Best of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2019

What madness stood out at Fringe this year?

Fringe fest

We’re nearing the end of the summer, so it’s once again time to take a look back at my picks for the best of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2019.


Police Cops: Badass Be Thy Name

I first saw the Police Cops a couple of years ago, and was totally taken in by their madcap, zany, energetic comedy performance. Their debut show saw them mock and pay homage to cheesy 80s buddy cop movies though jokes, physical comedy props and dance. The trio returned for Police Cops in Space in 2018, transplanting the action to a sci-fi setting. While Police Cops in Space was good, it felt like a bit of a reatred of the original show. I had hoped to see something new. Luckily, 2019 didn’t disappoint.

Badass Be Thy Name is the third show for the Police Cops, and there wasn’t a cop in sight. Taking place at the turn of the century, it blends rave music with vampires and talking bottoms. Yes, it’s brash and puerile, but they’re also one of the funniest comedy teams on the scene today. So very reminiscent of the early work of The Mighty Boosh (jeez, that was 20 years ago), these guys are going to become major faces very soon.


The Man Who Planted Trees

Change of pace this, with a beautiful family story about environmentalism. This show has been coming to Edinburgh for the last 13 years and, somehow, I’d never heard of it before. Based at the Edinburgh Storytelling Centre, the performance sees two performers, Rick and Richard, telling the story of Elzéard Bouffier, a widower who moved to a barren area of France, and began planting 100 trees each day. Rick and Richard are not alone, they’re joined by the best dog puppet of the Fringe, which is also performed by Rick.

The tale is told through traditional storytelling, with Rick also manning the puppet representing Elzéard. The story is also told through a minimalist set, some dioramas and even through aroma. It manages to tell a story about a very important point, without being too on the nose about it, and manages to make the subject matter fun for children and adults alike. This was my favourite show of this year.


Manual Cinema’s Frankenstein

There was more than one version of Frankenstein at the Edinburgh Fringe this year. Another performance, Frankenstein: How To Make A Monster, also received rave reviews, though I was unable to see it.

Manual Cinema’s Frankenstein was exactly what I hoped to see from a piece of Fringe theatre. Blending shadow puppetry, traditional puppetry, acting, film and live music into a performance that not only told the story of the titular doctor that created a monster, but also of Mary Shelley and what made her write the story in the first place. The performance is hard to describe, with actors acting in front of a camera which is projected onto a large screen, and are seamlessly swapped out for shadows and puppets accordingly.

A hugely ambitious piece, I was disappointed to see the grand McKwan Hall only half full for this performance. Perhaps the of theatrical styles may have confused theatre-goers. Still, this was one of the best shows on this year and certainly the most unique. If you get a chance to see it at any point I can’t recommend it enough.



Puppetry is definitely a winner in 2019, as Boulder is the third favourite of mine to also feature the art. Boulder is the second Fringe show from theatre company Half a String, who also produced the amazing A Heart At Sea, which made my best of 2017 list. A Heart At Sea featured a large wooden box which could be opened in a variety of ways to showcase different scenes.

Half a String upped the ante in 2019 with a giant wooden and steel boulder, which once again could be opened to reveal different scenes, as well as be rolled around on the stage. Boulder reimagines the Greek myth of Sisyphus, and tells the story of an unnamed man destined to spend his life pushing a boulder uphill, never to make it to the top.

The unnamed man is played by a puppet (three actually) throughout the performance, and also features animation and live music by the insanely talented singer-songwriter Avi Simmons. The puppet is mostly made from metal wires and wood, but has been made to be seen through, so you can observe his workings as his operators move him around.


The Shark Is Broken

Based on the diaries of Robert Shaw on the set of Jaws, The Shark Is Broken tells the story of Shaw, alongside co-stars Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss as they spend their downtime waiting for the most famous mechanical shark in the world to be fixed. The stories of this trio of mismatched actors are the stuff of legend, so it was fantastic to see it brought to the stage by award winning theatre director Guy Masterson.

Personalities clash when Shaw’s alcoholism, Dreyfuss’ young arrogance and, quite frankly, Scheider’s squareness in the small cabin the cast share in between takes, and reveal some insights into the personalities. The play manages to be hilarious and melancholic, as the play reveals stories of Robert Shaw’s alcoholic father dying at only 52 years old, and Robert’s desire to outlive, something that in real life, Robert Shaw would not do.

All tied into this is that Masterson has managed to get actors that bear a fairly close resemblance to their on screen counter parts, but most importantly the star of the show is Ian Shaw as Robert Shaw, a son playing his own father on stage.


Mark Watson: How You Can Almost Win

Mark Watson brought two stand up shows to the Fringe this year, The Infinite Show and I Appreciate You Coming to This and Let’s Hope for the Best (Work in Progress). However, there was a third show he brought this year, a talking piece, not intended to be funny but with classic Watson humour, ‘How You Can Almost Win’.

This talking piece was about Watson himself, who has never seen himself as ‘winning at life’, but coming to the realisation that life isn’t there to be won or lost. Much of the focus is Celebrity Island with Bear Grylls, a reality television show that he has been contractually obliged to not speak about — at least, until now. The show seems to have had a positive influence on Watson, despite it seemingly being a negative experience for the stand up.

Mark Watson is a comedian who, while he stays out of the public eye for the most part, has had a troubled private life. It’s nice to see Watson so positive and wanting to share his positivity. Peppered with jokes (largely from his work in progress show) it makes the whole thing and uplifting and funny talk.



Saying “it’s kinda like Mr Bean” feels like a disservice. I don’t mean anything by that statement, as I am aware that while Mr Bean is a far from perfect example, I am also aware that it was made to be a loving nod toward the silent movie legends of old. So Fishbowl is like Mr Bean.

It’s a farce that is free from the spoken word, with occasional music and frequent sound effects. Fishbowl tells the story of three individuals living in tiny, cramped apartments in France. One lives in a pristine, white space age flat, another in a grimy and cramped one, and the third lives in a comfy, hot pink dream.

The play revolves around their interactions as they get to know each other, and often devolve into zany and over-the-top situations contained entirely within the flats. The three performers are three of the best I’ve ever seen in a farce production and while it’s really not easy to describe, you really should see this with your own eyes. They’ve already received a huge amount of 5 star reviews from all over Europe, so the work of French theatre group Le Fils Du Grand Réseau really speaks for itself.

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