What’s a must at this year’s festival? My perfect day begins with coffee and croissants at Shakespeare for Breakfast, a stalwart of the early-morning Fringe. This raucous, irreverent, fast-paced romp through some of the Bard’s most famous bits wakes up your critical faculties for the day ahead.
A good day at the Fringe is a mix of the tried and tested and the totally unexpected. The Trench – puppetry, music and performance inspired by a soldier entombed in a tunnel during the First World War – returns for a second sold-out year. In contrast, there’s the wacky Edinburgh experience such as duo Flhip Flhop in their crazy mix of parkour and comedy. Or Cape Wrath, where you join 14 other passengers on an epic journey in a stationary minibus (www.northernstage.co.uk). For a break from the endless schedule of 50-minute shows, go to the summer exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical drawings in the Queen’s Gallery at Holyrood Palace (www.royalcollection.org.uk).
The Fringe isn’t only about new ways of performing but also about new perspectives on old stories. I Knew a Man Called Livingstone portrays the Scottish explorer David Livingstone through the eyes of the Africans he travelled among (www.tototales.co.uk). For another take on Britain’s recent political history, The Confessions of Gordon Brown (for which I am executive producer) is a funny, tragic examination of the short-lived career of one of Britain’s most human yet horribly fallible Prime Ministers
There are always plenty of circus shows beyond the sawdust ring. This year, Flown is one to gasp at, with its chaotic tumble of world-class artistes. Or there’s Daydream: 15 minutes of chill-out time inside a 40-foot shipping container filled with sound installations (www.cryingoutloud.org).
At the Fringe, the classics are not just reworked – they’re put in a grinder, mashed up and reformed. Grendel, Beowulf’s monstrous opponent, is brought to life by extraordinary voice gymnastics and circus performers (www.voiceboxtheatre.co.uk). Just as jaw-dropping is NoFitState circus’s Bianco, a ring with no seats.
But don’t just stick to recommendations. Flick open the inch-thick Fringe programme at any page, shut your eyes and point. Wherever your finger falls, book a ticket. That random choice could be the best show you see.