The Ones to Watch: Theatre

Matt Trueman sorts the dramatic wheat from the hackneyed chaff. These are Fest's top recommendations

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Matt Trueman's 2017 picks
Published 15 Jul 2017


The big hit of this year’s National Student Drama Festival, Celebration is just that: an attempt to throw off the shitstorm of the last year and make like Kool and the Gang. Emergency Chorus are out to find the light in life. By all accounts, this one’s a joy.

Jamie Wood: I Am a Tree

Jamie Wood is much more than a clown. He’s a lovably anarchic presence, warm and unruly, whose shows are as playful as they are philosophical. Having hymned Björn Borg and Yoko Ono in the past, he turns his attention to his own granddad. His roots, you might say.

Not I

Irish actor Lisa Dwan got through Samuel Beckett’s motormouth monologue in a record-breaking nine minutes. Jess Thom has left herself an hour – but then, she does have Tourette's Syndrome. It’s a neat idea – a shot across the bows of artistic excellence, exactness and expression. All performances are relaxed.

Oresteia: This Restless House

There was a rash of Oresteias a few years back. Its cycle of violence and vengeance, an upright family tearing itself apart, caught the mood of the moment. Some were political, some personal. Zinnie Harris’s version is psychotic – horror from the mouth of Hellas. Dominic Hill’s award-winning production closes the International Festival.

An Evening With an Immigrant

Performance poet Inua Ellams was the toast of the National Theatre earlier this year. Barber Shop Chronicles wove black Londoners into their African roots. This intimate ‘evening with’ is a more personal piece – a reflection on growing up in a new nation, and the implications on one’s identity. Vital and humane.

A Hunger Artist

Dubbed “the next new thing” by the New York Times, Brooklyn-based company Sinking Ship mix physical theatre and puppetry – perfect Fringe fare. With this little-known Kafka short, about an artist fasting for 40 days in public, it might have a tale for our times: an austere life lived out under public scrutiny.

Foreign Radical

From Canada, a complete one-off – a theatrical game-show about rooting out radical extremism online. Theatre Conspiracy, one of the intrepid production company Aurora Nova’s finds, splits its audience and asks us to judge an outspoken Iranian Canadian activist. Are there limits to free speech?

Jelly Beans

Kuleshov have fast become one of the most exciting new writing indies around. They had a big hit with BU21, a twisted, terror plot rom-com, and now comes director Dan Pick’s own study of masculinity in crisis. Sloshing lust into self-loathing, it’s been likened to Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Fleabag – but for boys.

Circa: Humans

Circa are the global superstars of contemporary circus. Director Yaron Lifschitz kickstarted the movement, pushing the big top into high art. He’s slammed strongmen into Shostakovich quartets, and turned Ibsen’s plays into tumbling acts. Humans pushes bodies to their limits and asks just how much we can bear.

Real Magic

Forced Entertainment are among Britain’s best theatremakers, and Real Magic ranks alongside their best shows. It’s loopy light entertainment that's, by turns, infuriating, infantile and yet unexpectedly profound. A magic trick gets stuck on repeat – but an impossible one. No magic words. No-one to break the spell. Ta-da.

Un Poyo Rojo

It takes two to tangle. This Argentine clown show, set in a men’s locker room, looks at the ribaldries and rivalries at the heart of male friendships. Another of the Aurora Nova stable, it’s been touring the world for seven years before this, its UK premiere.


It’s Chekhov, Jim, but not as you know it. Volcano Theatre’s physical explosion of the Russian’s first major play takes place in a flooded, abandoned church way out in Leith. It’s all too easy to get stuck in central Edinburgh all month. Here’s reason enough to jump on a bus.