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courtesy of Jamie Woods

Highlights of the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Previews

8 July 2017 Will Rathbone

August comes but once a year, and with it the illustrious behemoth of fringe theatre that is the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. A staggering amount of shows take place in Scotland’s capital throughout the month, and it’s heaven for anyone with an interest in theatre. If you can’t make it up this year, fear not. There are lots of excellent shows previewing in July before they make the move up North, and we’ve rounded up some of the shows we’re most excited about.

The Bunker in London Bridge, located underneath the Menier Chocolate Factory, is one of the most exciting Fringe venues in London right now, and two shows stand out amongst their Edinburgh previews: Bechdel Testing Life, on July 22/23, and Todd and God by Richard Marsh on July 27. Bechdel Testing Life takes the Bechdel Test, which asks if a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man, and applies it to real life conversations between women, which have then been adapted by four different playwrights. Todd and God sees the return of Richard Marsh, a previous Fringe First-winner and writer of recent West End transfer Dirty Great Love Story, penning a story about atheist Todd being chosen by God as her chosen one on Earth.

Image courtesy of Richard Marsh

Elsewhere in South London, Ovalhouse are previewing Jamie Wood’s latest solo show I am a Tree from July 27-29. Jamie Woods is a comic theatre-maker, whose last show O No! was one of the highlights of 2016’s Edinburgh Fringe. His off-piste, gentle humour is reminiscent of the all-conquering Daniel Kitson, and his latest tells of his 150-mile pilgrimage to his grandparents’ birthplace.

Battersea Arts Centre, along with a whole heap of stand-up comedy previews - including Ed Gamble, Sara Pascoe, Nish Kumar and Spencer Jones, all a snip at £6-10 - are previewing The Shape of Pain, a collaboration between the brilliant Chris Thorpe and Rachel Bagshaw, on July 21/22. The show looks at one woman’s experience of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome - a physical pain which is undiagnosable and has no apparent cause - and promises to be a fascinating, clever and moving piece of theatre. It’s also previewing at artsdepot in North Finchley on July 27.

Image courtesy of China Plate Theatre

The Bush Theatre is hosting an equally serious show, The B*easts, from July 26-28. Written by and starring BAFTA-winning actress Monica Dolan, it’s an examination of pornography in the 21st century and it’s far-reaching effects on society, along with the sexualisation of children. Also at The Bush, Nassim is the latest from Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour, and follows a similar set-up to his previous smash-hit White Rabbit Red Rabbit. Each night a different actor is presented with Soleimanpour’s monologue, in a sealed envelope, before performing it unrehearsed and without having ever read it before. The performer’s identity is a secret each night, but previous actors include Joe Pantoliano, F. Murray Abraham, George Takei and Whoopi Goldberg - so there’s some serious calibre involved.

Another returning playwright is Martin Murphy, who previews Victim at The Old Red Lion on July 28. The one-woman show tells of a prison guard and a criminal’s struggle with a notorious inmate, and comes hot on the the heels of his previous one-woman play, Villain which garnered 5* reviews and serious commendations for actor Maddie Rice’s lead turn. Another solo show, A Hundred Different Words For Love, has been doing the rounds for a while. It was a hit at last years Edinburgh Fringe and this year’s VAULT Festival and returns to Edinburgh once more. James Rowland’s show is a heart-warming look at a well-trodden emotion, and is definitely worth catching at Dalston’s Rosemary Branch Theatre on July 29.

Image courtesy of James Rowlands

Some of London’s bigger venues are getting in on the Fringe Preview act as well. The Young Vic are taking Josette Bushell-Mingo’s extraordinary Nina, a one-woman tribute to Nina Simone, up to Scotland and you can catch a preview in London from July 19-29. The Southbank Centre are hosting Selina Thompson’s new show salt. on July 15/16, which follows her journey retracing a Transatlantic Slave Triangle route from the UK to Ghana to Jamaica and back. It’s an uncompromising look at our colonial history and about being part of a diaspora. The Almeida Theatre meanwhile have worked with 16-25 year olds to create From The Ground Up which previews from August 7-10. It’s an interactive show which asks difficult questions about choice and decision-making, written with the help of Joeri Smet from the wonderful Dutch company Ontroerend Goed.

On a lighter note, Hackney Showroom are previewing Prom Kween from July 19-21. The new musical tells the story of Matthew, the first boy ever to win the high-school competition, and the obstacles that stood in his way, and comes from the team behind many a previous Edinburgh hit, including Margaret Thatcher: Queen of Soho and How to Win Against History. The Soho Theatre also has plenty of comedy previewing - including the long-awaited return of Late Night Gimp Fight after a four-year Fringe absence from July 18-22.

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