarch Linda Lo shares news with her son, Jun Chi and daughter, Jane; but Jane has big news too. This intimate performance by actors seated among the audience is experienced through headphones, as if eavesdropping, and includes light refreshments.

Desiree Burch: Desiree’s Coming Early 19:40 Heroes @ The Hive

At a time when progress has given way to authoritarianism and disintegration, comedian and storyteller Desiree Burch embarks on a soul-searching journey of mythically ridiculous proportions in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, to learn something deeper about how she, and all of us, have gotten here.

E8 16:10 Pleasance Dome

‘When you see a scar you know someone’s had pain, but if you can’t see it how would you know?’ In a school for excluded pupils in Hackney, Bailey waits for a decision that could change her life, whilst her headteacher prepares to leave it all behind. Marika Mckennell’s new play is directed by Fringe First winner Ria Parry.

Cerys Bradley & Rachel Wheeley: The Unfortunate Bisexual 21:00 The Street

What does it mean to be bisexual? No, actually, what does it mean? Are we doing it right? How can you tell? Join us for an hour of comedy as confusing as coming out. As ridiculous as explaining the ins and outs of attraction to everyone you meet. There will be jokes, tangents and graphs, because why have one thing when you can have many?

Kill The Princess 15:40 Heroes @ The Spiegelyurt

What happens when the glass slipper doesn’t fit? Is it time to put a bullet in the princess’ head? In a savagely playful subversion of identity Lizzy Shakespeare and Michelle Madsen upend beliefs and expectations using clown, spoken word and live art to create a genre-defying work which teases and provokes.

Kayla MacQuarrie: Traumatised 11:45 Just The Tonic @ The Mash House

Kayla MacQuarrie is Traumatised. She’ll tell lots of jokes about it though so stick with her and we’ll all be okay. From an Essex-based, sad, weird kid to a less sad, trans, lesbian loudmouth. She’s grown up, gotten hurt and she’s still here and ready to share in her debut hour. 

Sons & Co: Let’s Get Tough 12:00 Laughing Horse @ Raging Bull

Have you ever felt you’re not tough enough? Well two problematic fools are here to teach you how to grab life by the knackers. Imogen Edmundson and Fi Simpson (aka Sons & Co.) are preparing for a national tour of their self-defence and assertiveness workshop.

Traumgirl 20:10 Summerhall (odd dates)

Kim is an actress. She is also a sex worker, a bartender, German, Polish and more. Which identity is most important? Kim takes an auto-fictional approach to explore what a woman is allowed to reveal about herself. Where do your boundaries lie? Created in response to Traumboy, a performance by a male sex worker.

Witch Hunt 17:30 Pleasance Dome

A&E Comedy return following last year’s Enter The Dragons which was one of our EdFringe Faves last year. These coven-ready weird sisters will be brewing a cautionary tale for our time as they ask who really holds the power in a world where the witches are hunting and predators have become the prey.

Neither Here Nor There 19:15 Summerhall

Sonia and Jo are two middle-aged, award-winning, international provincial artists. They have questions about how it’s all going, big questions about the world and small questions about the state of your garden. They’re hosting a series of 6 minute conversations, and would like you to join them.

Prefer Not To Say 13:20 Paradise In The Vault

In a series of verbatim monologues, Prefer Not To Say recalls testimonies of real-life people within the LGBTQ+ community. Through first-hand accounts you are taken on a journey of liberation, strength and empowerment.

Bystanders 11:30 Summerhall

A Windrush generation boxer, a Polish migrant marked with a tattoo and a man with a bottle of gin and a television in his shopping trolley. Last seen at the Fringe with Cathy in 2017, Cardboard Citizens return with an eye-opening collection of homeless histories. Are we mere bystanders?

In PurSUEt 12:10 The Space @ Niddry Street

Inspired by true events: a passionate Sue Perkins Superfan, sent to a therapist to deal with her drinking, relays her adventures pursuing Sue. Follow our heroines impressive swagger skills, drinking habits and coping mechanisms in a fierce, heartfelt new LGBT comedy/drama.

The Hiccup Project: Lovely Girls 20:50 Zoo Southside

The Hiccup Project are often introduced as ‘the lovely hiccup girls’. At first, they didn’t react, because women are supposed to be lovely. But then they started to wonder what else they could be… Using their blend of dance, theatre and comedy, they delve into the contradictions and clichés of being a woman today.

Anguis 14:00 Gilded Balloon Teviot

Cleopatra’s death by asp is a common myth, largely scientifically disproven. Set in a broadcast recording center, Anguis is an imagined conversation between the great pharaoh Cleopatra and a contemporary immunologist. Anguis is the debut play from Olivier Award winner Sheila Atim.

The Patient Gloria (times vary) Traverse Theatre 

Inspired by the 1965 films Three Approaches To Psychotherapy (the Gloria Films), this provocative and upfront meditation on therapy and female desire in a new political context where misogyny is the winning ticket, is a mash-up of re-enactment, real footage, lived experience and a punk gig.

Sarah Keyworth: Pacific 17:45 Pleasance Courtyard

Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee for Best Newcomer and winner of the Herald Angel Award returns with a brand-new hour of comedy about the little things, the smallest details, the fixed and distinct aspects that make up what we definitively are, how we expressly think and who we unambiguously love.

Honeybee 19:15 Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

HoneyBee is a new play written by the award-winning poet Eleanor Dillon-Reams, combining spoken word, dance, stand-up and a thumping festival-driven soundtrack. Kate journeys to rediscover her identity and self-worth while flipping the bird to the patriarchy and dancing in the face of adversity.

Alaska 14:00 Summerhall

Alaska is a funny, magical trip to the moon, with singing and dancing thrown in: one woman’s extraordinary story of how she survived growing up with severe depression. 

Hearty 21:10 Summerhall

Bearing wings made of sharp knives and shooting fireballs into the air, Hearty tackles the current fascination with trans lives and interrogates the controversial bio-technology of HRT. It’s messy, it’s on fire and it’s politically charged. By double Fringe First award-winner Emma Frankland.

The Rebirth of Meadow Rain 13:00 Pleasance Courtyard

Meadow Rain would like to say sorry. Sorry for disappearing. Sorry for being a bad friend. And sorry for calling her best friend a rude word. Meadow is also sorry for keeping secrets… A funny, touching and visceral piece which seeks to change perceptions of emotional abuse and what a victim can look like. 

Bossy Bottom 19:30 Monkey Barrel

Zoë has been on hiatus. Sort of. For the past six years, she’s been a terrible male comedian with a neckbeard called Dave, winning stacks of awards and tons of great reviews. Whatever. Now, she’s scraped off the neckbeard and is back… as herself.

I’ll Take You To Mrs Cole 13:45 Pleasance Courtyard

It’s 1981 and ska music pulses. Young Ashley creates havoc by getting lost in a wild, imaginative world while Mum longs to return home to Barbados. When Jedi battles and forest adventures go too far, will Mum resort to the scariest threat of all? Accompanied by an original soundtrack and stunning video animation. 

Courtney Pauroso: Gutterplum 21:40 Underbelly Cowgate

American comedian Courtney Pauroso makes her Edinburgh Fringe debut with a character clown show (definitely), burlesque show (eventually) and feminist allegory (sure, probably) all rolled into one.

Too Pretty To Punch 13:25 Zoo Southside

A comedy spoken word show about gender, the media and not fitting any of the boxes, full of explosive movement, original songs and kickass video projection. Edalia Day is a banjo-wielding, poetry-slam-winning, trans warrior, taking on the world one troll at a time. All shows include captioning.

Yuriko Kotani: Somosomo 19:00 Pleasance Courtyard

They say the squeaky wheel gets the grease, but Yuriko has spent her life making sure she doesn’t stick out. Born and raised in Japan, watch Yuriko walk the tightrope of cultural differences as she embraces her individuality with this hotly anticipated debut hour.

Ask A Stripper 19:50 Bob’s Blundabus

Pulling back the G-string and dishing the dirt stripper-style, join Morag and Stacey for an X-rated exposé of their industry. With 30 years of combined stripping experience, a PhD, a TED Talk, a book, three properties and several ex-fiancés later, the creative team behind Illicit Thrill bare their souls, not just their bodies. 

Misspelled Youth 23:00 Bar Bados

An action-packed hour combining elements of storytelling, clown and cabaret, themed around coming-of-age sexual awakenings and queer adolescence. Lauren and Giulia will take you on the ride of your life. 

Everything I See I Swallow 18:00 Summerhall

Everything I See I Swallow is a provocative examination of a mother/daughter relationship, set against a backdrop of shifting attitudes to empowerment, feminism and sexuality. Fusing theatre and aerial rope work with the erotic art of Japanese rope bondage, shibari, Swallow is an unusual and compelling encounter.

Madame Ovary 12:10 Pleasance Dome

Rosa is writing resolutions. She is going to stop going out with plonkers, start doing yoga and write some really good art. But before she’s had time to delete her dating apps and get into downward dog, she’s diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Suddenly faced with her own mortality, Rosa’s new goal for the year ahead is to survive it.

Lucy Hopkins: Ceremony of Golden Truth 21:00 Heroes @ The Spiegelyurt

A collective act of golden manifestation. A sacred laughter bath of an interactive symphonic ceremony, orchestrated by Lucy Hopkins: a preposterously dazzling goddess internationally-touring, award-winning clown, priestess, director and lover of humans.

Watching Glory Die 13:50 Assembly Rooms

Watching Glory Die is inspired by the shocking and true story of Canadian teenager Ashley Smith, who died by suicide in her prison cell while guards watched. This production by Windsor Feminist Theatre is directed by the play’s Susan Smith Blackburn Award-winning playwright Judith Thompson.

R’n’J: The Untold Story of Shakespeare’s Roz n Jules 12:45 Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose

Juliet is double pregnant, Rosaline decides she does indeed want Romeo dick, but Romeo is definitely dead. Join Roz and Jules on an epic Thelma and Louise-style multimedia tragicomedy adventure in clearing their good names, healing age-old family strife and safely delivering those babies!

The Afflicted 19:30 Summerhall

Inspired by real events, this new dance-theatre piece tells the story of a mysterious illness that infects a group of young women in small-town America. As the girls and their families search for a diagnosis to their strange affliction, they come face to face with their personal and collective demons.

Njambi McGrath: Accidental Coconut 16:05 Just The Tonic at Marlin’s Wynd

Brexit seems inescapable as the British stand at the crossroads of self-identity and nostalgia of a bygone era of an empire. In the era when the British people are re-examining who they are as a people, and in relation to the rest of the world, Njambi scrutinises her own story; from the other side of the empire.

The Last Of The Pelican Daughters 16:40 Pleasance Courtyard

Joy wants a baby, Storm wants to be seen, Sage wants to be paid, Maia doesn’t want anyone to find out her secret and Granny’s in a wheelchair on day release. The Wardrobe Ensemble grapple with inheritance, loss and justice in this comedy about four sisters trying to come to terms with their mother’s death. 

Lucy McCormick: Post Popular 20:00 Pleasance Courtyard

Lucy McCormick is back to crawl through the annals of history in this enthusiastically humiliating exploration of power and purpose. Joined by friends with benefits, Samir Kennedy and Rhys Hollis, Lucy is back with her trademark concoction of dance, song, absurdist art and minor breakdowns.

Shit Theatre Drink Rum With Ex-Pats 20:05 Summerhall

Celebrating their final year as Europeans, island monkeys Becca and Louise got invited to the 2018 European Capital of Culture in Malta. Lads on tour and ‘the rising stars of performance art’ (Telegraph) Sh!t Theatre went to drink rum with Brits abroad but found mystery and murder in the fight to be European. 

Daddy Drag 17:45 Summerhall

Good dads, daft dads, dads who wear slogan t-shirts, dads that put on barbecues, dads that tell dad jokes, dads that are bad at dancing. Leyla Josephine attempts to understand what it means to be a father through her witty performance style, drag costumes and complex but unconditional love for her dad.

Cauliflower 15:30 Bar Bados

‘There’s nothing like the taste of my Mum’s cauliflower cheese, the feeling of it sliding down my throat and into my belly.’ Ellie is twenty-three and feeding herself is a minefield. This comedic solo show blends storytelling, spoken word and music exploring food, growing up and our relationships with our mums.

I’m Just Kidneying 14:00 Sweet Novotel

Amanda donated her kidney for her sister. But she wasn’t a match. Yet, she saved two lives. What?! Sounds like an incredibly heroic sacrifice, but Amanda loves attention, so it worked out for everyone. From carrying her urine on the NYC subway to passing resounding farts, this comedy questions what it takes to be a “hero.”

The Patient Gloria (times vary) Traverse Theatre

Inspired by the 1965 films Three Approaches To Psychotherapy (the Gloria Films), this provocative and upfront meditation on therapy and female desire in a new political context where misogyny is the winning ticket, is a mash-up of re-enactment, real footage, lived experience and a punk gig.

Female Role Model Project 12:00 Bedlam Theatre

The Female Role Model Project is an interactive theatrical experience paired with neuroscience celebrating female pioneers. It combines performance and interactive games with live recordings of neural activity from actors and audiences using EEG headsets.

Kanata Cabaret Hour 19:00 CanadaHub

Kanata: the Haudenosaunee word for Canada. Kanata Cabaret Hour: a radical offering of dance, music and live art from uniquely Indigenous and Scottish perspectives. This isn’t your coloniser’s cabaret, it’s self-determined Indigenous badassery! Presented by Indigenous Contemporary Scene.

Oh Yes Oh No 19:20 Summerhall 

This is about having sexual fantasies that don’t align with your politics. About understanding what you want and wondering how to ask for it. Award-winning performance artist Louise Orwin asks the difficult questions, taking you on a surreal joyride through female sexuality and violence. 

Your Sexts Are Shit: Older Better Letters 11:30 Summerhall

Rachel Mars is unearthing the hot-as-hell letters from history that make sexts blush. Before tech, there were hand-written letters. And loads of them were proper filthy. Come! Take pleasure in James Joyce’s passion for arse, find out who sneaked her gay lover into the White House and bear witness to the best/worst sexts ever sent.

Jamie Loftus: Boss Whom Is Girl 22:45 Pleasance Courtyard

Learn how to empower yourself by participating in capitalism in this fabulous keynote speech from Silicon Valley girlboss and founder of Pee-Pee Smarthomes, Shell Gasoline-Sandwich, as played by LA comedian Jamie Loftus.


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Shows to see at #EdFringe2019

Here they are, with ONE MONTH TO GO – our pre-Edinburgh Fringe picks for 2019.

Listed below are our choices of shows on our radar, to help you plan your Fringe trip, entirely free of posh white guys with microphones (we’ve heard quite enough from those dudes, thanksvmuch).

These are the shows that are the very TOP of our to-see list, by the artists we trust to make exciting work. They make up a tiny selection of the shows we’re excited to see in a festival with literally thousands of options. If you want to browse a bigger list, we are sharing our shows-to-see spreadsheet for the first time this year, and we’ll be doing our best over the summer to keep it updated for your convenience. Follow us on twitter, instagram, and fb, and subscribe to our podcast for updates of more favourites & hot tips as and when seen them.

If you’re an artist going to Edinburgh with a show that you think we should be talking about, please contact us by email: hello@bechdeltheatre.com. And make sure you say hi if you see us walking around Edinburgh!

If you enjoy our Fringe coverage, please support our work by becoming a Patreon, buying us a ko-fi, or donating to our GoFundMe. Bechdel Theatre has no outside funding and exists independent of any bigger organisations, and would not exist without the financial support of individuals who value the work we put into championing the theatre that we want to see more of.

All the ways to support our work, whether you have money or none, are on our SUPPORT US page.

Happy Bechdel testing ❤

Beth & Pippa

PS. If you’re NOT going to Edinburgh Fringe this year, or don’t have time while you’re there to cram all these amazing shows in – we got you covered! Many of these productions are previewing so we’re flagging those up below, and as always we’ll be updating you on our podcast and social media whenever they announce a new transfer or tour. You will not miss out!

Bible John Pleasance Courtyard 15:50

Bible John was an Old Testament-quoting serial killer who murdered women in 1969, and has never been caught. In 2019, four women bound by their obsession with true crime try to solve the case, once and for all in an exploration of violence, gender and one of Scotland’s darkest mysteries. A show for anyone who has ever pondered why so many consumers of the “true-crime” podcast genre are often those most likely to be victims of violent crimes.

Not going to Edinburgh? Bible John previews in London at Omnibus in Clapham on July 22 & 23.

Bible John

FOC It Up Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose 23:15

Hosted by inimitable comedy talent Kemah Bob, FOC It Up is the night that recognises and represents the fierce, fabulous and funny perspectives of women, trans and non-binary comedians of colour. FOC stand for ‘Femmes Of Colour’, but it also stands for ‘Future Of Comedy’: They disrupt the status quo, fight tokenism and spill diversi-tea with a 100% no-white-dudes-onstage guarantee – and there’s nowhere that needs that guarantee more than Edinburgh Fringe.

Not in Edinburgh? Follow FOC It Up on fb for upcoming London shows

Burgerz

Burgerz Traverse Theatre (times vary)

After someone threw a burger at them and shouted a transphobic slur, performance artist Travis Alabanza became obsessed with burgers. This show is the climax of their obsession: exploring how trans bodies survive and how, by them reclaiming an act of violence, we can address our own complicity. We’ve fallen in love with Travis’ work, from their phenomenal performance in 2018’s ‘Jubilee’ to their beautifully vulnerable dialogue on intimacy & loneliness ‘I Tried To F*ck Up the System But None Of My Friends Texted Back’, so we’re counting down the days til we get to see this hotly-tipped solo performance.

Not going to Edinburgh? Burgerz post-Fringe European tour dates

Splintered Bedlam Theatre 21:30

A brand new cabaret-theatre show from Lagahoo (lead by Emily Aboud, one of the most exciting young theatre directors around and the cabaret artist behind drag king ‘TriniDad & TooGayThough’). Splintered is based on interviews with women in Trinidad and Tobago and devised with a team of actors. Expect lip-sync, drag, carnival, and a show unlike anything to ever grace Edinburgh Fringe. ‘This is a show about Caribbean people being queer. In our experience, it is damned hard’.

Not going to Edinburgh? Splintered is previewing at The Bunker on July 28.

Butch Princesa SpiegelYurt 18:20

Character comedy, dance and Latin beats guide you deep into a surreal queer immigrant wonderland. Sharp-suited feminist dream-clown Andrea Spisto promises you “an unflinchingly emotional art explosion”, and if her previous Fringe show was anything to go by (‘Miss Venezuela ‘- one of our favourite brand new Edinburgh discoveries of 2018) this show will be the sexiest intersectional comedy art show you could ever imagine.

Not going to Edinburgh? Butch Princesa is at the Arcola on July 19

Butch Princesa
Photo: Jahel Guerra

Cactus Bar Bados 20:15

Award-winning spoken-word artist Jemima Foxtrot’s solo show features new poems and songs exploring what it means to put your life into your art. Jemima’s voice is a ray of sunshine that we bet will cut through the grey Edinburgh rain as she reminds us how to find excitement in the tiniest of every day things.

