The streets of Edinburgh are lined with posters, the pavements teeming with people, and the purple ‘udderbelly’ tent, shaped like an overturned cow, has materialised in the midst of George Square. That can only mean one thing – it’s festival time again! The plays of Shakespeare are always well represented at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, one of the largest arts festivals in the world, and this year is no exception. A quick search of the programme of events for this year for ‘Shakespeare’ reveals over seventy events. Not all of these performances are as Shakespeare would know them or even modern interpretations/adaptations. In fact, many of the directors and writers have taken inspiration from the Bard but used his work to put together an entirely new work of their own; a practice at which, as we all know, Shakespeare himself was proficient. There is not enough space to list all the shows here, but here a few examples of some that look to be worth seeing:
- Following on from twenty-three sell-out years, Shakespeare for Breakfast returns once again. Running almost every day of the festival (Aug 5-17, 19-31) at 10am, there’s plenty of opportunity to get the day off to a good start with this new play taking its inspiration from all things Shakespearean. Reviews from previous years assure us that Shakespeare for Breakfast promises to be a highly enjoyable and entertaining experience. Their description on the EdFringe website recommends that you book early!
Created by the Globe Education team, Shakespeare Untold rewrites Titus Andronicus and Romeo and Juliet as The Pie Maker’s Tale and The Party Planner’s Tale, respectively, retelling the story of these plays from the Pie Maker and Party Planner’s point of view. Aiming to connect with audiences who might not usually attend a Shakespeare play, children or otherwise, the preview reviews of the shows are confident that they can be enjoyed by all (see, for example, https://edinburghfestival.list.co.uk/article/72929-fringe-preview-romeo-and-juliet-the-party-planners-tale-and-titus-andronicus-the-piemakers-tale/). The plays come on one after the other so that it is possible to watch them in a double bill if desired! The performances run from Aug 5 to Aug 31 (no performance on Wednesdays), with The Pie Maker’s Tale starting at 12.30pm, and The Party Planner’s Tale starting at 1.40pm.
- For the combination of Shakespeare with improv, look no further than the The School of Night: Rhapsodies, who describe themselves as ‘the world’s only company to improvise in actual Shakespearean language’. Reviewers of previous shows have said ‘This is by far some of the most intelligent and hilarious comedy you are likely to see at the Fringe’. Showing from 5-17 Aug at 5.10pm.
- The HandleBards is a drama group composed of four young men, who pack their props and their costumes into their kit bags, hop on their bicycles and ride the length of the country, and stopping at many places along the way to perform plays. They began their tour this year at Sevenoaks, England on June 24th and will be in Edinburgh from 18-30 Aug with their performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hamlet, taking place in the Royal Botanic Gardens at 6.45pm. Reviews of their previous shows indicate that we can expect a highly entertaining show from The HandleBards!
Perhaps unsurprisingly, A Midsummer Night’s Dream proves to be the most popular choice of play for drama groups, with a total of ten different performances/adaptations offered. Lesser known plays from the Shakespearean canon also make an appearance in the programme, including The Comedy of Errors and All’s Well that Ends Well. While both the comedies and the tragedies are well-represented, noticeably lacking are performances of the histories, with only Richard III making an appearance.
The full details on all performances, and how to find tickets, can be found here.