Some quick hit suggestions for finding experimental, interdisciplinary live art, theatre and performance at this year’s Edinburgh festivals.
Since its first year in 2011, Summerhall has built strong reputation for programming adventurous, experimental work – sometimes by partnering with other UK producing institutions like Paines Plough who are backing running their own pop-up venue, Roundabout, by working with international showcases like Canadahub or Taiwan Season, or by hosting work selected for Made in Scotland or the Horizon Showcase (see below). They’re also one of very few fringe venues using ‘performance art’ as a genre to aid show discovery.
Fringe of Colour runs its own fully-fledged film festival in July but still hosts a volunteer-run database of work by Black artists and artists of colour. Scotland-focused LGBTQ+ magazine Somewhere: For Us has special fringe issue listing shows with an LGBTQ+ theme or staged by LGBTQ+ performers. DIVA – the magazine for LGBTQIA women and non-binary people – has its own ‘don’t miss’ list of queer shows.
Made in Scotland returns with a curated selection of Scottish artists and companies: shows appear in the programme under the broad genres of theatre, dance and music but the work itself tends to ignore disciplinary borders (a show like Superfan’s Stuntman is listed as both theatre and dance).
Founded in 2020, Horizon Showcase offers a mix of England-based artists and companies making ground-breaking new performance: like Made in Scotland (and the British Council Showcase before it), it’s a selectively-curated showcase aiming to connect artists with international presenters but unique in offering longer-term support to develop new work through their residency programme.
This year’s programme appears across Summerhall, the Traverse and Zoo Southside – though sometimes exploiting unusual off-site spaces, with Rachel Mars’ monumental work FORGE taking up residence in the Lyceum Theatre Workshop. Really hard to pick any other favourites but excited to see Deborah Pearson and Action Hero’s collaboration in The Talent and Ray Young’s return to the festival with BODIES.
The Traverse runs its own festival Travfest in August – the focus is on new writing but with a range of forums, including musicals, a web-based treasure hunt, gig theatre, and Nassim Soleimanpour’s new participatory work Nassim (with a new performer on stage with the playwright for each show). Though you can find the shows listed in the main edfringe programme, the Traverse have a unique practice of scheduling the same show at different times on different dates – double-check you’ve got the right ticket.
The central edfringe programme has a long list of genres, though this draws on how artists companies have chosen to identify their work – it’s a blunt tool but try searching for experimental, performance art, disabled-led or neurodiversity-led work.
And then there’s.. the EIF programme, the first curated by the new festival director Nicola Bendetti who’s interested in asking where do we go from here? Tickets trend expensive (even with various discounts and access schemes) but the theatre and dance offer – this year including Cécile McLorin Salvant’s Ogresse and Pina Bausch’s The Rite of Spring in a double bill with the duet common ground[s] by Germaine Acogny and Malou Airaudo – suggests what’s possible when you aim to support pioneering international work and have a hefty budget to support that goal.