Electrolyte Pleasance Courtyard 17:20

Last year we featured Electrolyte on our Fringe Faves list, calling it the ULTIMATE gig theatre. It went on to win an astonishing list of awards, including: The Mental Health Fringe Award, The Stepladder Award, The LET Award, The Voice Mag Pick of The Fringe Award and the Pleasance Best Newcomer Award. We told you so. Luckily for anyone who missed it in 2018, Wildcard are bringing it back this year for a month-long run at the Pleasance Courtyard.

How To Catch A D*ck Pleasance Courtyard 20:15

Stand-up comic and TV star London Hughes’ Pleasance show explores, in her words: “how as a woman, you can be incredibly awesome and successful yet incredibly single, and how f*ckin’ ridiculous it is!” London is not exaggerating in the slightest when she says she’s incredibly awesome – she’s one of the most infectiously energetic stage performers we’ve ever seen in any context, and we are hyped to see her live again after she’s spent a couple of years building herself the kind of big-time household-name fame she deserves.

London Hughes

Collapsible Assembly Roxy 13:20

Essie’s lost her job. Her girlfriend’s left. But she’s alright. Except lately she feels more like a chair than a person. Collapsible is a new monologue about holding on in this collapsing world. Writer Margaret Perry is one to watch – she had her previous play produced at Ireland’s National Theatre: The Abbey in Dublin, has been commissioned by several London venues, and won an Origins award from VAULT Festival for Collapsible.

Not going to Edinburgh? Collapsible is coming to The Bush in February.

FATTY FAT FAT Pleasance Courtyard 15:15

We caught Katie Greenall’s FATTY FAT FAT in it’s first round of previews this year, and even in its early stages it was full of well-aimed laughs and powerful honesty. We’re not just saying this because we got offered crisps halfway through, but this show is a joyous hour as well as an important and challenging testimony of living in a body the world tells you to hate. Leave your diet books at the door.

Who Cares Summerhall 18:20

LUNG theatre company are well-reknowned for plays addressing social and political issues “with communities, by communities, and for communities”, and their latest Fringe offering stays true to that commitment. ‘Who Cares’ has been adapted from real-life testimonies to examine our failing care system, the impact of austerity and what happens when a child becomes the parent.

Who Cares

Backward Pleasance Courtyard 19:00

Rosie “triple threat” Jones is bringing her second hour of comedy to the Fringe to explore the difficulties of navigating the world whilst being the only disabled, gay, northern comedian with a penchant for sexual aggression. Rosie’s hilarious 2018 show ‘Fifteen Minutes’ was a massive hit, and she’s spent the last year growing her indomitable reputation even further – Fringe 2019 is hers for the taking.

Tricky Second Album Pleasance Dome 23:00

In Bed With My Brother (aka Nora, Dora, and Kat), promise that their new production is nothing like their previous show ‘We Are Ian’ (the incredible immersive theatrical-rave-experience inspired by their pal Ian’s account of living in 1980s Manchester). Even if ‘Tricky Second Album’ takes them in an entirely different direction from ‘Ian’, we trust them with an hour of our lives based on the fun we had in their company back in 2016. Also, they have the best website of any Fringe artist we’ve seen while researching this blog.

I, AmDram Pleasance Courtyard 14:00

Writer/performer Hannah Maxwell step-ball-changes between suburb and city, revealing her familial legacy: this queer London live-artist-type hails from four generations of leading ladies of the Welwyn Thalians Musical & Dramatic Society. Hannah’s debut solo show is not quite Gilbert and Sullivan, but the “Learned Urban Lesbian” does her family proud, regaling us with hilarious tales from her performance history with a warmth and affection which – while not uncritical of her hometown, left us with a spring in our steps when we caught an early draft of it last year.

Nightclubbing/OUT Summerhall 15:45

For the first half of the month (until the 11th) Rachael Young and her badass band of superhumans embrace Afrofuturism and the cult of Grace Jones in Nightclubbing. For the second half of the month (from the 13th) she will be joined by non-binary dancer/choreographer marikiscrycrycry to perform OUT: a duet defiantly challenging homophobia and transphobia, reclaiming Dancehall and celebrating Vogue culture.

Nightclubbing

Fix Us Underbelly Cowgate 12:20

BareFace Collective are Lee Philips, Zara Jayne and Kirsty Adams. Lee has autism, Zara has CHARGE syndrome and Kirsty has Cerebral Palsy. Three wild, wicked and wonderful individuals whose real-life inner anxieties clash with their flamboyant alter-egos. BareFace are not only putting disabled voices centre stage with their show – they’re also using social media to share access information for audience members across the festival. We highly recommend giving them a follow on twitter as well as going to see their show.

Not going to Edinburgh? Fix Us previews at the Kings Head in Islington on July 19th & 20th.

Algorithms Pleasance Courtyard 12:45

Algorithm’s protagonist Brooke is a rare millennial who seems to have it all: the job, the flat, the girlfriend… until things go tits up, just before her 30th birthday. This tragicomic play gives a unique insight into the world of online dating – through the eyes of a bisexual woman whose job is to write the algorithms for a dating website. Sadie Clark’s lovably hapless heroine will likely be sometimes-achingly-often-comically relatable for anyone in our online generation who has struggled with loneliness in a world where we’re meant to be more connected than ever.

Not going to Edinburgh? Algorithms has previews in North London, South London, and Norwich.

The LOL Word Gilded Balloon at Old Tolbooth Market 19:15

This mixed-bill of .LGBTQ+ women and non-binary comedians has introduced us to new favourite comics with a regularity that’s hard to keep up with. It’s a winning formula in which comics can comfortably perform their most marvellously queer material to a wildly friendly crowd, with only one rule: There’s no kicking down (no sexism, transphobia, racism, etc.) but plenty of punching the patriarchy. Their “prom” themed night at VAULT Festival earlier this year proved that The LOL Word isn’t just a reliable compilation staple with guaranteed laughs, it’s a whole night out with a loyal following who return enthusiastically for more than one hour.

Not in Edinburgh? Follow The LOL Word on twitter for announcements of shows throughout the year.

My Father the Tantric Masseur Assembly George Square Studios 22:10

Roann McCloskey is a post #MeToo, queer, British-Algerian woman on a journey of excruciating self-discovery between reserved English father turned Tantric Masseur and Muslim mother who insists on open dialogue. She promises to have us “laughing, crying and pondering the name you’ve given your genitals” – and that, despite the eye-catching name, it’s very much NOT all about a man. We have to say, despite the rules of the test we’re named after, we ARE very curious to hear about her Dad…

My Father The Tantric Masseur

Parakeet Roundabout @ Summerhall 17:05

This new musical from Brigitte Aphrodite (the poet, songwriter, feminist showgirl, and all-round good-soul behind 2015s My Beautiful Black Dog) is about finding your flock and ruffling feathers. In Margate, an isolated teenager forms a band and finds her voice with the help of a gang of parakeets. This show promises to introduce audiences to the new spirit of punk: punk with empathy, which sounds like the movement the world needs right now.

I’m A Phoenix, Bitch Pleasance Courtyard 17:30

Bryony Kimmings, arguably the Queen of the Fringe is returning after an eventful couple of years away during which she had a baby, a break-up and two major shows, the most recent of which is the one she’s bringing before 2019’s Edinburgh audiences. ‘I’m A Phoenix, Bitch’, is a phenomenal emotional rollercoaster of a multi-media show which charts her regaining of strength following a mental health breakdown. It almost broke us when we saw it open in Battersea last year – bring a pal who you can squeeze hands with during the tough moments, and hug after.

Pink Lemonade Assembly Roxy 15:45

Pink Lemonade is performer and theatre-maker Mika Johnson’s debut solo show. Presented by The Queer House and HighTide, Pink Lemonade is a piece of experimental theatre which explores femxle masculinity, racial fetishism, sexuality and gender identity with poetry, movement and original beats.

Not in Edinburgh? Pink Lemonade previews at The Gate Theatre on July 17 & 18

Since U Been Gone Assembly Roxy 15:45

Last year ‘Polaris’ by Holly and Ted made it into our Fringe recommendations & did a brilliant job of showcasing the creative talents, versatility and likeability of Teddy Lamb. Teddy, who also did a great service to the Fringe community by founding @EdFringeQueer Meet Up, is back this year with their autobiographical show ‘Since U Been Gone’ a mid-noughties story of friendship, grief and growing up queer, with a (presumably Kelly Clarkson-inspired) original pop music score

Not in Edinburgh? Since U Been Gone previews at The Gate Theatre on July 24 & 25

The Ballad of Mulan Assembly Rooms 16:05

A woman, a warrior, a Chinese legend – Michelle Yim brings to life the real Mulan who, to save her family’s honour, disguised herself as a man and joined the emperors army. A must-see for anyone who felt inspired by the Disney movie as a kid, then grew up wondering about the real woman behind the heroine.

Not going to Edinburgh? The Ballad of Mulan is previewing in Buxton on July 21

The Ballad of Mulan

Sophie Duker: Venus Pleasance Courtyard 19:00

Sophie Duker is your Venus, she’s your fire, your desire. Or is she? She’s definitely a firm favourite of ours, we’ve loved seeing her rise to prominence on the comedy scene, from splitting bills with fellow feminist faves and hosting her own always-LOL-filled Wacky Racists nights, to taking mainstream telly and radio by storm. We cannot WAIT to see her “full-fat woke” debut hour, VENUS: Silly, sexy, savage stand-up from a girl who’s definitely not a goddess.

Tokyo Rose Underbelly Cowgate 18:55

The team behind award-winning all-female musical ‘The Half Moon Shania’ are turning back the dial to 1949, with a new rap-packed musical in which five wartime disc jockeys spit piercing verse. Faced with accusations of peddling Axis propaganda, Iva d’Aquino becomes known as the notorious Tokyo Rose – but was she the villain she was made out to be?

Sexy Lamp Pleasance Courtyard 14:00

How could we resist including the show with the title that nods to a “version” of the Bechdel test that calls out the use of women as props, asking: “Could the female characters in this movie be replaced by a sexy lamp?”. Combining comedy, original songs and storytelling, Sexy Lamp sheds a bright light on how ridiculous the entertainment industry can be and why Katie is refusing to stay in the dark any longer.

The Burning Pleasance Courtyard 15:15

Good witch. Wicked witch. White queen. Red queen. Maternal. Frigid. Madonna. Whore. The endless female trade-off between goodness and power. The Burning follows the lives of the women and their witch hunters in an epic story through time, history, capitalism, and the consequences of societal fear when faced with change. It sounds to us like the show to go to for your Fringe dose of Feminist-Battlecry-Theatre.

The Burning

BBC Radio Drama Summerhall Radio 18:00

The BBC are recording a selection of plays with a live studio audience (to be broadcast in September – so listen out for them then if you’re not going to Edinburgh). This is not only a fun opportunity to see radio drama being recorded live, but also the chance to catch some work by some of the most extraordinary playwrights heading to the Fringe.

We particularly recommend:

The Grape That Rolled Under The Fridge: An Afrofuturist tale about identity, familial relationships and the surveillance state by Matilda Ibini (August 13th)

Pass: A Thelma and Louise for our times about a mother and daughter’s relationship through transition by Kate O’Donnell (August 10th)

About Time/Bully Laughing Horse @ City Cafe 19:10

A split bill comedy show featuring two brilliant rising-stars who we’ve seen pop up on all our absolute favourite line-ups recently so can whole-heatedly recommend. You can’t go wrong spending an evening with Thanyia Moore and Sian Davies.

About Time: growing up is hard, but most people manage it. Sian Davies waited until she was 27 to grow up. Everyone agreed, it was about time.

Bully: was Thanyia Moore bullied? Or was she the bully? Join the Funny Women Award winner as she seeks to find the answer in this hilarious account of her childhood.

Working On My Night Moves Summerhall 21:55

The latest live art work by award-winning New Zealanders Julia Croft and Nisha Madhan, ‘Working On My Night Moves’ is “a search for multiple feminist futurisms while reaching for outer space” and “ode to the search for utopia”. They’re breaking the rules, the patriarchy and the time/space continuum, and we are absolutely here for all of that.

Working On My Night Moves

Gentlemen, Please Laughing Horse @ Sofi’s Southside 13:15

Alissa Anne Jeun Yi (who was a guest on our podcast during last year’s Fringe)and Lily Hyde met at Soho Theatre, where they bonded “over their love of expensive candles and the fact that they were both complex, three-dimensional women”, so naturally they’re sharing a comedy bill at this year’s Fringe, and naturally we are keen to see it.

On DNA and i will still be whole (when you rip me in half).

A piece of embedded criticism.

Just before I sit to write this I see that at 8:04am this morning I received an email from My Heritage DNA – Congratulations Pippa your DNA results are now ready. I pause. Fuck. Instead of opening the email, I open this word document.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what this role of embedded critic means and how I feel incredibly biased because I’ve been excited about i will still be whole (when you rip me in half) since I saw it was announced on twitter. And I know why I felt so invested so early on: Representation.

It’s a word that I find myself repeating so much (at Bechdel Theatre it’s one of the words we use to describe the aims of our podcast, we chat about gender and representation). However, it’s a word that has become so ingrained in my vernacular, repeated so many times that much like “diversity”, I worry that I find it becoming more hollow, losing grip of what it so importantly signifies. It becomes another buzzword, a tick-box, meaningless. How convenient for the white-cis-hetero-capitalist structures that benefit from it’s minimisation. I remind myself of Riz Ahmed’s speech at the House of Commons where he explains that diversity is regarded like a sprinkle of salt but representation should never be considered an added extra. When I discuss the specific representation of Asian people, I often excitedly adopt the portmanteau,  ‘representasian’ and hashtag the fuck out of it. Trying to find community. Trying to make us visible. I know how important meaningful representasian is to the writer of this show, Ava Wong Davies. I passionately apply for this role.

I’ve been excited by I will still be whole… because I feel like it’s the first time I can see characters so deeply similar to myself in ways that feel so important and ground-breaking even within in my own representation bubble. East Asian and White. Mixed. Queer. I find this funny because I haven’t even described personality traits or characteristics. It’s identity. It’s culture. Do I have nothing but these macro ideologies to describe myself? I always desire to see issues around sexuality, race etc. to be secondary to a characters’ lives on stage (to move past being labelled a GAY PLAY, A CHINESE PLAY etc.). Although there’s probably some form of wording on my Bumble profile that basically says I AM A PROUD MIXED-RACE LESBIAN (#femmestruggles amiright?). I think I might even use my other favourite portmanteau, “gaysian”.

As a millennial whose life and work is embedded in identity politics and the importance of seeing yourself reflected I worry I forget about actually having any substance. Forget my cultural “identity”. Who am I really? Am I an extrovert or introvert? Kind or selfish? A listener or a talker? A creative or a critic? I know that my personality is deeply fused with my identity, intertwined with one another. The way I navigate life is dictated by hierarchical structures and invisible oppressions (as well as a whoole load of privileges). This influences my interests, my passions…or am I just scared there’s nothing else really there?

The first day in rehearsal I find myself on the edge both physically and mentally; sitting at the side and anxious. I feel like an imposter, infiltrating a space already carved out with group guidelines, collective snacks and a journey already started days before my arrival. I’m an intruder. But like, a welcome one. I feel like I want a visitor’s badge I can return at the end of the day. Yet, I’m invited into the routine “check-in” with everyone else. I’m present. I’m ready. I sit. I watch.

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Photo Courtesy of Lilith Wozniak

The play begins with a series of monologues between two women: a mother and daughter. Separated. Different. Curious. Ava’s writing is rich and poetic, at once urgent and demanding yet soft and lingering. When I watch EJ (Rosa Escoda) and Joy (Kailing Fu) deliver these words I have to wait a second to let their meaning settle.

As I watch the actors at work under Helen Morley’s patient and guided direction, I’m grateful for their pauses, for these silences are filled to the brim with intrigue, longing and heartache. EJ searches for meaning in everything and everyone around her: from a midnight fox to the black mould in her bathroom. Joy isolates herself and struggles with her inner conflict. I take in the magic of Ava’s words and the spaces between them. I feel healed.

My favourite exercise in the rehearsal room was to note down every time a body part or body function was mentioned. In one scene I list 21 parts and 15 functions. In the rehearsal everyone agrees that the play is undeniably about bodies, searching for bodies, covering bodies, nourishing bodies. I think about my own body and the war-torn path we share together. The clashes we’ve had, the disappointments, the attempts at forgiveness. EJ experiences something similar as she traces her face, recognising her White fathers’ features and torments herself trying to find her Chinese-Malaysian mothers’. To see the battleground of a young East-Asian/White woman’s body represented feels almost overwhelming. This is the nuance, the detail, and the truth I celebrate when women of colour write from experience.

When it comes to watching the play I am again aware of bodies, but this time of being situated within the audience. I realise that the only people I can see scribbling in notebooks are myself and the beloved critic, Lyn Gardner, beside me. I had introduced myself to her and chatted before the show started because #teamlyn, but then I think about how inferior I feel calling myself a “critic” of any kind. I feel a panic rising at the thought of writing and publishing this response. I notice a young woman with her chin in her hand as she leans forward with a smile plastered to her face throughout. I smile to myself.

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It’s fascinating to watch the show and see familiar scenes and choices and actions yet to see it all heightened to the nth degree. The mystic lighting (Ben Kulvichit) and sound (Amanda Fleming)  emphasises the beauty and the density of the dialogue. The actors are fuelled with spirit and focus. I feel surprisingly relaxed.

The reunion scene comes all too soon and I realise that almost the whole play is over. It’s been an intense 45 minutes. In rehearsals I wanted this scene (where they meet for the first time) to be volcanic, to erupt with the fury and anger from the pain and the soreness that overwhelmed both EJ and Joy. I gripped my pen each time I watched it. However, that’s not the world this play sits within and it took me until the final performance to realise that. Sure, there are outbursts as EJ calls Joy a “cunt”, but everything simmers beneath, and the reality is actually much more bizarre and hilarious as both party realises they will never fulfil the expectation of the other. It reminds me of The Meg-John and Justin Podcast in which two relationship and sex educators talk about the “scripts” we’re given on relationships, and our panic when confronted with a situation we don’t know the script for. When someone says I love you, you say it back. When a mother gives birth to a daughter, she must raise her. I see EJ and Joy struggling to know what script they are supposed to use. Writing it as they go. Desperate to start again. The archness of Kai’s responses and the disappointment in Rosa’s expression communicates this perfectly.

I think back to my DNA results. My nervousness over opening them, not because of what it could say, but because of how I might react. How my mind might forge links between some highly problematic ethnic excavating exercise and my own sense of self. I consider EJ in i will still be whole, what did she hope to find when she made contact with the woman who gave birth to her? Really, my situation and hers are highly incomparable.

The play doesn’t end wrapped up neatly and as an audience member I am unsatisfied yet comforted. I think about how much it meant to EJ to find out if her mother accepted her sexuality. How, as a queer audience member, those last lines lingered for me. I hope perhaps, for EJ, it was on some level the sense of closure she craved.

I wasn’t sure what exactly an embedded critic was supposed to be when I started this process and having finished it i’m still not entirely sure I’ve done it. However, I feel invigorated by the depiction of people like myself in this play. I feel grateful to have had this opportunity to observe and reflect and respond. I am excited for the future because I know more people who are like me are on stage, writing, directing, producing, designing, reviewing. I hope this play continues its life beyond this festival. I hope we continue to embrace representasian. I hope one day we don’t need that fucking word.

I open the email.

