To help whittle down the multitude of options this August, we've rounded up our top picks of shows across the Edinburgh festivals. Eschewing the traditional top 20, we've gone for 25 – well, there is a lot of choice. Our list of the hottest tickets in town includes Michael Morpurgo's King Arthur, monumental at the EIF and literary superstar Jonathan Safran Foer at the book fest.
If you haven't got round to reading the rather lengthy Chilcot report just yet, festival veterans Bob Slayer and Omid Djalili have gathered a group of writers, performers and politicians to read it in its entirety at the Fringe. It's expected to take over two weeks, with confirmed readers including Ian Rankin, Tommy Sheppard, Stewart Lee, Seann Walsh, Jo Caulfield and Ed Gamble. Tickets go on sale today.
Following its debut in 2015, the Gala for Mental Health returns with a bill of comedians, all of whom explore mental health issues in their work. Organised by the Mental Health Foundation, it is hosted once again by the delightful Felicity Ward, and features guests Chris Gethard, Susan Calman, Richard Gadd, and Martha McBrier.
The Stand – Before the Fringe
Featuring some of the best cabaret, burlesque and music before the start of the Edinburgh Fringe.
A fabulous international line-up of live music with funk, Americana, singer/songwriters, blues and more; including legendary bandleader and trombonist Fred Wesley & The JBs, Irish singer Brian Kennedy, Adam Holmes & The Embers, Yola Carter and Dean Owens.
Keep On Dancing
Gender is a hot topic in dance at this year's Fringe, with Danish dance duo Don Gnu exploring contemporary masculinity in M.I.S. – All Night Long – a 'mash-up of slapstick, posturing, misplaced competitiveness, 70s taches and martial arts stunts.' Elsewhere, creative duo Rhiannon Faith and Maddy Morgan present Scary Shit, a rude and tender performance about friendship, being a woman and asking for help.
Continuing the theme of dance double acts, Airida Gudaitė and Laurynas Žakevicius, of Dance Theatre Low Air, aim to uncover the artistic potential of street dance. The couple, who met on a Lithuanian TV dance contest, use movement to portray various stages of love and jealousy in a relationship.
Not a contemporary dance fan? Edinburgh-based Janis Claxton thinks you just don't know it yet. Her POP-UP Duets (fragments of love) is a series of free, five-minute dance works taking place throughout the National Museum of Scotland that aim to 'bring high-quality dance to public places for unsuspecting audiences.'
Familie Flöz back at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Following last year's sell-out hit Hotel Paradiso, Familie Flöz, the world's leading theatre mask specialist, is back with a comedy set behind the scenes of theatrical illusion.
Let's Get Political
The Festival of Politics (Thu 18–Sat 20 Aug) aligns with Scotland's Year of Architecture, Innovation and Design with its choice of 'the Architecture of Democracy' as the festival's theme. Highlights include Flint & Pitch Productions' spoken-word show News from Nowhere, a discussion on Who Will Win America in the upcoming election and debates surrounding the Refugee Crisis and women in STEM.
For fans of LEGO (that's everyone, surely?) there's a team creating a giant map of Scotland as well as screenings of The LEGO Movie and a Brick History exhibit, depicting political landmarks including the suffragette movement and the inauguration of Barack Obama.
The festival also looks at the portrayal of fictional politics on the small screen. Malcolm Tucker: the art of the special adviser examines whether special political advisers deserve the mud-slinging, while Borgen v The Rest of the World sees producer Camilla Hammerich and writer Jeppe Gjervig Gram discuss the Danish phenomenon.
Winter, 1944. Five airmen trapped behind enemy lines face a life or death decision in the critically-acclaimed Immortal.
Fighting for the life of their wounded engineer, the men cling to their humanity to survive. But then an unwanted visitor comes knocking…
"Funny, poignant and immensely engaging" – The Chiswick Herald
Laugh it Up
Great American comics are plentiful at this year's Fringe, with three of the States' biggest names descending on the capital. Sandwiched between Bill Burr's four gigs at the Pleasance Grand (Mon 8 & Tue 9 Aug) and Amy Schumer's late arrival at the Playhouse (Tue 30 Aug) comes the return of Louis CK to Scotland (Thu 11 Aug).
Other international talent includes Australian Nazeem Hussain, creator of Legally Brown and one half of comedy duo Fear of a Brown Planet. As the titles suggests, the comic derives a lot of his jokes from attitudes to race, as well as buying cool pants and becoming a 'little famous' in Australia.
Fringe-goers who relish audience participation should check out the MMROPG Show, a live improvised role-playing game, where players take on the role of characters in a narrative. Expect improvised comedy, a 20-sided dice and better CGI than the World of Warcraft movie.
Top Comedy, Vloggers & Oriental Arts
Experience our beautifully-presented venue as you enjoy one of the incredible shows at Venue 150 including – Craig Hill, Daniel Sloss, Jimeoin, Limmy and an Oriental Arts programme.
Come along for a drink before your show – café bar open daily.
A Cabaret of Magic
We asked 15 of the best cabaret shows headed to Edinburgh to describe their show in 50 words or less. Amongst the clowns, tiaras and nudity there are shows exploring the music of Cole Porter (Michael Griffiths: Cole) and David Bowie (Sven Ratzke: Starman), the chance to discover who has the fastest tits in the West in the company of transvestite Cowboys (The Raunch) and the musical telling of how an amputee came to be (Nils Bergstrand: The One Legged Man Show).
Mixed in among the cabaret in the Fringe brochure is an array of mind readers, con artists, illusionists, card manipulators and stand-up comics, all peddling their different styles of magic. Our top picks include the dapper Paul Dabek, one of the big hits of 2015's PBH Free Fringe; Pete Firman, who celebrates a decade of shows with his latest offering Trix; and master of deduction Colin Cloud. This charismatic fellow's pretty good, so while you're there try not to think anything you wouldn't want revealed to a room full of strangers.