The annual pilgrimage to the Edinburgh Fringe is a must for any self-respecting culture vulture. But with quite literally thousands of shows, a plethora of bizarrely named venues (the Gilded Balloon anyone?) and the promise of leaving each trip down the Royal Mile with about a tonne of flyers, how does one choose where to go and what to see? Well fear not confused artistes, thesps and hipsters – Cherwell is here to help.


For serious drama types:

The big tip-off this year is an adaptation of The Shawshank Redemption at the Assembly Rooms, starring comedian and actor Omid Djalili. As per usual, there is a wealth of Shakespeare, and per usual at least one of these is fighting heteronormativity.

If gender-bending versions of theatrical staples sounds like your thing, check out the Smooth Faced Gentlemen’s all-female Titus Andronicus at the Bedlam Theatre. Don’t forget Oxford’s dramatic offerings in the form of the OUDS tour of Alice in Wonderland, and original writing Life Sentence. In general, theatre lovers should look out for groups on the mile who hand out flyers by standing in abstract, motionless formations. 


For comedy lovers:

The Fringe is like Mecca for comedians. If you’ve got the money, you can pretty much catch any of your favourite big-name, satirical TV panel show comedians during your visit. If you’re counting the pennies, make the most of Free Fringe comedy. Looking out for Laughing Horse@ various venues is a good place to start, though free shows from aspiring funny-men will not be hard to find. The likelihood is you’ll end up laughing at the comedian rather than with them, but with a few friends and a few pints, that in itself can be hilarious.

You could even be the first to stumble across the next big thing in British comedy, and we all know “liking them before they were famous” is a must for any true hipster. Sketch comedy is also a favourite at the Fringe – check out groups like Four Screws Loose and the Cambridge Footlights, or even our very own home-grown The Oxford Imps and The Oxford Revue.


For musical theatre enthusiasts:

Every year the Fringe plays host to numerous amateur recreations of West End favourites. For the most part these are actually quite good. This year’s productions include Avenue Q from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Spring Awakening and a minimum of two productions of the schools’ edition of Les Misérables.

The Fringe also suffers from an infestation of the ‘Insert Concept Here: The Musical’ brand. The Oxford offering is A Theory of Justice: The Musical, affectionately referred by the acronym ATOJ:TM, which will be storming Edinburgh with a full run, straight off the back of its sell out success at the Keble O’Reilly. Other prefixes to The Musical this year include Adam and Eve, Gobsmell (“A new family musical spaghetti western”) and Snakes – and yes, that is as in ‘on a plane’.

For something a bit different, give one of the Fringe’s improvised musicals a try. Doing pretty much what it says on the tin, troupes like Showstoppers and Baby Wants Candy take audience suggestions and create a musical around them. A favourite title of mine from last year went something along the lines of ‘Dinosaur Zombie Apocalypse: A Love Story’.


For those who aren’t yet bored of a cappella:

It may come as a surprise to Oxfordians, but most other cities in the UK aren’t saturated with a cappella, and for this reason there are people out there who do not simply tolerate it, but actively like it. If you’re a dedicated a cappella fan then the Fringe is the place for you (and if you abhor the stuff, I strongly advise avoiding the Royal Mile at all costs – it’s worse than Cornmarket in the run up to an Out of the Blue gig). The Oxford groups dominate the Fringe both in terms of number and quality; you’ll be able to catch The Alternotives, Out of the Blue, In the Pink and The Gargoyles.

If you fancy sampling something different, good groups to look out for are The Alleycats from St Andrew’s, All the Kings Men from KCL and Voice Festival 2013 winners, Vive. If you really can’t get enough of your ‘ba-dap’s and ‘shoo-wap’s then head along to All the King’s Men Presents on the 12th and 14th of August for what they’re calling, and it pains me to say it, an ‘aca-awesome’ night.


For those who want something alternative:

Puppetry looks set to be big at the Fringe this year – keep an eye out for Paper Finch Theatre’s productions of Beauty and the Beast and The Steadfast Tin Soldier. Also tipped for excellence is Ménage à trois, a collaboration with the National Theatre of Scotland that explores the relationship between a performer and her crutches through the mediums of dance, video projection and puppetry.

Circa’s Wunderkamma, which describes itself as an ‘exquisite cabaret of the senses’, will also appeal to those looking for something visually exciting and a bit different.

…and the downright odd:

A Fringe staple and highlight for many is the bizarre yet piss-yourself hilarious Shit-Faced Shakespeare. A small group of actors put on a Shakespeare classic, with an added twist of one of the performers being, as the title suggests, shit-faced drunk. It might not sound like much, but with a few friends and a little intoxication it makes for one of Edinburgh’s most entertaining evenings.

Another bemusing but highly recommended Fringe spectacle this year is Airnadette, ‘the biggest airband in the galaxy’. Although I can give no personal recommendation for this show, how can one argue with a group whose fame apparently transcends the boundaries of the earth? And, last but not least, I leave you with Jimmy Savile: The Punch and Judy Show.


For more information on these shows and more, visit 

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