———————–

If you want to catch myself, Beth, Lyn and Ava discussing criticism, gender and representation, we’re hosting a LIVE podcast event at Vault on Sunday 10th March. Come join us and book your tickets here. 

Bechdel-friendly theatre to see in 2019

Happy New Year, Bechdel testers!

 

2018 was a fairly decent one when it came to stage-watching.  We rode through the year powered by the energy of what seemed like a wave of FEMINIST BATTLECRY THEATRE, featuring killer ensemble casts filling stages across the country.  Shout out to I Have A Mouth And I Will Scream, Collective Rage, Jubilee, Hot Brown Honey & Hive City Legacy, The Sweet Science of Bruising, Dance Nation, Six, Hole, Emilia, and Queens of ShebaWe also saw a TON of gloriously political, personal and stigma-smashing shows at theatres of all genres and sizes – special love to Scene, Everything I Am, Leave Taking, Trojan Horse, Baby Daddy, F**k You Pay Me, Miss Venezuela, Coconut, The Year of The Rooster Monk, Spun, A Small Place and It’s True, It’s True, It’s True.

 

We hosted post-shows at The Park, Ovalhouse, and VAULT, held workshops at The Mono Box and The Pleasance, and appeared on panels at Theatre 503 and Oxford Playhouse. We celebrated International Women’s Day with Racheal Ofori, Fuel Theatre, and a team of incredible artists in a night full of Equalitini cocktails raising money for Refugee Women. We hosted our very own drag night at Styx bar which raised enough to fund our trip to Edinburgh Fringe. And we fulfilled a dream of ours at the UK premiere of Fun Home when we chatted to our hero and inspiration, the ACTUAL Alison Bechdel and got her nod of approval for using her surname on literally everything we do… PHEW.

 

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Dreams came true in 2018 when we hung out with Alison Bechdel

 

While this year has raised our expectations, it was by no means perfect. We continued to hear about numerous seasons, festivals, and shows jumping on the #feminist bandwagon without noticing that their “all female” or “gender balanced” line-up looked like a showcase of white, straight, posh, cis, able-bodied, thin, youthful privilege. Needless to say we haven’t been wasting time shining a light on those poor efforts, and our hope for 2019 is to see a more intersectional approach to representation on stage, everywhere from the fringe and subsidised theatre to commercial tours and West End shows.

 

With that in mind, here’s where we’re placing our high hopes at the beginning of 2019. Get your calendar out, these are the shows we think you should be booking for this week/month/year…

 

(If you find this list useful, you might want to subscribe to our podcast, follow us on instagram and twitter. If you discover some shows you love through our platforms, please consider supporting us through Patreon).

 

Shows to see in 2019

 

The Convert continues at the Young Vic. 2018’s biggest-banking film actor Letitia Wright takes to the stage in her fellow Black Panther star Danai Gurira’s play about faith and identity.

 

Pulitzer Prize-winning Sweat by Lynn Nottage is on at the Donmar Warehouse, directed by Lynette Linton, and has just been extended until Feb 2. They also have FREE tickets for young people, so if you’re 25 or under snap those up asap.

 

Six is the musical about a group of Queens united in their mistreatment by one man (we don’t wanna say his name – it begins with H and ends with VIII). It was one of the biggest word-of-mouth hits of 2018, and returns to The Arts Theatre on Jan 17 for an epic diva-worthy run with tickets on sale until 2020.

 

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Sweat at The Donmar Warehouse

 

Rhum and Clay’s new adaptation of The War of The Worlds was written with Isley Lynn, so of course (unlike its previous film, radio and stage adaptations) it passes the Bechdel test fantastically. It’s at New Diorama Theatre until Feb 9.

 

Some of the most fun shows we saw at Edinburgh Fringe this year are returning in January. Heather and Harry is at Camden People’s Theatre on January 15 & 16. Six the musical is at The Arts theatre from Jan 17, booking until May.  Bitches In The Ford Ka is at Rosemary Branch Theatre on Jan 24 & 25 and Pegasus Theatre Oxford on Jan 26.

 

This year’s VAULT Festival is running Jan 23 – Mar 17, and has some exciting offerings, which we’ll be covering in more detail on our podcast & social media – but if you’re booking ahead we suggest checking out some of the shows we loved most when we saw them at Edinburgh Fringe: Queens of Sheba (Jan 30 – Feb 3)Ladykiller (Feb 27 – Mar 3)The Half (Feb 6 – 10), Len Blanco: Firing Blancs (Feb 7, 8, 28 & Mar 1), and Finding Fassbender (Mar 15 & 16)

 

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Can I Touch Your Hair? at VAULT

 

Some other shows we highly recommend include: Inside Voices (Jan 23 – 27),  Juniper and Jules (Jan 23 – 27)Dangerous Lenses (Jan 23 – 27)Lola (Jan 23 – 27), 17 (Jan 23 – 27), Salaam (Jan 30 – Feb 3), Fatty Fat Fat (Jan 30 – Feb 3)Hear Me Howl (Jan 30 – Feb 3)Elf Lyons: Love Songs To Guinea Pigs (Feb 14 – 15), i will still be whole (when you rip me in half) (Feb 27 – 28)Can I Touch Your Hair? (Mar 8 – 9), and 10 (Mar 13 – 17).

We’re also looking forward to spending some late nights at VAULT with some of our cabaret faves. It’ll definitely be worth staying up for Pecs: King for a Night (Feb 2), Shotgun Carousel: Eat Your Heart Out (Feb 16), Brazilian Wax XXL (Mar 2) and The Family Jewels (Mar 8).

 

Camden People’s Theatre has partnered with China Arts Now to present previous podcast guest Jennifer Tang’s show based on her personal experience Ghost Girl // Gwei Mui 鬼妹 from Jan 22 – Feb 9. You can see it in a double bill alongside some other brilliant artists for a bargain price, we recommend Alissa Anne Jeun Yi’s Love Songs on Jan 22-26, or Paula Varjack’s The Cult of K*nzo Feb 5 – 9.

 

Also part of Chinese Arts Now, we’re looking forward to seeing London-based Chinese artist and drag king Whiskey Chow’s The Moon Is Warmer Than The Sun at Toynbee Studios on Jan 31 & Feb 1.

 

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Ghost Girl // Gwei Mui at Camden People’s Theatre

 

Flight Paths is a multi-media co-production between Extant and Yellow Earth inspired by the Goze: blind female performers who travelled around medieval Japan making a living from telling epic tales. The show combines movement, music, narrative and creative audio description using new sound technology, and is on tour from Feb 5.

 

Natasha Gordon’s Nine Night, fulfilled our expectations of brilliance in 2018 and has transferred to the West End where it’s playing at Trafalgar Studios in Aldgate until Feb 23.

 

The new stage adaptation of one of our most beloved childhood books, The Worst Witch is getting rave reviews on tour across the UK throughout 2019, with upcoming dates in Sheffield, Derby, Canterbury, Dartford, Southampton and more.

 

Smack That (a conversation)Rhiannon Faith’s extraordinary show by and for women who have experienced domestic abuse, is back in 2019. It’s a party, a dance performance, a supportive safe space, and an engaging piece of truly live art. It’s touring in 2019 to locations including Essex, London, Portsmouth, Oxford, Salford, Newcastle, and Salisbury.

 

Adjoa Andoh and Lynette Linton are directing Richard II at The Globe from Feb 22 – Apr 21. In one of 2019’s first “Seriously, theatre – how has this taken so long?!” moments (we’re sure it won’t be the last) this production features the first all-WOC company in a major UK Shakespeare staging.

 

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Richard II at Shakespeare’s Globe

 

The Globe’s last big feminist moment from last summer came in the form of Emilia. After only a short run in 2018 – followed by impassioned demand for its return, Morgan Lloyd Malcom’s rallying cry of a play is opening at the Vaudeville Theatre on March 8.

 

Tatty Hennessey’s coming of age story with polar bears, A Hundred Words For Snow, is returning after a hugely successful VAULT run last year. You can catch it at Trafalgar Studios Mar 5-30.

 

Our Drag King faves Pecs have a 2 week long run of their new show Sex Sex Men Men at The Yard Theatre in Hackney, so if their King For The Night party at VAULT whets your appetite for more, you’ll have plenty of chances to catch the boys Feb 26 – Mar 9.

 

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Sex Sex Men Men at The Yard

 

Barbarian Collective are a theatre company which puts “the outsider” are the forefront of storytelling – their The Castilla Sisters tells the story of two sisters in contemporary Mexico after one of them goes missing, and is at the Bread and Roses Theatre in Clapham Mar 26 – 30.

 

The Royal Court’s upcoming season includes Superhoe directed by the wondeful Jade Lewis (Jan 30 – Feb 16), Clean Break’s brand new show Inside Bitch (Feb 27 – Mar 23), a highly anticipated London run for Selina Thompson’s inimitable salt. and Lynette Linton’s series of filmed monologues Passages: A Windrush Celebration, focusing on British West Indian experiences, which will be released weekly online and culminate in a screening and day of celebration on April 13.

 

In case you’ve got this far down the list and not noticed yet: 2019 BELONGS to Lynette Linton. As well as having work on at the Globe, the Donmar, and the Royal Court, Lynette has just taken up a new job as The Bush Theatre’s Artistic Director. We’re super-hyped to hear what she programmes in 2019. In the meantime, you can catch these phenomenal shows in their upcoming season: And The Rest of Me Floats (Feb 20 – 16), The Trick Feb 19 – Mar 23), Yvette (May 14 – June 1), and Babylon a 2 week long festival celebrating the contemporary global influences and experiences of Black and Brown people, presented by Tobi Kyeremateng and Ruthie Osterman (Feb 4 – 16).

 

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Lynette Linton’s first season as Artistic Director of The Bush

 

The Bunker is also presenting an entire season of incredible looking work, including some shows we HEAVILY recommend, having seen them in previous incarnations: Boots (Feb 19 – Mar 16), Box Clever (Mar 26 – Apr 13), Funeral Flowers (Apr 15 – May 4), and F**k You Pay Me (May 7 – 19), along with Rachel De-Lahay’s letter writing project: My White Best Friend, in which writers (including 2 of the most exciting creative minds we know, Matilda Ibini and Travis Alabanza) are commissioned to write letters engaging with racial tensions, microaggressions and emotional labour, which will be read aloud for the first time by performers live on stage each night.

 

The second in Koko Brown’s trilogy of colour plays (following last year’s White): Grey, will be performed as part of Camden People Theatre’s spring season on April 11. This show explores depression and black women’s mental health with Koko’s signature loop pedal and fully integrated BSL.

 

Bryony Kimmings’ cathartic and touching return to solo performance: I’m A Phoenix Bitch is returning to its origin at the beautifully restored Battersea Arts Centre Feb 20 – Mar 9 and heading down to Brighton at The Attenborough Centre May 3-7.

 

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I’m a Phoenix, Bitch in London and Brighton

 

Possibly the best ‘straight play’ we saw last year, Ella Road’s The Phlebotomist, is transferring this year from the Hampstead Theatre’s studio space (where it sold out after word-of-mouth spread like wildfire) to their main stage Mar 19 – Apr 20. Jade Anouka returns to play the title role after a triumphant year of rave reviews for her performances in Manchester Royal Exchange’s Queen Margaret, and ITV’s Cleaning Up.

 

Libby Liburd’s new show Fighter is at Stratford Circus Apr 25 – 27. It tells the story of a single mum plunged into the world of boxing, features a cast of young boxers, and will provide a free crèche available for any parents watching the matinee performance.

 

Theatre 503 has two excellent loo king shows coming up in spring 2019: Damsel Productions’ The Amber Trap (Apr 24 – May 18), and J’OuvertA timely reflection on the Black British experience set during Notting Hill Carnival (May 29 – Jun 22).

 

In July we’ll be seeing in the summer with Brainchild Festival in Sussex. Brainchild is the place where we’ve seen our first glimpses of some of the most exciting companies and performers we’ve seen over the past couple of years, so we’re majorly hyped to see what they have in store for 2019 – their first year with full Arts Council support. If you just can’t wait for summer, you can check out the Brainchild team’s regular scratch night: Hatch at Platform in Southwark.

 

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Brainchild Festival in Sussex

 

That’s all for now! If you bump into us at once of these shows come and say hi, and let us know what you think of our recommendation – you’ll know us by the Bechdel Theatre badges, stickers, tote bags and whatever other branded clothing we can afford in 2019.

 

If you like our work and want to support what we do, please subscribe to our podcast, follow us on instagram and twitter, or sign up to send us a little bit of cash every month through Patreon.

 

Edinburgh Fringe #FeministFaves 2018

Edinburgh Fringe is over for 2018, and thanks to the incredible supporters of our crowdfunder campaign, we made it to Edinburgh for the whole month this year, where we applied over 1000 stickers to posters of shows that passed the Bechdel test, recorded two new podcast episodes, and encountered more enthusiastic support for our mission to amplify under-represented voices than ever before.

 

 

 

Looking at this year’s Fringe line-up compared to the previous two years when we’ve visited, it’s becoming possible to believe a significant shift is being made in the overwhelming male-dominance in the festival (and the arts in general). This shouldn’t be viewed as a see-sawing movement, with men’s stories being sidelined by a reductive “year of the woman”, but one brick in the road on a journey to a more equal society, a cog in a movement that includes challenging all systems of privilege and oppression. The appetite for better representation on stage and the quality of work by the artists who fulfil that hunger has been proved by the sell-out runs achieved and awards received by many of the shows we’ve chosen to highlight here. The success of the artists whose work we saw at the Fringe are a solid foundation on which to build a theatre industry that consistently and genuinely values and reflects people from all of the communities who make up the UK and wider world. With a little more investment and commitment from the power-holders and the gatekeepers, and a lot more willingness to move aside more often from everyone currently steeped in privilege, we could be looking forward to full and permanent change.

 

However, the work is not done yet. Edinburgh Fringe, the festival which many see as a representation of the future of performing arts, and a doorway to opportunities for artists, is still hugely white, and overwhelmingly youthful, with stereotyping and tokenism rife on both theatre and comedy stages, with frequent instances of blatant racism in and around many performance spaces. This year, as ever, venue-owners have come under criticism for under-valuing and mistreating staff. Companies and producers are being called-out for prioritising sales and success over the well-being of artists. The under-representation of disabled artists is shocking, but not surprising, given the inaccessibility of Fringe venues for many disabled people. This is something which venues are working on improving at a glacial speed, often resorting to a one-off ‘accessible performance’ squeezed into an extra time-slot rather than treating this as a serious problem which goes against the “Fringe is for everyone” philosophy, and could in itself be an argument for restructuring the entire festival.

 

The shows we’re celebrating here are not the whole story. We shine a light on the positive examples of changes to the status quo in the hope that it will encourage artists to know they’re appreciated, as well as helping audiences find the shows they want to see. We want to see this work and more like it coming to more accessible, sustainable, and cost-effective spaces than the Fringe provides, and hope any programmers reading will notice something that looks like it might be what their audiences are looking for. We shout about the brilliance that we find when we looked beyond the sea of stale pale male faces staring us down from the poster-walls of Edinburgh, and will keep doing so until examples such as these are no longer notable.

 

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On a positive personal note, we can report that filtering the shows we see through a lens of ONLY watching Bechdel test passes, and prioritising seeking work by LGBTQ+ and POC artists, was as effective as ever at helping us find the shows that are making a thrilling and galvanising difference. We saw some astounding shows swimming against the tides of homogeneity and making art that reflects humanity in all its beauty, resilience, warmth, hilarity and complexity. In fact, our month ended up being so full of feminist theatre brilliance that it has truly been the biggest blogging struggle we’ve faced yet to choose our faves. We saw definitely many more excellent shows ace the Bechdel test than we have space to mention here, so make sure you take a look at our instagram & twitter for more highlights, and listen to our podcast for interviews with the artists behind some of these shows, and more favourite shows from our guests.

 

Finally, if you’ve been following our work this month, enjoying our recommendations, and would like us to be able to continue doing what we do all year round, you can now become a Bechdel Theatre Patreon. Support us with $1-$10 a month so we can keep up our work at Fringe and beyond, in return we will reward you with bonus content and ticket discount codes. Win-win.

 

On to the faves – in no particular order because WE LOVED THEM ALL!

 

 

bmd

 

Queens of Sheba

 

An unflinching look at misogynoir (misogyny directed towards black women), this four-woman show does not shy away from the harsh realities faced by black women in Britain today, and raises up their voices to tell their own truths. Jessica Hagen’s joyously powerful poetic script integrates real-life women’s experiences with a collection of spectacularly harmonised well-known songs, in a series of tightly choreographed chapters, each set in a different environment where black women come up against discrimination, harassment, prejudice and violence.

 

In an hour that flies by, the audience are swept into several spaces, from an office, to a restaurant to a bar, each vividly conjured on an entirely empty stage by four completely compelling and versatile performers, each with their own unique personal dynamics, qualities and skills, all unified by the elegant and constantly engaging direction of Jessica Kaliisa and slick movement direction of Yassmin V Foster.

 

Queens of Sheba covers an extensive range of issues including colourism, stereotyping, fetishization, and microaggressions. The four queens on stage paint each example of misogynoir as a specific moment which affect individual women differently, but also clearly highlight the fact that all of these shared experiences of intersecting racism and sexism, from daily jibes from colleagues to headline-grabbing club-policies, are far too common and widespread to be dismissed as one-off incidents. Each chapter of Queens of Sheba is part of one massive societal problem: misogynoir, which is the responsibility of everyone with race and/or gender privilege to address.

 

We saw a preview of this show earlier in the year (you can listen to Michelle Barwood reviewing it on our podcast) when it was performed at Camden People’s Theatre, and the audience consisted predominantly of black women. Much of the content was received with audible recognition by the crowd.

 

Seeing the show in the Edinburgh environment, with a majority white and much more male audience, notably changed the way the play landed in the room. It felt like during Queens of Sheba’s Fringe run, the messages of the play were being absorbed more than recognised, with more of the crowd silently rapt and listening to learn, until the curtain call when the room erupted in a thunderous, impassioned, and seemingly never-ending standing ovation. We hope this play will continue to be seen by many more people: both by the black women who want to see their experiences of misogynoir articulated in front of an audience, and by the privileged people who have the power to stop it.

 

Queens of Sheba sold out its planned post-Edinburgh run at New Diorama, and have promised this is only the beginning of the show’s journey. Follow producers Nouveau Riche for future dates.

 

 

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Sparks

 

Jessica Butcher and Anoushka Lucas introduce this two-hander by saying they will both be playing the same person – Jessica using her words, and Anoushka using her keyboard. The two have collaborated as songwriter and playwright as well as performing in this show, but they don’t remain limited to their roles as singer/songwriter and actor/playwright, often performing in unison, their singing voices overlapping and intertwining, and with Lucas emerging from behind the keys to take centre stage during one particularly powerful moment.

 

Sparks is a collaboration of the finest kind – the women’s roles seem defined at the beginning of the show, but blur and flex as best serves the story that they’re telling. The harmony of their voices beautifully reflects the natural and intimate connection that obviously exists between them. Putting these two women together on stage playing the same role, different in their jobs, energy and presentation (Anoushka wears a blue sequin formal dress, Jessica wears a grey tracksuit) but so clearly in-sync, makes it easy for the audience to imagine that, despite the specifics details of her story and situation, this central character could be an ‘everyone’ ourselves, or someone we know. This potential for universality, along with both performers’ strong connection with the audience means that we’re deeply invested in the character, believing and empathising with every choice she makes: flaws, complications, and all.

 

This play does more than just showing us what grief can do to a person’s brain – it makes us feel its effects in our guts, as our chests tighten, and our throats close. It’s a play about grieving, so crying may be expected, but while we might have left the room with tears dripping from our chins into our coffee cup, Sparks just as effectively highlights the moments of illumination that are vital for healing from the death of a loved one: the unexpected lifelines that keep the bereaved afloat.

 

Sparks is special because it breathes life into an experience of death. It warms and heals us once it has dipped us in devastation for a moment, and we’re handed tiny bright badges with messages that say “I feel electric” and “I am alive” as we come out feeling the strength of togetherness more overwhelmingly than the dark emptiness of loss.

 

Follow Sparks on twitter for updates.

 

 

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Hot Brown Honey

 

This Australian cabaret super-group has featured heavily on our Edinburgh recommendations lists over the past couple of years as a flawless piece of pure feminist entertainment and education (see our feminist faves blog from last year), but the scale and passion of this year’s production on the biggest stage at The Gilded Balloon would be difficult to top.

 

Hot Brown Honey is simply the most empowering collection of cabaret acts we’ve ever seen. It’s put together by the most fearless and inspiring of women, who bring together their own unique identities, experiences, and incredible music, dance, circus, burlesque and comedy talents on stage to collectively shut down sexism, racism, colonialism, homophobia (and basically all the world’s worst things), with a cacophony of thunderous rallying-calls in which the audience are repeatedly offered to join.

 

Having chants like THE REVOLUTION CANNOT HAPPEN WITHOUT CHILDCARE, DON’T TOUCH MY HAIR, DECOLONIZE AND MOISTURIZE, and MAKE NOISE blasting out of one room and onto the streets every day would be a welcome addition to most cities, but at Edinburgh during the Fringe, where some of the world’s most privileged humans gather, and sexism, racism, and misogynoir are clearly still rife, every Hot Brown Honey poster feels like a reminder that you’re not alone in fighting against such things. Even outside of their show times, their frequent presence on the busy streets and bars of Edinburgh – always beautifully visible in their matching honeycomb tracksuits – act like a beacon for their fans and friends to gather around and create spaces filled with radical fierce love. Their spontaneous take-overs of the usually elitist-feeling members bar spaces, with Odette Mercy DJing to a suddenly alive and thriving dance-floor were an energy-boosting lifeline like no other as the intensity of the festival took its toll through the latter half of the month.

 

Hot Brown Honey will be sorely missed in Edinburgh next year, as they’ve declared this Fringe will be their last, but hope to see them continue touring the UK and the world spreading the powerful buzz of their hive.

 

Listen to our interview with Lisa Fa’alafi and Yami ‘Rowdy’ Lofvenberg recorded during their Hive City Legacy project at The Roundhouse earlier this year.

 

Follow Hot Brown Honey on social media for updates.

 

 

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WHITE

 

Koko Brown uses her loop pedal to mix spoken word and song to tell stories from her experience of growing up mixed-race, from a Jamaican and Irish background. At the beginning of White Koko tells us that she wanted to write a play about race, but ended up writing about herself. This is indeed a very personal coming-of-age story, which takes us through moments in her life where she has come to realise things about herself that, deep down, she feels she always knew. It’s a specific personal story, detailing her relationship with her parents, and the traits she has inherited from both of them, as well as her experiences of feeling different from white friends, hearing herself being described as “the black girl”, her feelings about her hair, her discovery of Black Lives Matter. Each of these moments is unique to her, but there is plenty in her story that resonates heavily with the experiences of many other mixed-race people from different backgrounds.

 

Koko’s presence on the almost-empty and gorgeously-lit stage is so comfortable we feel like we could have been warmly welcomed into her living room. She makes the space so personally and intimately her own, that although she is telling stories of times when she or others have felt uncomfortable, or left out, we always felt at-ease in her audience. The depth and significance of her subject matter is made accessible (though never dumbed-down) by the gentle smile, relaxed shoulders, and natural humour of someone who believes in her own artistry as well as the importance of her story, and is ready and open about sharing it. This laid-back quality and lightness of touch makes her looping and rhyming seem as effortless as breathing, and when her voice soars in polyphonic harmony with herself, it seems to come so naturally to her as a means of expression that we get sucked completely into her world and her story. It’s not until we come out of the show, with her songs still floating in our minds, that we get a chance to gasp at the impressiveness of her craft.

 

Koko is an associate artist at Ovalhouse and is working on two more plays to sit alongside White in a colour trilogy: Pink, which will be about gender and Grey, about mental health.

 

Follow Koko on twitter for updates on future work.

 

 

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Fuck You Pay Me

 

Fuck You Pay Me is a love-letter to strippers created by Joana Nastari who writes from her own experiences and stars as Bea, a young woman whose shift is interrupted by constant texts and phone calls from her Catholic family, who have just discovered what her job is.

 

Joana’s writing ripples gently but powerfully with an easy fluidity, as she moves between styles: poetry, comedy, dialogue and direct address. The show’s dazzlingly engrossing immersive design mingles with Joana’s words, voice and physical presence in a way that magically transforms the atmosphere in the room from one scene to the next. We’re in a holy temple steeped in religious iconography dedicated to the hallowed strippers, who we are commanded to revere as Goddesses and Sex Witches. We’re in a club dressing room full of her vibrantly characterised colleagues chatting about their lives, sharing advice, cigarettes and gum. We’re on the dance floor of the strip club with its distinctive mingling of scents and thumping music, populated by a variety of customers including, regulars, awkward posh boys, and businessmen on work nights out, all of whom are brought to life with the kind of characterisation that only comes from observing real life with an expert eye for detail.

 

Throughout her interactions with customers in the bar, Joana illustrates Bea’s agency in making men believe they have power over her as her alter-ego ‘Holly’ who speaks with the voice of a child, but reassures with the comfort of a mother. When she breaks down this process calmly for us in her sure and steady adults voice, she could not be demonstrating more clearly her upper hand in the situation. She doesn’t deny that this job has downsides like any other – detailing the workaday boredoms and frustrations with bosses, hours, rules, and rude customers, all laughably familiar to anyone who has worked a job which requires emotional as well as physical labour (pretty much any customer service role).

 

The most powerful part of this show comes with the final scenes, in which we feel the character-layers of Bea and Holly melt away. Joana reads a poetic and heartfelt love-letter, overflowing with deep respect and admiration for strippers: the job they do, and the unity between them. This phenomenal woman who has commanded our undivided attention for a transcendental hour stands unwavering in her light-up platform heels, embodying all her roles at once: daughter, sister, friend, dedicated worker, and glamorous High Priestess, to become an activist holding a series of neon-pink placards that burn the play’s messages into our retina. The signs abandon the poetic imagery employed in the spoken-word sections of the play to tell us in no uncertain terms that STIGMA KILLS. We’re reminded that the phrase MY BODY MY CHOICE applies to everyone, including sex workers, that deadly stigma is the biggest difference between a sex worker’s job and many others, that we all know sex workers who have kept their jobs secret, and that if we respect women’s autonomy, we should make like good feminists and spend £££ in the strip club.

 

Listen to our podcast interview with Joana recorded in Edinburgh.

 

Follow FYPMshow on twitter to keep an eye out for post-fringe updates.

 

Fuck You Pay Me + Special Guests is coming to Rich Mix in London on September 21 and 22.

 

 

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Thrown by Jodi Gray

 

This innovative new production used a head-shaped microphone to create an unrivalled level of intimacy between its single performer and audience members. Writer Jodi Gray used real-life memories of older women to inspire an immersive piece of science fiction that’s at once futuristic and nostalgic, set in a world that’s both strange and uncannily familiar. The physical closeness we felt to actor Jill Rutland as she whispered directly into our ears via headphones worked brilliantly to evocatively bring to life this environment where nothing seemed definite except the voice in our ears. Her gentle comforting doctorly tones soothed us into accepting her baffling reality as our own minds seemed to become part of an experiment in her laboratory filled with memories set free from their original contexts to float in and out of minds like ideas.

 

Facing up to the ephemeral nature of the images we all carry in our minds can be a deeply unsettling experience, but it’s one that Jodi Gray leads us into delicately in Thrown, and we were grateful to spend some time in the pensive state that we found ourselves in after watching this thoughtful and subtly affecting play.

 

Keep an eye on Jodi Gray’s website for more upcoming work.

 

 

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Funeral Flowers

Emma Dennis-Edwards is a revelation playing Angelique in her own play about a young woman who struggles against a series of horrible circumstances, finding solace and purpose in taking flower-arranging after her mother is taken to prison, and her peers have brutally betrayed her.

 

It’s not easy to watch this charismatic girl, filled hopeful positivity and smart confidence be ground down slowly like a petal being crushed. But unlike a petal, Angelique never seems irretrievably broken – she bounces back often, smoothing back the creases and tears in the fabric of her support system with resilience and determination, trying her best to trust everyone around her.

 

Despite her bright and sunny demeanor Angelique is not perfect in her behaviour, and is no wilting victim. She’s filled with a deeply human and very understandable rage at her male abusers, which she takes out on a caregiver, who she knows is unlikely to fight her back. Heartbreaking in its sudden and brutal childishness, this explosive attack emphasises the fact that Angelique is a very young and vulnerable woman, still on the cusp of childhood, who has already been so badly let down by so many people more powerful than her that she lashes out at the nearest authority figure around.

 

As we leave the poky flat in which Funeral Flowers was performed in immersive promenade-style, we’re left crossing our fingers that the next chapter in life will be better for this character. We’re also crossing our fingers that the multitude of awards the play has won will give it the opportunity to be staged again beyond the limitations of a student company at the fringe. We would love to see this show return in a space where more people will be able to witness and appreciate Emma’s astonishing performance, and don’t doubt that bigger budget production would better serve this truly excellent piece of writing, acting and directing.

 

Follow Emma Dennis-Edwards on twitter to keep an eye out for what she does next.

 

 

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Dragprov Revue

 

We were happy to stretch the limits of the Bechdel test to include these two super-talented improvisers. Drag King Christian Adore and Queen Eaton Messe are best pals on a mission to create a drag show that’s different every night, and appeals to all the family. When we saw the show it was indeed packed to the rafters with people of a range of ages and genders, all of whom were involved in helping craft an uproariously original one-off show, filled with quick jokes, hilarious physical gags, and some sublime vocal harmonising.

 

This was a drag show with a unique twist, and an improv show like no other, and we’d recommend it to anyone who has reservations about either, as well as to anyone who’s a big fan of both.

 

Follow Christian Adore for future performance dates.

 

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Ladykiller

 

Ladykiller is a rarity in many ways: a feminist play in which the leading woman is the perpetrator rather than the victim of violence, a representation of a genuinely complex (to the point of inscrutable) female anti-hero, and a dark comedy that really lives up to its marketing promise of chills alongside every laugh. The laughs in Ladykiller come at the expense of the audience – we laugh at our own preconceptions, our naivety, our (very gendered) assumptions. Hannah McLean (playing the sinisterly-named hotel chambermaid: Her) holds the audience’s expectations and judgements like a world-class puppeteer manipulating a marionette, twisting us one way and the next with a light touch here, and a sudden jerk there, putting us all on the spot as the subjects of our own nervous giggles when we realise we have underestimated or been taken in by Her.

 

The genius of Ladykiller is in its multiple twists, but the success of it lies in its execution. The pointed eye-contact from Her, often lingering and very unsettling in the enclosed bunker space at Pleasance, puts this character firmly in the driving seat of her story. Madelaine Moore’s concise directing ensures that every audience-member feels Her unnerving gaze more than once. Her eyes dart quickly at the beginning (is this character fearful or excited?) and then, as she settles in, start to drift cool and shark-like from one of us to the next. The effect of this precisely controlled level of audience contact is that despite being the butt of the jokes, and constantly addressed in the room, we didn’t feel publicly exposed by any of Her pointed comments, looks, and calling out of our preconceptions. Instead, we are left stewing thoughtfully in our own discomfort in a way that affects our internal rhythm just enough to make us reconsider the snap judgements we make about the people around us in day-to-day life.

 

The Thelmas, producers of Ladykiller, are undoubtedly a company who are making a great big feminist mark for themselves. They’re fresh from a successful tour of Coconut, which (although it dealt with a very different subject matter) featured a similarly multi-layered narrative, in which all is not as it first seems, and a fantastically well-developed female characters taking centre stage.

 

Ladykiller will play at The Pleasance in London Nov 20 – Dec 2.

 

Follow The Thelmas on social media to keep up-to-date with their work.

 

 

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Skin A Cat

 

We loved this show when it premiered in London to critical acclaim and intensely passionate audience responses. A growing legion of fans have seen something of themselves in Isley Lynn’s autobiographical play about her journey to embracing her own body and sexuality. The script is treasured by people who saw it at Vault Festival or The Bunker, and even well-thumbed by those who haven’t had a chance to watch it in performance yet, so it’s safe to say that the Edinburgh run and tour of this show were HOTLY anticipated.  

 

In this production original cast member Lydia Larson returns to play the leading character of Alana, a role that she embodies so naturally that it’s hard to believe it is Isley Lynn’s story and not her own. She’s recently been joined by new cast members Libby Rodliffe and Joe Eyre, who play all of the other characters in Alana’s life: her mother, her best friends, doctors, therapists, and various lovers. Both actors show extraordinary range, in particular Libby Rodliffe’s switches are seamlessly smooth, from the awkward mother who struggles to communicate with her daughter, to the rambunctious university pal full of cringe-worthy comments about her sexual conquests, to the down-to-earth doctor who helps Alana to come to love and understand her own body.

 

The new cast of Skin A Cat have a bond that seems as deep as the material is frank, bound together by Isley Lynn’s writing and Blythe Stewart’s direction, their energy and intimate connections with each other flourishes despite the vast blue shipping container space that they’ve been placed in for their fringe run. Their ability to adapt to the space in Edinburgh shows that this play and its team are versatile as well as boundlessly talented and committed to telling this important story.

 

Skin A Cat will be touring in the Autumn. Follow Rive Productions and keep your eyes out for dates and locations soon.

 

 

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Finding Fassbender

 

We know Lydia Larson can raise chuckles and tears in equal measures thanks to her sterling work in Skin A Cat. In Finding Fassbender, her first self-penned show (also directed by Skin A Cat’s Blythe Stewart) she reveals the originality of her imagination and the creative panache of her writing as well as her skill for accents and comedy characters. This story takes several surprising (and some terrifically surreal) twists, with laughs that build to a bubbling crescendo, and a central character who wins our affection immediately and our admiration by the end.

 

Finding Fassbender’s central character Eve is a the kind of woman who is rarely seen on stage, let alone as a protagonist in her own story: she’s quiet and conservative in her habits and expectations, avoids being the centre of attention, and has never looked beyond her small family and community in Wolverhampton, until one day when she hesitantly accepts an offer to transfer to the London branch of the call centre where she works.

 

Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz she steps off the train into her new world in a cloud of trepidation lined with bright curiosity, facing a series of challenges and meeting some interesting friends along the way, each of whom Larson brings to life with a brilliant array of accents and mannerisms, always returning to her own brightly dulcet Wolves native accent to voice Eve.

 

As in The Wizard of Oz, the titular character in Finding Fassbender is not the focus of the plot, but a device that drives our heroine on a journey of self-discovery. Unlike The Wizard of Oz, this heroine is in her 30s: this is less of a coming-of-age story and more a coming-of-life story. Eve is no naive teenager discovering her identity, she’s an adult woman who knows what she wants on a day-to-day basis and can look after herself very well, thank you. But, like many of her generation she’s reached her third decade without ever being sure of what direction she wants to take for the rest of her life, and hasn’t yet had the chance to push herself, test her limits and find her true desires.

 

In a festival crammed with female stories focussed around trauma – featuring a lot of #metoo and mental-health related struggles (many, of course, sharing experiences that are important to see reflected) watching Finding Fassbender is a refreshing relief. We were delighted to settle into our seats to hear a story that, while not without emotional depth and poignancy, is mostly a celebration of a woman’s realisation of her own potential through a unique zig-zaggy path that’s filled to the brim with oddball humour (including some of the best puns we heard outside of the Fringe’s comedy programme) and ultimately affirming positivity.

 

Follow Lydia Larson on twitter to see what she does next.

 

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Pickle Jar

 

Maddie Rice had our stomachs twisted in knots by the end of this play about a teacher whose life becomes intertwined with her students. In Pickle Jar she has written herself the perfect role to show her versatility, subtlety and comic flair as an actor at the same time as exploring vital issues around rape culture, and the consuming feelings of guilt and blame around sexual assault.

 

Follow Maddie Rice to find out more.

 

 

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Clingfilm

 

Plunge returned to Edinburgh after the success of their last show, Private View, to take the Fringe by storm with a musical comedy that mingles dazzlingly poppy tunes and colours with with socio-cultural observational comedy and a tongue-in-cheek tendency for self-parody that reminds us of the musical sitcom Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Plunge have even made a couple of hilarious music videos that go along with this show if you want to re-live the fun at home).

 

Clingfilm sees the eternally sequin-clad trio exploring what happens when a Pole, a Turk, and a Brit sit next to each other at the funeral of their old university lecturer. They affectionately tease each other, take it in turns to don a ridiculous wig to play a vicar, sing enormously catchy tunes, and generally occupy the back pew of the church like the coolest kids in school did the back seat of the bus – except when it comes to a Plunge show, everyone in the room is allowed to sit with them.

 

The depth in this piece comes when each of the women deliver their own internal monologues giving an insight into their own individual identities behind the all-for-one girl-band group dynamic. Tutku, Izabella and Lily play characters in Clingfilm, but ones that share the performers’ backgrounds, accents, and mannerisms so it’s easy to imagine that there are more than a few threads of truth in their characterisation, and it’s obvious that their mutually-supportive relationship as a group, and their cheerfully sibling-esque jibing at each other is based firmly in reality – you can’t fake this kind of bonding. It’s this closeness to their subject matter that gives their monologues real authenticity and keeps us rapt with attention even during these more intimate and less flashy moments of the show.

 

Plunge give us proper friendship goals, sisterly in everything except their wildly different backgrounds they’re a living demonstration of how Millennials can thrive if we redefine the parameters of family and community to include the friends with whom we share a sense of humour and outlook on life as well as those with whom we share an upbringing, religion or language.

 

Follow Plunge to stay up-to-date with their work.

 

 

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It’s True, It’s True, It’s True

 

We underestimated the extremely physical emotional response that would arise in our bodies while watching Breach Theatre’s It’s True, It’s True, It’s True. Reading the description of a “re-staging of an Italian rape trial from 1612”, we wrongly assumed that the distance of several centuries from the story would allow us to critically assess the errors of the court, look at the evidence of rape culture at work, and compare this historical account of a rape trial with the accounts we hear today from people who have gone through the process of reporting rape and sexual assault. We thought this might be a space to interrogate intellectually how the vein of misogyny has been allowed to flow so freely throughout so many societies and across generations when it comes to letting rapists commit and get away with their violence.

 

If there was an intellectual analysis of rape culture happening in the room, it was not happening inside our heads. We were filled with too many feelings. We felt the hot rage of injustice as Ellice Stevens’ Artemisia Gentileschi was shamed, slandered, and betrayed. We felt the esophagus-closing, tooth-grinding, toe-clenching tension of recognition as the people close to her contradicted her word and questioned whether she had invited the attentions of her painting tutor. Artemisia’s tutor and rapist, Agostino Tassi, was played with such nonchalant brutality and simmering volatility by Sophie Steer that we had to sit on our hands to stop ourselves from throwing our hot drinks at her. She so confidently wore Agostino’s chillingly familiar predatorial expression on her face that it was genuinely a struggle to control our fight or flight instincts and stay sat in the front row like polite audience members.

 

As the trial went on, and Artemisia was subjected to further violations – stripped, physically probed, and tortured – we felt a ballooning sense of helplessness. Our bodies becoming light and inconsequential, we were being swept into the distance, unable to reach out to Artemisia as she was left on the stage, weighed down in her body which had been so horribly abused.

 

When Artemisia told us of her return to painting we felt a rush of blood to our heads bring us back into the room with her. We felt hungry as she described in violent graphic detail the tale of Judith beheading Holofernes: the concerted effort that she imagined Judith making to cut through the throat, the sinew and the bones in his neck. When she told us how she painted the scene over and over and became a huge success, we felt a rumbling of renewed energy, like a tingling followed by the beginnings of a small earthquake in all of our muscles.

 

Finally, we felt a slow-motion burst of catharsis, exploding out of our faces in smiles, tears, and snot as Patti Smith’s Gloria lifted us up to our feet, ready to fight, to join forces with, to protect, and avenge Artemisia’s of the past and future. Rather than having a distancing effect, the examination of this trial from so long ago had a uniting effect on us – bringing us as close as someone can possibly feel to a woman who lived 400 years ago. Because for anyone who has been raped or sexually assaulted, or lives in constant fear and wariness of it, rape is rape, and the real presence of it in our lives means that it can never be an intellectual or historical issue.

 

It’s True, It’s True, It’s True is running at New Diorama Theatre in London, Oct 16 – Nov 10.

 

Follow Breach Theatre for updates on this and other productions.

 

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Love Songs

 

Alissa Anne Juen Yi, the writer and performer of Love Songs, welcomes her audience into her cosy bubble-gum hued space, enveloping us in the intimate and private atmosphere of a young woman’s bedroom before the show has even begun, and establishing the lack of a fourth wall with a gentle sensitivity and genuinely beaming smile.

 

As we made our way onto the front row, Alissa asked if we’d like to be volunteers to help her tell her story or if we’d rather not, with the most unpressured approach we’ve ever experienced from a performer seeking audience interaction. We watched the show on the day of a relaxed performance so this was further enhanced with sheets handed out detailing plot points where potential triggering subjects, moments of emotional intensity or loud noises, for anyone who needed to prepare themselves to brace or perhaps leave (and if we did choose to leave, Alissa let us know, we would always be welcome to return at any time). These acts of care for her audience were reassuring, and vital for creating the right kind of respectful and well-boundaried dialogue between everyone in the room, as Alissa was about to embark on telling us an incredibly personal and raw story of having her romantic idealism taken advantage of and challenged by an experience of sexual assault.

 

Telling her story, and helping others to feel less alone in having experiences similar to hers, seems like it is part of Alissa’s own healing process. Although the events of the show seem painfully recent, her sunny presence on stage has us all laughing along with her at her own cringey teenage poetry as though we were having a cosy night in reminiscing with an old friend. It reminds us that an experience like hers, though deeply traumatic, is not at all unusual and shouldn’t something that shame or embarrassment stop us from talking about, and that ensuring safe circumstances to discuss such experiences is a shared responsibility between everyone in the room.

 

Alissa describes her relationship with her best friend, the strength that she found through bonding over their similarities and differences, how she grew as a person as they grew closer as women, and it feels as though Alissa herself is playing this best-friend role for us in her audience. An example of a relatable survivor who shows us the importance of valuing your own well-being, healing, and learning to love yourself instead of trying to be liked by everyone else.

 

Alissa’s generosity in sharing her recovery process with her audience seems like a natural act of friendship, as instinctive as opening your door to a pal who needs company and comfort, and we think that for anyone who has anything in common with Alissa: young Millennials and recent graduates, mixed-race and British East-Asian women, and especially anyone who shared a #metoo story, would benefit from spending an hour with her (and having a hug with her at the end of it). If this show returns to the stage soon, go, bring a trusted friend, and make sure you schedule an hour or so of downtime and a joyful playlist of love songs to listen to afterwards.

 

Listen to our podcast interview with Alissa, recorded in Edinburgh.

 

Follow Trip Hazards for future production announcements.

 

 

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Elf Lyons: ChiffChaff

 

The Queen of Clown and possibly the youngest artist to be justifiably called a “Fringe veteran” is back, with this gloriously self-referential piece of comic brilliance. At the top of the show, Elf gives us a brief lecture-style intro where she breaks down the structure of what she’s about to do in the show. She then makes a quick-change and establishes herself as a ditzy Sally Bowles inspired character, quickly conjuring a silly vacuous stereotype of kooky-artsy-femininity with her short sparkly dress, perky American accent and manic-pixie-dream-girl doe-eyed expression. However, no sooner has she established this character and successfully sparked an ‘aww’ reaction in our brains, than she embarks on an energetic giggle-filled hour of challenging the idea (which we’ve all been fed by society) that as a young woman, an artist, and a dyslexic, topics like economics should be naturally beyond her comprehension.

 

In ChiffChaff, Elf Lyons becomes an intrepid explorer, overcoming the female-entertainer stereotypes she parodies, and the unconventional way that her brain interprets the world, to learn everything about economics that she can glean from her adorably patient, dryly humorous, brainbox of a father. Elf’s Dad is a real-life economist whose voice we hear answering her many questions via recordings, which she looks up to listen to as though hearing the meaning of life being explained for the hundredth time by a kindly, omniscient, and fairly opinionated God-type.

 

Through moments of sublimely silly physical comedy – highlights were a mime representing the concept of Quantative Easing, and a never-seen-before method of eating a banana, Elf takes us on a stupendously fun journey. When we booked to see her show, we knew we were in for a chuckle, but could never have anticipated the rate at which the laughs would come. Not until we found ourselves hurtling with aching cheeks towards understanding not just hugely important economic theories, practices, and their significant impact on real-lives, but also her own mind. We got a fascinating and beautifully affirming insight into how Elf approaches understanding and interpreting her father’s area of expertise for herself, throwing society’s expectations of her abilities aside, like one of the many toys that she uses masterfully as props, but ultimately does not need to make us love her.

 

Make sure you catch Elf Lyons in a town near you whenever you can, and leave your preconceptions at the door, because however high your expectations are, nothing will be able to prepare you for the unique joy of sharing a space with such a magnificently generous and marvellously talented performer.

 

Check Elf’s website for more chances to see her soon.

 

 

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Evelyn Mok

 

The assured stage-presence that we admired in Evelyn Mok’s debut show last year has continued to develop, as she seems to grow ever more comfortable making her audience bubble with laughter at things that we would normally recoil from – and encouraging us to investigate our own instinct to giggle.

 

In this year’s discomforting analysis of a nasty experience of fetishisation and child grooming, Evelyn wields her jokes like weapons against the patriarchy, racism, and sexual predators. She enables us laugh in the face of such awful things because we see them from her perspective. Her exploration of her experiences, in a space which she absolutely owns, allows us to finds a new funny side to the worst aspects of humanity by seeing them through the lens of her trademark tension-filled humour.  

 

Follow Evelyn Mok to find out when you can see her next.

 

 

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Woke

 

Apphia Campbell’s tour-de-force portrayal of Black Panther Assata Shakur and college student discovering her legacy returned this year after making a big impact at Fringe 2017. The delicate unfolding of these two women’s powerful stories is a a deeply inspirational tale of activism in two eras peppered throughout with exquisitely performed blues and gospel songs. More than just telling two important stories, Woke is a masterclass in solo performance: Apphia Campbell’s subtle transitions between playing both women is a wonder to behold and an absolute must-see for activists and actors.

 

Apphia Campbell is currently touring Woke, along with her other critically-acclaimed solo show about Nina Simone: Black Is The Colour Of My Voice. Check her website for dates.

 

 

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Trojan Horse

 

Trojan Horse offers a new perspective on the 2014 news story surrounding allegations of radicalisation taking place in Birmingham schools. Documentary theatre company Lung use verbatim text from interviews with people directly affected by the story alongside dramatised scenes taking place within a school, surrounding streets, homes, and courtrooms during the fallout of the accusations.

 

The monologues compiled from interviews, courtroom reconstructions, and sensitively staged scenes based on real people’s lives all come together to build a strong case against Michael Gove as the Education Minister who seems to have targeted Muslim families in a grossly transparent and clumsily plotted set-up. This included sensationalist allegations detailed in an anonymous letter which (despite being full of unverified claims) was featured heavily in the media, with politicians fretting in grave tones about the perceived risk that Muslim teachers pose to their students, and that “radicalised” students could pose to the public in turn.  

 

In their production of Trojan Horse at Summerhall, Lung’s set consisted of small school desks and a chalkboard, which, like the entire cast, remained on stage throughout. This familiar furniture, and the actors in their scruffy school uniforms, were an ever-present reminder of the youth of the people most badly affected and stigmatised by the publicity around the ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal. As their school was transformed, desks dragged into formation to represent the adult spaces of courtrooms and offices, actors throwing on scarves or jackets to play adult characters, we couldn’t help but keep the children of this story at the forefront of our minds. School children were deemed terrorists-in-training by Islamophobic tabloids. Muslim kids lost their right to be regarded as innocents, their opportunities narrowed as their schools came under scrutiny at crucial points in their education, all while in hideous irony Politicians claimed to be motivated by concern for their welfare.

 

The use of scene titles in this show, handwritten hastily on a blackboard in chalk, did more than just communicate the setting of each scene; it worked to imbue every chapter of the story with increasing urgency as each one seemed scribbled faster than the last. The titles also emphasised that this play is more than a story; it’s a record of real occurrences, a document of great importance, revealing the personal truths behind the headlines, and the lasting damage done by a politician’s scramble to be seen as “tackling terrorism”.

 

The writers of Trojan Horse give over a huge chunk of the play’s text to verbatim testimonies of the teachers and governors directly impacted by the allegations, and their perspective shines a light on just how much appalling damage was done to real people’s lives when they became collateral in the UK government’s mission to convince the public that they were clamping down on the causes of terrorism.

 

However, it was the classroom scenes, presumably staged based on accounts from teachers and students, which grasped at our hearts with the strongest emotional tug. The teenage girls featured in Trojan Horse are still on the cusp of child and adulthood. In their classroom we see them bonding with each other, asking their teachers for advice, deciding what to keep private and what to talk about.

 

The actors multi-roling throughout the play are good as adults: switching accents and mannerisms as easily as they change their scarves and jackets, but they are astounding when it comes to playing the young girls, and we believe in them with every facet of our being. It’s in the moments between these girls that we’re reminded of the sensitivity of that time of life, the sanctuary which a classroom can provide, and the delicate balance which can tip a kid over from feeling confident and curious and teaching them to feel shame and fear. Watching the experiences of the children in Trojan Horse, and knowing that it’s all based on truth, we’re tipped from feeling outraged to feeling furious. Furious that this happened in 2014, and that the government continues to enforce the Prevent strategy, which puts Muslim children and parents under surveillance, requiring trusted figures like teachers and doctors to report on ‘signs of radicalisation’ (such as an interest in religion) in children as young as nursery age.

 

Keep an eye on Lung Theatre for announcement of the Autumn tour of Trojan Horse.

 

 

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Egg: Richard Pictures

 

We laughed just reading the title of this show, and have loved Egg for a while, so had very high expectations for diaphragm-damaging LOLs during Richard Pictures. Readers, our hopes were well and truly exceeded, and possibly not matched during the rest of the Fringe. From the moment they first clock the audience with a knowing side-eye, to the moment when they appeared in their robes with their faces contorted in bitter rivalry as twin spirit-medium sisters, we always felt we were in the presence of accomplished performers who kept their audience in the palm of their hands with such ease that they could allow themselves to keep playing and occasionally making each other laugh, as well as their audience.

 

Emily Lloyd-Saini and Anna Long-Borphy, combine to make Egg, and they’re quite simply a match made in comedy heaven. Their rapport fizzes with a healthy balance of competitive comedic instincts and true BFF love. They bounce off each other continuously and with such vibrancy that each sketch felt fresh and surprising, even though we caught them halfway through their run in an undersized (and over-stuffed) sweaty basement, and had seen a couple of their best signature sketches before (the toilet-paper bit literally NEVER gets old).

 

Their sketches, which range from oh-so-close-to-reality observations to disbelief-suspending weirdness, are deftly woven together with interlinking themes, sharp call-backs, and frequent dollops of ridicule in the direction of audiences and critics who often want to put them in boxes based on gender or race.   

 

We particularly enjoyed the digs at men hitting on women in wildly inappropriate (but horrifyingly plausible) situations. With their chat-up lines as bad as the wigs that Anna and Emily took turns to wear to send them up, we couldn’t help but imagine that real men have used them, and hope that such guys recognise themselves enough to cringe if they ever find themselves in Egg’s audience.

 

Watching these heroes of feminist wit in action raises a special sort of unifying laughter: it’s the kind of unbridled tears-in-your-eyes hysteria that comes from sharing a round of particularly stupid things-white-guys-said-to-us stories with a room full of best mates, only bigger and louder, because there are 50 of us in on the same joke.

 

Follow Egg Comedy for future gigs.

 

 

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The LOL Word

 

This comedy collective of queer women and non-binary comedians have been holding monthly nights in London for a while now, and have built up a reliable reputation as THE night to go to if you prefer to laugh in an environment where you can giggle freely with the level of blissful abandon that comes from knowing that the next act on the bill won’t be sexist and/or LGBTQphobic.

 

The LOL Word’s nightly Edinburgh show took place in the most fringest of all the fringe spaces – a living room above a bar without a sign, in which their audience was packed so tightly that the stage space consisted of about 2 feet square and was surrounded on all sides by cross-legged audience members hugging their knees, squeezing into every inch of space, and a few unlucky latecomers turned away at the door. The lack of space in this venue was cold, hard (actually – warm and quite squidgy) evidence that there’s a sizeable audience hungry for jokes by queer women and non-binary people. In case us just asking for it it wasn’t enough.

 

As well as presenting a reliably rib-tickling selection of performances from their own virtuoso LOL Word original team every night they always feature at least one guest performer on the bill.

 

On the evening we visited, Chloe Green (one of the LOL Word originals) kicked off the night with a quickfire stream of jokes that bounce pleasingly around a wide field of lefty feminist crowd-winning topics, ranging from queer dating problems to Jeremy Corbyn’s tweets. 

Chloe’s jabs at her boss are served with a wry wink that makes us feel like we’re in with the naughty crowd at school, while her dissection of the practical considerations behind a lesbian oil party is delivered in such a disarmingly sweet and down-to-earth tone that we’re sure we’d still have been laughing just as delightedly if our Mums had been sat next to us.  Her range is broad and her punchlines land rapidly, but it’s the cheeky glint in her eye that makes us want to see more of her work in future.

 

The first guest on the bill was one of our firm-favourite stand-ups, the consistently fabulous Sophie Duker. Sophie’s playfully irreverent takes on people’s reactions to her identity as a ‘triple threat minority’ and her curiously probing investigation into the weird world of self-identified posh-people in the audience at The LOL Word was an awesome trailer for both of her Fringe shows: her shared-bill of woke-folk friendly laughs with Lulu Popplewell called DukePop, and her own riotously righteous night of POC comedy, the ingeniously named Wacky Racists, the latter of which she hosts regularly in London and continually fills us with hope for a future of stand-up without the dominance of white guys.

 

The second guest we saw was Saba Husain whose idea for a Kylie Minogue-inspired musical was tucked so neatly into her weirdly endearing takedown of Malala Yousafzai that we didn’t see the punchlines coming until we were doubled over with laughter.

 

As if this stellar line-up wasn’t enough to satiate our love of The LOL Word team, we also found time to check out Jodie Mitchell’s set as half of a shared-bill with impressively chameleon-esque character comic Cam Spence. In yet another packed-out room at Banshee Labyrinth we happily revisited a highlight joke of Jodie’s signature imaginative style – a multi-layered fable of agreeably camp talking birds and tampons. We actually laughed harder at this part the second (or maybe even third) time we heard it, with the dizzy anticipation of riding a rollercoaster twice and delighting in the speed with which the story snowballs into strangeness. We also relished the chance she got in this longer set to delve deeper into her dark interpretation of the Teletubbies, and her surreal re-imagining of a working-class childhood spent smeared in potato smileys designed to lure Katie Hopkins.

 

Jodie’s singular skill for finding the fantastical flipside to everyday observations translated seamlessly between audiences: she won over a midday room of free-fringe punters who presumably weren’t already part of her dedicated LOL Word following, and undoubtedly left them adoring her with almost the same affection as those of us who have already declared ourselves full-on fangirls. We’re looking forward to seeing an hour-long show from this obvious superstar in future, and spending many more joyful nights with all of the LOL Word comics.

 

Follow The LOL Word and sign up for their mailing list to make sure you never miss their London shows.      

 

Sophie Duker’s Wacky Racists night takes place regularly in London.

 

 

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(even) HOTTER

 

Performance duo Mary Higgins and Ell Potter combined their surnames to create HOTTER: a project in which they interviewed cis women and trans people between the ages of 11 and 97 about what gets them hot, in a bid to create a piece of theatre about the moments when our bodies physically react in a way that betrays our innermost feelings, whether that be sexual attraction, embarrassment, or both.

 

Mary and Ell initially used the interviews to create a verbatim show called HOTTER, which had a run at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe – (even) HOTTER is the story behind that show, in which they dig deeper to interrogate their relationships with their own bodies, sexuality, and each other, and unpack their attitudes and responsibility towards the subjects of their interviews.

 

You don’t need to have seen HOTTER to revel in the unravelling of it in (even) HOTTER, as all is explained through their delightfully unpretentious self-referential conversations with the audience and each other. Watching this show feels like being a fly-on-the-wall, and sometimes even a participant, in the artistic process, and is certainly an interaction that couldn’t take place anywhere except in a theatre.

 

(even) HOTTER is particularly hard to describe not just because of its extremely physical and sesuous nature, but because it feels more like an organic living thing that will continue to evolve, rather than a set production. It seems like an artwork which will grow rather than be repeated or reproduced, and watching it is a very personal experience that (like sex) will feel different for each different person in the room, but this is how it was for us. On the day we saw it, we discovered a fascinatingly higgledy-piggledy jigsaw of a show, made up of segments of last year’s verbatim performance, and the performers own remarkably frank insights into their own personal journeys. There were some hilariously well-timed performances of the surprising, liberating, and touching interview recordings, which Mary and Ell lipsync in a style that brings to mind the affectionate caricaturing of the mystery interviewees on the animated Creature Comforts series. There are insanely catchy musical interludes which transform snippets of the recordings into choruses for beautifully bizarre and expressive dance routines that we itched to join in with. There are moments of honesty, where the performers open up about their own most personal thoughts and feelings, and step out of their role as artists and storytellers to let us see their humanity laid bare. There was a lot of pink. We loved it, and if you ever have the chance to go, we’d love to hear how it was for you.

 

Follow Hotter and their producers Transgress, who also produced Kaiya Stone’s excellent and massively relatable one-woman comedy lecture on growing up with dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD: Everything’s Going To Be KO.

 

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The Half

 

Anna Crilly and Margaret Cabourn-Smith deliver knockout performances full of wit, venom and extraordinary pathos in this heartrending play about a comedy double-act who we meet on the anniversary of their final performance together.

 

Despite the comic potential of the setting of The Half (and the obvious comedy talents of its stars, which we glimpse as they recall their characters’ careers), this play is not short on gut-wrenching moments of tragedy. What starts as a light bout of sparring from two long-time frenemies quickly becomes unexpectedly dark, going to places filled with violence and heartbreak that we never anticipated.

 

Writer Danielle Ward and director Anna MacGowen’s combined skills and experience are indomitable, skewering the adversaries faced by women in comedy with the precision of seasoned hunters. Their work combines with the skills of their two actors in The Half to create a densely-woven three-dimensional portrait of a relationship. We see the the bitter-sweet friction build between the characters as they work hard to build and maintain their careers and their friendship in the face of an industry rife with sexism.

 

The tragedy of this play comes from the fact that both women cannot survive unscathed in this world that throws ever-larger roadblocks in their way. The former natural allies seem destined from the beginning of the play to be pitted against each other in a race against the ebbing tides of prejudice against them. Not because all women are meant to be Baby Jane-esque rivals at each other’s throats ‘til the end, but because of a combination of personal and socio-political circumstances which contribute to the layers of resentment building up between them over the course of decades. The portrayal of the effects of rampant sexism, ageism, single parent stigma, trauma, addiction and poor mental health on these women’s relationship is as multi-layered and as complex as the relationship itself. This presents a challenging number of crucial plot points for a fringe audience to absorb, and requires a high level of emotional engagement from both the actors and audience, but The Half’s two leads have the chops to carry us through it, and we’re with them throughout as they lift and dip us masterfully through the highs and lows of two interlocked lifetimes in the space of an hour.

 

Follow The Half to hear about any further performances.

 

 

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Baby Daddy

 

Elinor Coleman appears before the audience in her own autobiographical play as a captivating powerhouse of a performer in leopard-print leggings, using her bold presence and rich singing voice to fiercely reclaim her role as a young single mother from anyone who would use it to demonise or stereotype her. She presents motherhood as one aspect of her identity: inextricable from the woman she is today, a choice which has shaped her, but never something that wholly defines her. She’s a mother at the same time as being an artist, a daughter, a sister, a millennial, and a proud Brummie.

 

In Baby Daddy, Elinor reflects on the admirably defiant (if naive) confidence of her younger self, who became pregnant at the age of 20, when she was sharing a house and between jobs, and decided to have a baby “without a single doubt”. As she takes us in painful, hilarious, and sometimes wincingly-intimate detail through the pregnancy, birth, and bringing up her daughter, we see the last glimmers of naivety drop off her in sweat and tears as she struggles with the day-to-day practicalities of parenting alone, in the midst of the nasty negative reactions from those around her. She’s challenged constantly by the stigma that follows her into every pre- and post-natal appointment. There are moments when she’s sneered at, patronised, and isolated, during which our hearts swell with empathy, but not pity, as she never loses her self-belief and that pure gut-instinct confidence that having her child was the best choice.

 

The stigma against young single mothers, and the pressurised quest for a father-figure that it inspires, result in memorable moments of comedic gold, and the resulting conclusion that family is what you make it all comes together to provide an excellent narrative framework to shape Elinor’s story into a satisfying and meticulously-crafted piece of theatre, but ultimately, the heart of this story – the element that make it truly unforgettable is the unshakeable bond between a mother and daughter and their ability to give each other strength throughout everything.

 

Elinor’s love for her daughter drives Baby Daddy like an irresistible tide, pulling her from one chapter to the next on a journey towards valuing herself as the complete family-unit that her daughter deserves. We feel this love palpably in the room as we listen to recordings of her daughter asking questions, commenting, and giggling, throughout the show – her small voice integrated not just into scenes where she’s present, but throughout the show, alongside the beautifully-composed ever-present musical score that’s played live on stage using multiple musical instruments. At the climax of the play, this bright and lively little girl’s voice takes centre stage as mother and daughter perform a touching duet that had the whole room so choked we were ready to reach out and hug the nearest human to us, whether we knew them or not.

 

We may have cried during plenty of shows this Fringe and blamed the intensity of the Edinburgh experience a few times, but Elinor Coleman well and truly earned our tears as well as our admiration for being fearless in her honesty, and astonishing in her frank moments of vulnerability. She’s candid about the fact that she’s a human trying her best, not a superwoman, and we’re all the more in awe of her for it.

 

Follow Baby Daddy on twitter for more tour dates.

 

 

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Island Town

 

This new play, about teenagers trapped in an undefined small town somewhere in the countryside, fits perfectly in Paine’s Plough’s Roundabout space. It’s themes are of cycles and isolation, and we visualise our fellow audience-members (just visible opposite us in the dark) as the world outside the town, with the circle of the stage’s edge penning the characters in like the ring-road that surrounds their hometown.

 

The three-strong cast of Island Town all give compelling, convincing, and connected performances. In the Roundabout’s empty set and prop-free space, with Simon Longman’s staccato dialogue and Stef O’Driscoll’s distinctively punchy direction, this remarkable trio of actors pull the focus tightly around the three young friends’ close bond with each other. There are moments towards the beginning where they make each other (and the audience) laugh so much we think this could be an Inbetweeners-esque coming-of-age comedy, but that’s not how these kids lives pan out. Their small world is punctuated by moments of powerful slow-motion movement foreshadowing a glimpse of serious violence. Scenes of familiar teenage teasing are laced with a haunting feeling of foreboding as well as a sense of time passing at disconcertingly variable speeds.

 

Katherine Pearce is particularly magnetic to watch as Kate, the protagonist whose anger at the world and her situation builds into self-loathing as she ages rapidly before us. Kate’s exuberant teenage humour, initially laced with a wry cynicism that couldn’t quite hide the glimmer of hope behind her eyes, gradually gave way to a different kind of wildness: the kind of uncontrollable frustration-filled rage that is rarely seen in female characters on stage.

 

Even as the impending darkness chasing these teenagers closed in, and the disaster looming over the play from the beginning began to reveal itself, we couldn’t help but feel heartened to see a young woman exploring such a range and depth of feelings in a play that centres her experience and allows the audience to see the world through her eyes.

 

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Sticks and Stones

 

The same cast we loved in Island Town are in rep, featuring also in Sticks and Stones by Vinay Patel, where they play roles that could hardly be more different from the isolated young trio of characters in Island Town. Here they are powerful adults, presumably wielding significant influence and racing to climb career ladders in a fast-paced office, where Katherine Pearce once again shines as a busy working parent whose hopes for promotion are scuppered when a bad-taste joke she made in a meeting is called-out publicly by a colleague.

 

Vinay Patel’s super-intelligent and exquisitely satirical script is prefaced with the note that he has “veered away from specifying concrete character attributes such as race, class or gender”, not because such attributes aren’t important, but to give anyone staging it the freedom to play with instability. This company plays with it like an expert cat hunting many birds in one go, pinning down several different characters, and aspects of society and culture all at once, with jokes fluttering at every turn like feathers settling around a sense of discomfort, squirming but always kept alive under gentle paws with sharp claws. Stef O’Driscoll’s direction (with movement direction from Jennifer Jackson and Simon Carrol-Jones) uses the space to its fullest, with the cast leaping from one pose to the next as they jump into cheesy dance poses to send-up their hyper competitive everyone-for-themselves but everyone-must-conform working environment, and later to literalise the song-and-dance they make about using euphemisms and acronyms to signal their own virtue.

 

The euphemisms and buzzwords, thrown around the stage with such gusto and increasing rapidity, are the heart of what makes this play a work of genius – it’s a searing parody of the lengths people will go to avoid saying (or even inferring) certain words, whilst simultaneously avoiding thinking about the actual weight, meaning and history behind words that makes them taboo in the first place. At the same time, the fact that no one on stage ever specifies the word that gets the central character into hot water in Sticks and Stones stops the audience from fixating on the word itself in our minds, and allows us to observe the mechanisms involved in language censorship and call-out culture. It’s a device which exposes the kind of behaviour that even the ‘wokest’ of us are guilty of. It’s easy and common for those who think we can keep up with which words fall in and out of social acceptability to play the do-gooders and PC police, loudly highlighting potential offence caused by others, pointing out their mistakes to get out of ever addressing the roots and depths of our own prejudices, whatever they may be.

 

This wonderful cast of Island Town and Sticks and Stones also appeared in Paine’s Plough’s How To Spot An Alien, which comes highly recommended for kids of all ages by our trusted junior Bechdel ambassador (daughter of Baby Daddy’s Elinor Coleman) who we trusted when she told us it was loads of fun, and easily passed the Bechdel test.

 

Island Town, Sticks and Stones and How To Spot An Alien are touring in Paine’s Plough’s Roundabout, with upcoming dates in Salford, Kendal, Margate, Poole, Lincoln, Stoke-On-Trent, and Luton.

 

 

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The Providence of Neighbouring Bodies

 

Billed as “a dark comedy about beavers, beers, balconies, and America in chaos” The Providence of Neighbouring Bodies, by American playwright Jean Ann Douglass, is a keenly-observed piece of socio-political commentary dressed as a kooky-odd-couple story of female friendship. We’re immediately drawn into the inner worlds of two strangers who live next door to each other, easily connecting with them as they sit on their adjacent balconies through the fantastically detailed and focussed performances of Lori Elizabeth Parquet and Amy Staats, and the offbeat charm of the writing.

 

The two women’s inner-commentary monologues are both poetic and appealingly sensual, giving us a vivid insight into not just their thoughts and feelings, but their physical conditions as they wake, breathe in the morning air, drink a coffee, arrange some flowers and then finally share a beer and a laugh.

 

These characters both live alone in the same neighbourhood, are similar ages, and equally fascinating to get to know, though their natural rhythms, occupying thoughts, and responses to each other are comically different, and the play could easily have taken the direction of continuing to explore their mismatched but gradually warming relationship, riding on the laughs of hearing their conflicting internal interpretations of events.

 

However, not quite halfway into the play we’re introduced to a third character, who not only disrupts the quietly blossoming connection between the neighbours, but also the audience’s expectations of a reasonably naturalistic light comedy play. The new arrival is a beaver played by Dinah Berkley whose furry coat, twitchy nose, and long leather tail give her just the right amount of weirdness that we’re aware she’s a little bit different from the characters we’ve just got to know, but whose bright smile and friendly affability make it hard to comprehend when she’s regarded with a slight air of wariness, suspicion and even disdain by her new human friends.

Like Sticks and Stones, The Providence of Neighbouring Bodies deals with notions of prejudice and exclusion by using an element of absurdism to distance the characters from the real world, and succeeds in making their world seem just strange enough to shine a light on the roots and inner-workings behind their very recognisable behaviour without making their odd situation and familiar reactions seem like a clumsy analogy for one or another specific kind of intolerance or discrimination.

 

If we gave Bechdel test related awards, The Providence of Neighbouring Bodies would get one for depicting (without fanfare) two women past their mid-20s, both living alone and expressing their inner hopes, doubts, and independent takes on life, without one hint of a desire for male companionship or approval. This whole production was high in quality (special shout-out for the neatest design we saw on a Fringe stage this year), the characters were complex and well developed, and the unique plot gave us plenty of food for thought, so we’d love more UK audiences to have an opportunity to see this show, and hope it has plans for a run outside of Edinburgh.      

 

Follow production company Dutch Kills for news.

 

 

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Six

 

Six gives a voice to a group of very different women from different countries and spanning several decades, united by the one thing they have in common: the King of England (the infamous Henry VIII) who treated them appallingly badly. In this show the six wives reunite to tell their own Herstory, using belting ballads, thumping beats, and rippling guitar riffs to demonstrate how much more they are than just wives.

 

Each woman takes her turn to occupy centre stage with a solo song (always with the others on backing duties with impeccable harmonies and snappy dance routines), under the premise of figuring out which of them should be the lead vocalist. We don’t want to spoil the feminist message which provides the climax of this play, but safe to say the songs aren’t ALL about the King.

 

Part musical theatre, part history lesson, but mostly pop concert, this show has the atmosphere of an internationally-touring diva-supergroup on a stadium stage. It’s the perfect show to take the GCSE-aged feminist in your life to see songs inspired by the greatest singers of recent years (with clear nods to Beyonce, Rihanna and Adele amongst others) and buy the merch afterwards. But as big, exciting and important as the teen-girl audience is, we can’t help but feel that this vivacious re-writing of history should be seen and heard by anyone who was taught that “divorced, beheaded, died” rhyme at school. It’s a fun hour, but also a valuable one spent reassessing what we’ve learned about the past, who we learned it from, and what kinds of stories we should keep on passing down to future generations.

 

Following it’s Edinburgh run, Six is transferring to The Arts Theatre in the West End.

 

 

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Len Blanco: Firing Blancs

 

Hey girl, if you’ve ever doubted whether that the dude wearing the slogan t-shirt made in less-than-ethical conditions really IS what a feminist looks like, then this show’s for you. Len Blanco is a drag king with a story to tell, but before he does it, he makes us feel all of the teenage thrills of watching our favourite pop star take to the stage. 

 

Len’s undeniably sexy dance moves in his opening number are guaranteed to make any heteros who may have happened upon this show question their sexuality. But this is not a straight-up gender-blurring tribute act, nor is it a one-directional take on the life of a teen-pop pin-up gone bad. It’s an enlightening look into a later chapter in the life of a former womaniser embarking on a hilariously shambolic effort to get woke, in which Len Blanco’s clever creator Helen White challenges the length, depth, and girth of the commitment of Good Feminist Guys to the cause.

 

Follow Len Blanco for more drag king goodness.

 

 

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Zoo

 

In this gem of a new play by Lily Bevan two very different women on either side of the Atlantic bond over their shared love of animals and disappointment at humans. Bevan herself plays cheery Californian zookeeper Bonnie, sharing the stage with Lorna Beckett playing no-nonsense Carol, who works in a Yorkshire wildlife centre looking after bats. Both women are utterly devoted to their jobs, and despite their surface differences in accent, expression and tone, they find an understanding between them that runs deeper and holds faster than any other relationship either of them have ever had.

 

Zoo is a comedy, with characters and locations that are ripe for humour, but its impact as a play relies on the fact that we laugh with (rather than at) the two leads. Luckily Bonnie and Carol are written and played with such skill that, although they appear on the surface like they could be two sidekick-types in a sitcom with their distinctive accents, dungarees and unique eccentricities, they’re very much the joint-protagonists in this tale, each with their own history and emotional complexity to pull the audience into their world. It’s marvellous thing to have these two not only be the centre of their own compelling plot, but to have the strength of their friendship drive much of the action, as well as their commitment to their jobs.  

 

This is a play where nothing is ever as simple or easy as it seems. The show begins with an atmosphere so lighthearted it’s almost cute, but it has a darkness that rises gradually and subtly, like a very slow flood, until we find we’re much more deeply invested in these two characters than we would have imagined when they made us chuckle so easily in the first few scenes. It’s testament to the true talent of Lily Bevan and Loran Beckett that we went to see this show on a whim because we liked the sound of flamingos in a urinal, and were so taken in by their performances that we have not stopped thinking about these characters and their friendship since.

 

Follow Lily Bevan on twitter to keep up-to-date on her work.

 

 

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Dangerous Giant Animals

 

Christina Murdock’s play about living with a disabled sibling is based on her own relationship with her sister. On a bare stage, painted to depict her sister’s favourite animals in haunting cartoon silhouette, Christina takes us through the years of a family holding together by the skin of their teeth, and as she portrays each family member in turn we see etched on her face the pain that stretches them to their limits, as well as the deep love and commitment that binds them together.

 

Dangerous Giant Animals is a powerful exploration of the depth of sisterly love, and the violence of human nature, and represents a point-of-view that we haven’t seen represented on stage before with forthright honesty and immense tenderness.

 

Follow Christina Murdock for news on the future development of Dangerous Giant Animals.

 

 

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Miss Venezuela

 

If you’re looking for an education on the issues behind the headlines about Venezuela’s currently unfolding political crisis, you won’t get it here. Miss Venezuela is a queer clown carnival which offers more of an experience than an education – though that’s not to say that this show’s not highly political.

 

Andrea Spisto’s clown seems like she wants to please, trying various ways to get into character as beauty queen in an effort to be crowned Miss Venezuela, but she does not have it in her to conform. She knows deep down that she is already a beauty queen without changing her Latinx body, hair, or style: she doesn’t need to alter her appearance to value herself. It’s the pageant industry’s problem that they aren’t up-to-speed, and their loss is clear when she frees herself from the oppressively heavy sequin dress that burdens her throughout her hilariously frustrating repeated pageant-walk across the stage. She frolics freely in her rainbow swimsuit once she has rid herself of the weight of expectation, introducing us with pure joy to her brilliant body which is hairy, and short, which doesn’t have to be confined by constructs of femininity and masculinity to be sexy as hell.

 

From the moment we enter the room, Andrea exudes a kind of conspiratorial glee, and she maintains a glinting eye-contact and flashes each of us knowing smile throughout the show that keeps us all on the same page. We feel every moment of emotion on her rollercoaster of highs and lows as she goes through moments of feeling accepted and rejected. She gets every person in the room with an open heart and mind eagerly on board to skewer white-centric cis-het-normative capitalistic beauty standards with her, and excited to discover the work of her celebrity role-models whose photographs decorate her opulent home-painted set alongside glittering matriarchal Catholic iconography.

 

The best reason to see Andrea perform is that, as well as bearing witness to her own personal journey, you’re likely to absorb some of her contagious confidence and self-love. During her carnival we feel able to shake ourselves free for a moment from our own culturally ingrained preconceptions about what makes a beauty queen, and join her to rejoice in the true gorgeousness of dancing all together, comfortable in our own skin and sexuality. Miss Venezuela makes us feel like we’re part of an exclusive private party, where everyone is invited, as long as they’re ready to celebrate beauty with her in her wonderfully inclusive and stirringly positive way.  

 

Follow Andrea Spisto to find out what she does next.

 

 

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Fringe Wives Club: Glittery Clittery

 

This sequin-drenched hour from Fringe Wives Club was a full-throttle roller coaster of cabaret mastery by three women who clearly know their onions when it comes to vulva facts as well as knowing their way around an ultra-catchy pop song. Their passion was relentless, their dancing feet were restless, and they had time and energy to delve into a myriad of feminist issues – from the deeply serious points around consent, to the hilariously relatable problem of pocketless clothing.

 

Tessa Waters reigned supreme as the central figure holding this motley trio together, keeping the chaos just the right side of organised, she provided boundless laughs but always enforced clearly consensual boundaries when it came to audience participation. Rowena Hutson got our award from being the most adorable of all the personified vulvas we’ve ever seen on stage (believe me, we’ve seen a few) in the priceless ‘Lagoon of Mystery’ game show. Victoria Falconer provided the show’s highlight for us with her theremin solo, in which she flicked her tongue expertly to tease a tune from the electronic instrument in an act which hovered majestically in the middle of the sexy/hilarious venn diagram.

 

Victoria’s theremin work in Glittery Clittery was enough to entice us to also visit her solo show, Oxymoron, at the promise of more instrumental action. We were not disappointed – Oxymoron was a charmingly intimate cabaret centred around her personal experiences, including growing up with a Thai mother in a very white Australian town and discovering her bisexuality. Her use of instruments (including the theremin) as metaphors was ingenious, and her acid wit was merciless as she ripped into other people’s ignorant responses to her race and sexuality. Our fave moments included an impromptu lesson on playing the saw, and an astounding eel-preparation mime-sequence – but apparently the show changes every time she performs it, because like every true cabaret great, she’s truly performing for the moment and exquisitely responsive to the audience in the room.

 

Follow The Fringe Wives Club and Victoria Falconer for more.

 

 

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Electrolyte

 

This is gig theatre at its finest: Wildcard Theatre had us sucked into the world of Electrolyte from the (gloriously loud) opening bars of this dazzlingly intense concert/play/experience. In fact, we were so absorbed by the story, and so convinced by the cast, that we had to stop on our way out of the auditorium at the end to check whether the protagonist, Jessie, was real or fictional (she was in deed a character, played by the superb and appropriately electric Olivia Sweeney). We genuinely had to watch her actor’s showreel to remind ourselves that this was in fact a play, and not a piece of autobiographical performance art.

 

Despite the fun-time connotations of the gig setting, and the heart-meltingly enchanting songs from Maimuna Memon as Allie Touch, this play touches on some serious and upsetting issues, exploring grief and mental illness, including psychosis, but it manages to do so in a way which doesn’t glamorise, stigmatise, sanitise or sentimentalise the experiences of the character going through a breakdown. Rather than dramatising what Jessie’s going through from the point-of-view of an outsider, Electrolyte encourages the audience to view the world through her eyes by giving her a strong narrative voice. We’re alarmed and disturbed when she is, at just the right level to gain an insight into her experience without tipping into fearing or pitying her. Electrolyte is sensitive in its depictions of Jessie’s symptoms as only part of her story and character, and humanising in its perspective, with some of the best acting and musicianship we’ve ever witnessed. Keep your eyes peeled for more from this extraordinary company.

 

To find out about future performances and productions follow Wildcard Theatre.

 

 

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ThisEgg’s Dressed made headlines in the run-up to Fringe this year as one of many shows addressing a #metoo story, as it features the true account of one of the company being raped. However, what makes Dressed stand out, and the key to its watchability, is that the rape as an action is not at the heart of this piece. It is not the climax or the crux of the story.

 

Instead, the attack in question acts as a catalyst for a tale of friendship and healing. Lydia’s story, as told by herself and her closest school friends, is not centred around the trauma itself, but about how she finds her own way to process it and regain her strength and autonomy. This isn’t to say that this show couldn’t potentially contain triggers for some, but it’s very different to many shows we’ve ever seen which feature a rape or sexual assault, in that this company don’t build up to the rape as a narrative climax. They present the rape as an established fact near the opening of the show, and then almost exclusively describe the rebuilding of Lydia’s life, rather than the circumstances immediately before or during the attack.

 

The way Lydia rebuilds is first by making her own clothes, which we see her do often on stage, and second by making this show, which we see her do with the help of her best friends. Lydia’s friends are a group of women who met at a dance class when they were ten, and grew up together, each taking different career paths but remaining united in their creative roles (they are a singer, a dancer and a theatre-maker) as well as their long-lasting friendship. Throughout Dressed, we see them physically care for and protect each other, lift each other up, and make each other laugh in a way that only friends with years of history can. In a world still plagued with violence and injustice, and at a time when we’re seeing a lot of close examination of the nature of violence and injustice on stage, Dressed is a welcome respite thanks to ThisEgg’s focus on kindness, self-soothing, the reclamation of self-image, and immense healing power of togetherness.

 

Follow ThisEgg theatre company for future dates, and to check out their other current show: Unconditional, made by ThisEgg’s Josie Dale-Jones and her monther, which is touring in September.

 

 

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Polaris

 

Theatre-makers Holly and Ted presented a first for us in years of Bechdel testing: female dinosaurs (Val the Velociraptor and Tracy the T-Rex), talking to each other about something other than a man. They also play astronauts and schoolgirls – both of whom do have some unfortunate run-ins with men and boys. Using a fantastic foley soundscape, this loveable dungareed duo link together three stories with the overarching theme of the toxicity of polarised identities: gender identity, national identity, and cool kid at school identity, completely winning us over with their enthusiastic commitment to their roles (dinosaur and human alike) and their obvious passion for their unambiguous message of equality and inclusion.

 

Follow Holly and Ted to keep up with their work.

 

 

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Extinguished Things

 

Written and performed by Molly Taylor, Extinguished Things is a meditation on memory and nostalgia narrated by a woman exploring the empty home of her lifelong neighbours: an older couple in whose home she spent a few of her formative moments.

 

The reminiscences and revelations of Extinguished Things unfold at the perfect pace to keep the audience intrigued about the motivations of the bright-eyed but unassuming protagonist as she sits alone at the dining table of her parents’ acquaintances. Arnold and Evie’s house is described vividly in the script, and is brought to life by the meticulous details in the design and direction, from the feet padding across a soft carpet to the comforting slow boil of a kettle. Everything about this environment is reassuring, but emerging from within the cosy recollections are moments of discomfort, grief and profound pain.

 

The perspective of this play is firmly placed within its narrator – we see Arnold and Evie’s lives through her eyes, but it’s scope is wider than we could have anticipated on first meeting her as she delves into the world of their relationship which goes back way before she was born and touches on experiences that she could never fully understand.

 

Under the careful direction of Jade Lewis nothing is rushed over or dwelt on for too long in Extinguished Things, and we’re left with a strong feeling of awareness of the inner lives of everyone around us, and curiosity about the humanity behind every window we pass in the street on the way home.

 

Follow Molly Taylor for more.

 

 

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Dominoes

 

This new play by Phoebe McIntosh delves sensitively into the complex tension of a relationship between , a mixed-race woman of Caribbean/English heritage and a white Scottish man, when their relationship is strained almost to breaking point in the build-up to their wedding. The problems arise when the woman (Layla, played by the writer) discovers that her fiancé’s ancestors had previously been the slave-owners of her own. This scenario brings to the centre of one relationship a whole history of colonialism, and the British whitewashing of that history is highlighted by the fact that the link takes Layla by surprise, despite the fact that she herself is a history teacher.

 

Dominoes is hugely effective at taking the real and lasting impact of slavery, so often put in a box marked ‘Black American History’, and putting it to the forefront of everyone’s minds, on stage and off. When we’re confronted, as the characters are in this play, with the close proximity of this history, white British people’s crimes against humanity can’t be swept under the carpet.

 

Phoebe McIntosh offers several different perspectives on the situation, presenting a variety of (sometimes conflicting) views from black characters in Layla’s life, taking on multiple roles as her Grandfather, and her best friend, who each have their own opinions on marriage-to-be. Although Layla ultimately cannot agree with or follow the advice of both of them, and has to find her own path, the depictions of both of these characters are equally compelling, resonating with weight and wisdom that means their voices are valued by the audience as well as Layla, as ones worth listening to.

 

What makes this play more than a necessary and convincing call to face up to the reality of the UK’s brutal history of white violence, but also a realistic and subtly affecting drama, is the writer/performer’s nuanced portrayal of her protagonists’ inner life as she reacts to each conversation and revelation. Layla can’t ignore the impact that history has on her present, but wrestles with herself throughout the play, filled with internal conflict about how her new knowledge might change her future.

 

Follow Phoebe McIntosh for updates.

 

 

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Enter The Dragons

 

The silliest of all the comedies we saw at the Fringe, in the greatest possible way, this show created by A&E Comedy, aka Abigail Dooley and Emma Edwards, two women in their fifties on a mission to “Kick ageing up its arse”. Enter The Dragons was a life-affirming triumph that left us with aching cheeks and buzzing minds, as we left mulling over our own personal ageing journey – considering what to let go of, and what to hold on to in life.

 

Anna and Emma’s comic take on the classical Hero’s Journey took on the form of a mythic quest to defeat Chronos (the unrelenting God of time) with all the foils, fairydust and outlandish costumes you might expect from a pantomime-esque clown show. We particularly enjoyed their playfully DIY-aesthetic, with home-made-looking props emerging continuously from behind every curtain, toys representing family members, inventive use of head-gear: from ever longer grey wigs to disco-ball glory, and their ingenious use of shadow-puppetry in a side-splitting send-up of the beauty-industry. Everything about this show suggested that its makers had a whale of a time making and performing it, and the fun they had was shared by everyone in the room as we embarked on each new step of this increasingly wild journey with them, feeling more like children every step of the way (notwithstanding the wide range of real adult ages in the room).

 

While this fairytale isn’t necessarily for actual kids, it’s certainly not only for those with menopause in their sights. It gave us Millennials an important perspective on things to come, alongside an empowering message about the importance of generations standing together. Enter The Dragons reminded us that as much as we hold our younger child selves within us, our older (formidable dragonish) selves are in there somewhere too. Barring a few aspects of language and technology (and a lack of nostalgic fondness on our part for Germaine Greer), Enter The Dragons convinced us that we’re definitely not all that different from our mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers, ad infinitum.

 

Enter The Dragons will be showing at The Pleasance in London November 6 – 10

 

 

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Century Song

 

Neema Bickersteth gives a jaw-dropping performance in this Canadian production exploring 100 years of Black women’s history through wordless songs, dance, and video animation. It’s impossible to overstate the breathtaking power of her operatic voice soaring through the cavernous high-ceilinged space at Zoo Southside, filling every corner of the room effortlessly, and resonating in the very bones of the mesmerised audience. This is a voice that swoops, loops, caresses the air and charges into the walls, vibrating every surface with a frequently morphing but always present energy. The energy of the whole performance is driven by her voice, and is reflected in and complemented by her captivating movement, the kaleidoscopic video art projected behind her, and her two live musicians paving the musical path that she dances on almost constantly. Even in her moments of stillness and silence there is a presence about her that makes the beat of her heart and the rise and fall of her breath seem to be playing a part in keeping alive the stories of the women that she inhabits.

 

The concept of Century Song is that the voices of a multitude of Black women from across the past century are brought together in a stream of songs, all sung by one woman. Some of these songs are original, and some are by (white male) composers from the 20th century classical canon. These classical pieces are given new meaning by this consummate artist who uses them as tools in the same way that she uses costume, video, and movement, and her own magnificent voice: to communicate something of the experience of a Black woman alive at their time of writing. The reason this concept works to engage the audience, despite the lack of words in this narrative, is because this is a performer who has not only a set of exceptional set of tools to communicate with, but clearly has a strong personal emotional connection with the stories she’s telling, and the way she’s chosen to explore them feels like it’s uniquely hers.

 

Neema Bickersteth’s vocal and emotional range work in tandem, her voice pierces the air with her opening notes, like a beacon’s light shining through nighttime, claiming the space and everyone’s undivided attention with the pure clarity of her sound. As the stories moved on she wails as if from the depths of a pit as she takes on one woman’s sorrow, then seems to grow taller as another woman builds up her strength. She bends under the weight of oppression, and then suddenly dazzles with brightness of resistance and unity. There are moments of intimacy and vulnerability as her voice quietens and her body turns in on itself, conflict as she twists her limbs and her voice pitches up and down, and moments of absolute joy and confidence as she leaps across the stage as though surrounded by dozens of her sisters, mothers, grandmothers and ancestors. If you’re reading this doubting that one woman alone could have the multitudes within her to fully embody so many different emotions, personalities, and stories spanning 100 years in the space of an hour, find a way to see Century Song, because it’s a feat to behold and a sheer honour to be able to witness.

 

Go to production company Volcano’s website for more details.

 

 

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Bitches In The Ford KA

 

This show promised on its poster to get the audience warmed up for a night out – not an easy task as we rocked up during our last week at the Fringe, exhausted to our very core, but this infectiously rambunctious trio did not disappoint, and their show did exactly as it promised and had us dancing with gusto before it was even halfway through.

 

Devised by real-life BFFs Beth Johnston, Leah Kirby, Holly Barnard (who along with producer Rebecca Thomason make up Cold Dinner Theatre), Bitches In The Ford KA is a feel-good friendship play about three excellently rowdy teenage pals on a night out. The concept is simple, the chemistry between the three women (who each play only slightly exaggerated versions of themselves) is fantastic, and the humour is both firmly girly and unashamedly filthy.

 

It truly gave us a new lease of life to recognise ourselves and our friends in each of the girls on stage as they worried, gossiped, played tricks on each other, and raised their bottles of cheap booze to toast each other’s triumphs. The giggles rocked us with the kind of hysteria we remember from being teenagers, and if we hadn’t had plans after the show we would have wanted to stay on, drink Sainsbury’s basics wine, and dance some more with these three.

 

Keep your eye out for more from Cold Dinner Theatre.

 

 

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Yana Alana: Between The Cracks

 

Cult cabaret icon Yana Alana was on top form for her first show at Edinburgh Fringe. She arrived on stage living up to her reputation as a diva extraordinaire with a miraculous voice so powerful it could shatter all the glass in a chandelier, and the temperament of someone who would shatter all the glass in the room if she was in the wrong mood.

 

Yana Alana is the creation of Australian performance artist Sarah Ward, and brilliantly teeters on a tightrope between reality and caricature – she has that monumental voice with an astounding range, the irresistible charisma, and the towering hair – all the elements are there to convince us that this could be a real-live stadium-sized icon arrived to grace us with her presence at the Fringe.

 

But she’s naked.

 

The blue diamante catsuit that she rocks is not just skin tight, it IS skin. Her outfit is painted on in blue bodypaint: pubic hair, bumcrack, boobs, scars and all, every part of her is proudly on display. This hour of blue nudity was without a doubt the most stunning visual declaration of body positivity, and the strongest embodying of simultaneous power and vulnerability that we’ve seen amongst all this year’s feminist theatre offerings.

 

And Yana Alana’s body is not all that she reveals. Between the high-octane jokes, belting tunes, diva tantrums and playful audience engagement there is more than a hint of sincerity in the descriptions of mental health problems. When Yana sings about being blue, she means it. When she riffs on Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’, it has a knowing edge of mania which connects with us on a different plane of communication from the cheeky grins, winks and nudges she tosses into the crowd constantly throughout the show. This character is not just a way for the performer to make us laugh, it seems, but a blue-tinged hand reaching out to those of us who have experienced depression and mental illness, to help us feel less alone in the world.

 

There was only one aspect of Yana’s diva behaviour that let down the awesome feminist empowerment vibe of Between The Cracks. In a running-joke Yana’s pianist Louise Goh interrupts songs by answering her phone, and is finally yelled at and sent off stage along with drummer Bec Matthews. In the performance we saw, Yana’s volatility was mostly directed at Louise, and although the joke was on Yana’s tantruming and self-absorption, it jarred with us somewhat to see an East Asian woman playing the role of a silent foil fixated on her phone.

 

Follow Yana Alana on instagram for updates.

 

 

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Athena Kugblenu: Follow The Leader

 

Athena Kugblenu has come to the Fringe to talk about leadership – about what makes a good leader, and why she has never tried to become a leader of anything herself. More than just a standard politcial-comic-talks-about-politicians set, Follow The Leader is a brilliant critique of the very systems on which our world is run. It plays on the old adage that the best people to lead are not likely to be the kind of egotists who end up doing it, which winds up with Athena suggesting we consider finding a new kind of leader: the kind of person who doesn’t pretend to be perfect but is just as flawed as you are. That’s her, obviously, because she has just spent a good deal of her act pointing out her own flaws in hilariously relatable detail.

 

In a post-Nanette comedy scene, jokes made by a performer at their own expense are sometimes harder to laugh at than they once were. However, Athena perfectly balances out every moment of self-deprecation with either a jibe aimed at someone else, or a moment of happy self-aggrandisement. Her confessional jokes about drunken fuck-ups are tucked in beside a pointed ribbing of white audience members choices of “favourite leader”. Her tales of sexual misadventures are tagged onto a fantastic boast (which we 100% believe) about how brilliant she is at plumbing. She feels like a comic who finds genuine joy in sending herself up, but also someone pokes fun at the world around her with the same vigour and precision as she aims at herself. She does all this with an intelligence that doesn’t underestimate her audience, and speed of wit which keeps us switched on, but not overwhelmed. This all comes together to make a show where we feel relaxed and ready to laugh, but not at rest or ready to turn off our brains.

 

The more Athena Kugblenu regales us with stories of why she wouldn’t run for any kind of leadership, the more we want to vote for her. The world could definitely do with more leaders who are this intelligent, honest, and can bring this much fun to an early-evening show about politics.

 

Have a look on Athena Kugblenu’s website for future gigs.

 

 

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Heather and Harry

 

A love story told with panache and flair by three natural-born entertainers, Heather and Harry is the work of accomplished clown company Stumble Trip, with establishing members Grace Church and Chloe Young working in collaboration with musician Laila Woozer, who provides musical accompaniment so seamlessly integrated into the story that we couldn’t believe she wasn’t a founding member of the company.

 

Unashamedly positive in its outlook, Heather and Harry presents love as the solution to all problems, the rose-tinted glasses which make even the grimiest of towns and the most difficult of challenges feel instantly filled with sweetness and light.

 

This exuberant pick-me-up of a show has the idealism and satisfyingly simplistic structure of a kids show, but the sharp wit and knowing winks of a cabaret show. In fact, with a little adaptation to Heather and Harry, Stumble Trip could easily tip either way to please an audience of under-tens whilst keeping their parents amused in the morning, or turn up the naughtiness to become a raucous cabaret romp late into the night, should the company wish to explore either or both of those directions. As it is, it sits prettily in the middle of both genres, and was a gorgeously cockle-warming early-evening watch for us after we’d spent our afternoon watching harrowing tales of sexual assault. We felt healed by Stumble Trip, and left with smiles on our faces and good deeds on our to-do list.

 

Check on Stumble Trip’s website to find out more about their work.

 

 

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Drip Feed

 

What’s this? A play about a gay woman that’s not a painful, youthful coming out story?! A play that’s set in the 90s by someone who might have actually been a sentient human during that decade?! Drip Feed has a lot going for it in terms of representation, being a lesbian story with a protagonist over 30 that doesn’t centre around homophobia or sexuality – although both are realistically present. It succeeds in almost* never coming close to into any of the clichés seen in LGBTQ+ focused drama.

 

Writer Karen Cogan gives a humour-filled and wonderfully connected performance as Brenda, who never quite cuts a tragic figure – despite telling us a story that’s not short of heartbreak – as she goes about her chaotic life, rambling through the streets of Cork, from bars and clubs to familiar houses and street-corners filled with memories. The character she presents is easily lovable, hilariously matter-of-fact, with a fabulously unusual turn-of-phrase. She has a kind of undirected intensity, an unsettled energy that allows us to clearly envision her in the circumstances that her character finds herself in. We come to understand how Brenda goes from the life-and-soul of the party to stumbling danger-to-herself, without ever losing our ability to like and relate to her. 

 

Drip Feed takes us on a journey around Brenda’s home city, describing every location and character she encounters in such remarkable and vivid detail that by the end of Drip Feed we feel like we have spent an hour walking in her battered shoes, breathing the Cork air, and reeling from every disappointment and injustice that her life offers up. We have no regrets at having caught a glimpse into her world, and laughed a lot, but found it hard to shake off the air of melancholy that followed us outside the tent once we had left the warmth of her presence. As a writer Karen Cogan makes an impression that’s brilliant and memorable, as a character Brenda makes an impact that’s difficult to forget.

 

If you see this show during a future run, leave yourself time to absorb it afterwards. We think it’ll be easier to receive outside of the hectic pace of Edinburgh: this is a story and character that will benefit from being seen in an environment with a little more breathing space.

 

Drip Feed is running at Soho Theatre Sept 24 – Oct 20. Follow Karen Cogan for more.
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Sarah Keyworth: Dark Horse

 

An excitable audience turned out for Sarah Keyworth, filling the small bunker at Pleasance with the buzzy anticipation of an expectant fanbase. And these fans of deadpan delivery and lesbian content were not disappointed. We were treated to a well-honed stream of stories about Sarah’s childhood as a ‘tomboy’ attempting to woo older women with her jokes, her uncomfortable teenage years trying to conform to gender roles, and her growth into the adult we know and love: the dashing soft-butch destroying preconceptions of heterosexuals by rocking up to weddings in a sharp suit designed for pre-teen boys, and the dedicated childminder providing the two young kids who she nannies for with a fantastic role-model (it’s a fair exchange, as they in turn provide her with an enormous wealth of comic material).

 

This show’s theme of gender-roles, how they’re learned, and how they might be dismantled, creeps up on us gradually, through a steady stream of jokes which land so frequently that they barely need holding in place with any kind of narrative. Her material is delivered so naturally that the punchlines seem to fall on top of one another with hardly any effort, and her perfectly controlled conversational pace only lapsed briefly during the hour we saw – at an extremely funny point when she laughed herself as she struggled to find a straight woman in the room to aim a joke at.

 

The ‘moral of the story’ in Dark Horse is that anyone involved in bringing up kids can have an impact on challenging the gendered expectations that society throws at them. Far from being a forced ‘serious bit’ for the sake of the show, this reads as a core idea of Sarah’s, and seems to be one which has been forming in her mind throughout her life. As her show comes full circle and we see Sarah (no longer the little girl who was bullied for not fitting in) giving great advice to the little girl in her care about how to deal with gender stereotyping, it’s not just a neat ending but a genuinely moving feminist fringe moment.

 

Follow Sarah Keyworth for more dates.

 

 

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That’s all for this year’s Edinburgh Fringe faves! Don’t forget to follow us on instagram & twitter, and subscribe to our podcast for more recommendations throughout the year.

Thanks to everyone who got in touch to tell us about your show – we’re sorry we couldn’t see and feature all of them.

Very special thank you to Lizzie Milton for helping us edit this bumper-sized blog.

 

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*SPOILER if you haven’t seen Drip Feed.

We were a little upset about the exception to the lack of gay-drama cliche in this otherwise brilliant play: the moment when Victoria, a character we cheered on from the beginning, falls victim to dead-lesbian-syndrome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#FeministFringe hot tips from Edinburgh 2018

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Our first week of seeking feminist theatre at Edinburgh Fringe is over, and WHAT a wondrous week it has been! The representation and quality of work we’ve seen has been STRONG so far, and we’ve been applying stickers left, right and centre to posters of productions that pass the Bechdel test.

Follow us on instagram & twitter to keep up with our festival highlights in real-time.

We also took a moment out from seeing shows to record a podcast interview with Joana Nastari, creator of Fuck You Pay Me, which is dazzling audiences at Assembly Rooms every day at 15:25.

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It’s a bit early yet to choose our ultimate #FeministFringe faves for this year, but we’ve had a few more shows appear on our radar since our pre-fringe recommendation blog.

So here are 23 shows that have made a strong impression on us since arriving in at the Fringe. We want to let you in on which tickets we think are HOT so you can get tickets before the sales go through the roof, or (if you’re not in Edinburgh) be ready to book yourselves in for the national tours as they’re announced.

Remember: you see something  pass the Bechdel test with flying colours that we haven’t listed here you can email us on bechdeltheatre@gmail.com or tag us on social media. If you see one of these shows on our recommendation and it changes your life for the better, feel free to thank us by becoming a Patreon and supporting us with $1 a month to keep up our work at Fringe and beyond!

 

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(even) HOTTER, Bedlam, 21:30, August 1 – 27 (not 14, 21)

Two women interviewed people (between the ages of 13 and 97) about what gets them hot, to make a play about blushing, sweating, pinkness, and pleasure.

 

Trojan Horse, Summerhall, 15:15, August 1 – 26 (not 13)

Verbatim play adapted from the real-life testimonies of those at the heart of the government inquiry following allegations made towards ‘hardline’ Muslim teachers and governors accused of plotting extremism in Birmingham schools.

 

Extinguished Things, Summerhall, 19:25, August 1 – 26 (not 2, 20)

Solo play written and performed by Molly Taylor in which a woman explores the empty house belonging to her neighbours, directed by Jade Lewis (who appeared on Bechdel Theatre Podcast last year talking about directing her previous Edinburgh Fringe show Quarter Life Crisis).

 

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Baby Daddy, Assembly Rooms, 18:20, August 2 – 13

Autobiographical show about life as a young single mother, by Elinor Coleman, with original live music and recorded conversations with her young daughter. Finishes on the 13th, so make sure you get in there ASAP!

 

Freeman, Pleasance Courtyard, 17:00, August 1 – 27 (not 10)

Physical theatre show about the link between mental health and systemic racism, inspired by the first man in America to plead insanity as his defence in court.

 

Pickle Jar, Underbelly Cowgate, 16:40, August 2 – 26 (not 14)

Solo play about a teacher whose life becomes intertwined with her students, written and performed by Maddie Rice who performed Fleabag last year.

 

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Miss Venezuela, Just The Tonic at The Mash House, 22:10, August 2 – 26 (not 13)

Queer carnival clown show about tearing up beauty standards, by Andrea Spisto, set against a hand-painted backdrop featuring the faces of her heroes.

 

Len Blanco: Firing Blancs, Revolution Bar, 21:40, August 5 – 10

Drag king show from ex-boyband member and newly woke feminist, Len Blanco. This one’s only on for a short run, so catch him before Friday.

 

Dangerous Giant Animals, Underbelly Cowgate, 12:00, August 2 – 26 (not 8, 13, 14, 21)

Solo play about living with a disabled sibling, and the violence of human nature, written and performed by Christina Murdock, whose story is based on her own relationship with her sister.

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Dominoes, Asssembly George Square, 12:00, August 1 – 27 (not 8, 13, 20)

Solo play about a woman who discovers that her husband’s ancestors enslaved her own. Written and performed by Phoebe McIntosh.

 

Wacky Racists Bedlam, 23:00, August 17 & 24

Sophie Duker takes over the Bedlam late night comedy slot to host her bigot-crushing comedy cabaret gameshow. This night is always a hit in London, and the Edinburgh performances are fundraising for the memorial fund of Khadija Saye, the 24 year old artist who died in the Grenfell fire.

 

Evelyn Mok Pleasance Courtyard, 18:00, August 1 – 26

One of our feminist faves from last year is back at the Fringe, with a much anticipated follow up show to last year’s show.

 

Thrown by Jodi Gray, Underbelly Cowgate, 20:50, August 2 – 19

New play by Jodi Gray exploring the moment when we transition from childhood to adulthood, inspired by interviews with real people, and performed using a microphone shaped like a human head with the audience wearing headphones throughout.

 

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Chase Scenes, Summerhall, 14:25, August 1 – 26 (not 6, 13, 20)

Canadian performance artist Ming Hon cuts to the chase, with 60 movie chase scenes re-enacted on stage in 60 minutes.

 

Century Song, Zoo Southside, 15:00, August 9 – 18 (not 15)

Exploring 100 years of Black women’s unspoken history through performance, music, and animated art. From original co-producers of White Rabbit, Red Rabbit.

 

Ada Campe & the Psychic Duck, The Stand’s New Town Theatre, 14:50, August 2 – 26 (not 14)

Another performer we loved last year returns, having recently won Leicester Square Theatre’s ‘Old Comedian of the Year’ award. See Ada Campe for a healthy dose of silliness, magic and mayhem.

 

The Providence of Neighbouring Bodies, Underbelly Cowgate, 14:30, August 3 – 26 (not 13)

A dark comedy about beavers, beers, balconies, and America in chaos.

 

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Zoo, Assembly George Square, 11:00, August 2 – 26 (not 13, 20)

New play about female friendship. Two very different women on either side of the Atlantic who bond over their shared love of working with animals, by Lily Bevan.

 

Island Town, Summerhall, times and dates vary – check the Fringe website.

A new production from the reliably excellent Paines Plough about three friends trying to break away from the town they live in.

 

Sticks and Stones, Summerhall, times and dates vary – check the Fringe website.

A satirical new play by BAFTA-nominated Vinay Patel about a misfiring joke and understanding each other in a technological age.

 

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Six, Underbelly, George Square, 19:30, August  1 – 27 (not 13)

Feminist musical about the wives of King Henry VIII.

 

Polaris, Pleasance Courtyard, 12:55, August 1 – 27

Teenage girls trying to survive year ten, passing the Bechdel test by talking astronauts and dinosaurs whilst also dealing with toxic masculinity.

 

Daisy Earl and Sukh Ojla, Fireside Arch III, 19:30, August 16-26

A shared hour of stand-up between two rising comedy stars, including Sukh Ojla who had the crowd in stitches at our Bechdel test passing comedy night last year.

 

Bechdel Testing Edinburgh Fringe 2018

Heading up to Edinburgh Fringe and looking for shows to see that break from the stale/pale/male standard?

Want to see something that represents you/the world as you recognise it/the changes you want to see/the FUTURE?

Look no further.

Listed below are our pick of the shows we have on our radar to help you plan your most entertaining and intersectional Fringe visit, without a one-man-show in sight. These are either shows that we’ve seen in previews, or have on our radar via HEAVY recommendation and solid assurance that they pass the Bechdel test. Follow us on twitter, instagram, and fb, and subscribe to our podcast for regular updates detailed run-down of our favourites once we’ve seen them.

 

If you’re going to Edinburgh during August and have or see a show that you think we should be talking about, please contact us by email: bechdeltheatre@gmail.com. And make sure you say hi if you see us walking around in our Bechdel Theatre badges or t-shirts!

One last thing before the list – we would really appreciate your support if you enjoy our work:

  • Become a Patreon. This helps us to pay for regular outgoings like printing and web hosting. You can pledge as little as $1 a month through Patreon (that’s about 75p!), and as well as sending you badges, we update you first with all of our most exciting news and exclusive theatre ticket discount codes.

  • If you don’t have money, that’s OK. You can help us out by sharing our work. We don’t have a PR machine, please spread the hype!

Thanks for supporting, and happy Bechdel testing ❤️

PS. If you’re not going to Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year, or don’t have time while you’re there to cram all these amazing shows in – we got you covered! Many of these productions are previewing in England before they head north of the border so we’re flagging those up, and as always we’ll be updating you on our podcast and social media whenever they announce a new transfer or tour – you will not miss out!

Queens Of Sheba Underbelly, Cowgate
18:50 August 2 – 26 (not 13)
An unflinching look at misogynoir, this four-woman show does not shy away from the harsh realities faced by black women, but raises up their voices with joyously powerful words by Jessica Hagen.
Listen to our podcast featuring Michelle Barwood reviewing Queens of Sheba when we saw an early preview of it last year.
If you’re not going to Edinburgh you can see Queens of Sheba opening the Autumn season at New Diorama Theatre in London Sept 4 – 8.

Sparks Pleasance Courtyard
11:30 August 1 – 26 (not 8, 13, 20)
Written and performed by Jessica Butcher and Anoushka Lucas, this story of love and grief with an original live music score was a hit at VAULT Festival. Edinburgh Fringe goers, get ready to experience the astounding array of talent in this all-female team.

Hot Brown Honey Gilded Balloon Teviot
19:30 August 2 – 27 (not 8, 15, 23)
This show’s been heavily featured on our Edinburgh recommendations lists for the past 3 years as a flawless piece of pure feminist empowerment, but we’ve heard that this year may be their last ever Fringe! If you haven’t seen this all-WOC circus cabaret troupe of sublimely badass Aussies then make sure you don’t miss your chance to join the revolution #DecoloniseAndMoisturise.
Subscribe to our podcast to hear our interviewwith a couple of the HBH Hive.
If you’re not going to Edinburgh you can see Hot Brown Honey at the Southbank Centre in London on 24 – 28th July, and also catch the show they’ve co-created with a team of creative UK Femmes of Colour: Hive City Legacy at Roundhouse July 10 – 21.

F**k You Pay Me Assembly Rooms
15:25 August 2 – 26 (not 14, 21)
This one-woman show BY strippers and FOR strippers features Joana Nastari as Bea, who is on her way home from working (as a stripper) to face the judgement of her Catholic family who have just discovered what she does for a living. This show won a People’s Choice award at VAULT Festival, and we heard so many people raving about it with such passion that we feel like it’s got potential to reach cult-fave status before August is out.
If you’re not going to Edinburgh you can get a taste of F**k You Pay Me at their preview on July 27th at Hoxton Square Bar + Kitchen.

WHITE Pleasance Courtyard
11:30 August 15-27 (not 20)
Koko Brown uses her loop pedal and spoken word to tell stories from her experience of growing up mixed race. This show has been a hit with audiences at VAULT Festival and Ovalhouse, and is part of Koko’s trilogy of three shows about race, gender, and mental health.
If you’re not going to Edinburgh Koko is part of Hot Brown Honey’s (aforementioned) Hive City Legacy at Roundhouse, and has produced (and is performing at) Please Tick One: an unapologetic celebration of mixed race artists at The Cockpit on July 24th.

One Life Stand Summerhall Roundabout
21:45 August 1 – 26 (not 2, 7, 14, 21)
Middle Child, electrifying gig-theatre-makers and Paine’s Plough associate company, are returning to Edinburgh with a new play about sex and intimacy, with a cast that features previous Bechdel Theatre Podcast guest Tanya Loretta Dee. Listen to Tanya on our 2017 Edinburgh Fringe podcast episode when we talked to her about the play she was in last year:, ‘Offside’,which is currently touring the UK with a new cast.
If you’re not going to Edinburgh you can catch One Life Stand at several different venues in Hull during July (including several Pay What You Can performances, and one BSL-interpreted performance on July 9th), and at Latitude Festival.

Power Play: Funeral Flowers, Next time, Somebody, The Empty Chair Power Play Pop-Up HQ
13:00, 14:30, 16:00, 17:30 August 4 – 25 (not 7, 14, 21)
Power Play are taking over a whole house in Edinburgh that they’re calling POWER PLAY HQ. Alongside staging four brand new plays by and about women, they’ll be hosting activist events and one-off specials exploring and celebrating gender and representation at Fringe. They’re also undertaking a massive data survey analysing gender representation at the Fringe. Safe to say we’ll be spending a fair bit of time in this house of power!

Ladykiller Pleasance Courtyard
13:00 August 1 – 27 (not 14)
The latest offering from The Thelmas, uber feminist champions of new writing, is a blood-soaked morality tale by Madelaine Gould about social responsibility, zero-hours contracts and tearing up the gender rule book on psychopathy.
If you’re not going to Edinburgh you can catch The Thelmas first full-length show, Offie-nominated Coconut by Guleraana Mir on tour until the end of June.

Skin A Cat Assembly Rooms
16:10 August 2 – 25 (not 13)
Isley Lynn’s disarmingly hilarious and deeply personal story of self-love, sex, and acceptance was the our number one feel-good hit of 2015, and we’re SO hyped to see it back, with Lydia Larson returning to the lead role of Alana.
If you’re not going to Edinburgh Skin A Cat is previewing at Offbeat Festival in Oxford, and Brainchild Festival in Sussex, and will be touring the UK in Autumn.

Finding Fassbender Pleasance Courtyard
11:45 August 1 – 27 (not 13)
Speaking of Lydia Larson, if you enjoy her sparkly-eyed warmth and dulcet Wolverhampton tones in Skin A Cat, be sure not to miss her starring in her own writing debut about a woman moving down to London from the Midlands and discovering a weird connection with a Hollywood actor.

Clingfilm Pleasance Courtyard
23:00 1 – 27 (not 13, 20)
This comedy cabaret trio are returning to Edinburgh Fringe after the success of their last show about body image, Private View. This one sees the unlikley girl band exploring what happens when a Pole, a Turk, and a Brit cross paths at a funeral.
If you’re not going to Edinburgh: (and even if you are tbh) you can check out Plunge’s music video for their song Shallow.

Love Songs Underbelly Cowgate
14:40 August 2 – 26 (not 15)
A one-woman rap and spoken word show featuring get-you-on-the-dance-floor music. It’s about love, and a lot of it is about men, but not all of it. We trust Alissa’s taste in music because she’s dancing to Beyoncé in the trailer.
If you’re not going to Edinburgh Love Songs is previewing at Juju’s bar on July 23rd, when they will also be playing host to a collection of other performers showcasing extracts from their Edinburgh Fringe shows.

Elf Lyons: ChiffChaff Pleasance Dome
18:30 August 1 – 27 (not 13)
The Queen of Clown is back, with a show about Economics. We trust it’s going to be funny despite the serious topic, because Elf is hilarious, but we’re also hoping that we might learn a thing or two as well.
If you’re not going to Edinburgh you can see Elf in London, Windsor, Tring, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Yorkshire, and Berlin.

Egg: Richard Pictures Pleasance Courtyard
18:00 August 1 -26 (not 13)
Sketch comedy duo Egg are back after their glorious show Egg:Static split our sides in the best way possible last year. They’re still not talking about fertility. They probably will mention feminism, though.
If you’re not going to Edinburgh Egg have loads of previews in London.

Artcoholic Just The Tonic at the Caves
14:40 2 – 26 (not 13)
Muchachico is the drag king alter ego of Spanish comedy superstar Isa Bonachera (who is ALL OVER the Fringe, hosting her own horror-comedy and cabaret variety show Late Night Evil, and appearing as one half of sketch double act Agenda Benders). Muchachico is a very bad artist, but a very funny character who we can’t wait to spend an afternoon with.

Dragprov Revue Sweet Novotel
22:00 August 2 – 26 (not 14)
Another one-to-watch for our fellow drag-addicts, this King & Queen double act, loveable soft boy Christian Adore and sassy queen Eaton Messe perform sketches and music based on audience suggestions.
If you’re not going to Edinburgh you can catch these two in London previews on July 16th & 28th.

The LOL Word Three Broomsticks
21: 15 August 4 – 25
A stand-up night with an all-queer women line-up, you say? We’ll be there with our own all-queer line-up, eagerly waiting to be picked on and/or up in the front row.

Bob & Buds  Laughing Horse @ Bar 50
19:15 August 1 – 26 (not 13)
Kemah Bob (host of the wonderful FOC (Femmes Of Colour) It Up Comedy Club hosts a night featuring her favourite comic pals. It’ll be personal, it’ll be political, it’ll be a dream come true.

Duke Pop Bedlam Theatre
18:30 August 1 – 26 (not 14)
Another two funny #FeministFaves: Sophie Duker (self-declared SJW Princess and host of her own geniusly-titled ‘Wacky Racists’ comedy night) and Lulu Popplewell (self-declared recovering drug-addict and former child actor) are splitting this scorching hot comedy hour.