Camels, clowns and sex education: what to see at Edinburgh fringe 2021

The festival has shrunk because of Covid but there are plenty of shows in person and online this summer – here’s our pick of the first to be announced

In-person shows

Sex Education Xplorers (S.E.X.)
What did they miss out in your sex ed at school? Mamoru Iriguchi fills in the blanks by taking you on a time-travelling, comic odyssey through gender and sexuality. The zoologist turned theatre-maker, who starred in fringe favourite Eaten in 2018, performs the show with Afton Moran.

Frances Poet’s plays include the acclaimed Fibres, about the effects of asbestosis on a Glaswegian family. Her new drama also looks at love and loss, this time set in Edinburgh, and is the first show to reopen the cavernous, essential fringe stage Traverse 1 since the pandemic hit. Directed by Gareth Nicholls (Ulster American).

Drawings of Dromedaries (and Other Creatures)
Get the hump with bespectacled, string-picking poet John Hegley as he performs in Summerhall’s Secret Courtyard. The witty wordsmith has written odes to animals for years; he presents a selection of old and new ones celebrating camels, cats, puffins and more.

Julia Taudevin, centre, with Nerea Bello and Mairi Morrison from Move.
Julia Taudevin, centre, with Nerea Bello and Mairi Morrison from Move. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The Traverse and Slung Low join forces with Disaster Plan, a new company led by Julia Taudevin and Kieran “Beats” Hurley, to present Taudevin’s bracing open-air production about communal healing in which an all-female cast make Edinburgh’s Silverknowes beach their stage. Part of the Made in Scotland showcase.

Swallow the Sea Caravan Theatre
The self-declared “instigators of outdoor celebrations and singers of the sublime and the deadly”, previously celebrated at Edinburgh’s annual Manipulate festival of visual theatre, return to Summerhall with more bewitching and bizarre puppetry and music.

Andrew Maxwell: Reality
You’ll have to wait until almost the very end of the festival for Andrew Maxwell’s one-night-only gig, but the perceptive Irish comic is worth waiting for. The Ex on the Beach narrator plays the Corn Exchange, whose other comedy nights include Craig Hill, Daniel Sloss, Mark Nelson and Henning Wehn.

Online shows

Fringe of Colour Films
In 2016, Jessica Brough went to the fringe and found it difficult to find work by black performers. In 2018, Brough created a spreadsheet of shows by artists of colour. That grew to a ticket scheme and, last year, an online film fest. It returns for 2021 with 23 films including three new commissions by Mae Diansangu, Thulani Rachia and Paix (Gillian Katungi).

When Gary McNair joked that he would be doing a “Shedinburgh” show from his garden during lockdown last year, Fleabag producer Francesca Moody ran with the idea and the pair put on an online festival of theatre, comedy and music – broadcast live from sheds. This year, they’re back with another shed-ule of performances.

This hypnotic 45-minute performance, directed and choreographed by Mele Broomes, “subverts hypersexualised notions of African and Caribbean dance”, foregrounds friendship and love, and features costumes by Glaswegian designer Zephyr Liddell. Presented by Summerhall.

It wouldn’t be the Edinburgh fringe without an acrobatic, multi-language show about customer service performed by two Finnish clowns. Inga and Kristiina serve up a 45-minute comedy about receptionists terrified of customers.

As British As a Watermelon
Zimbabwean writer Mandla Rae’s film was seen earlier this year as part of Queer Contact festival. Now, this “messy sensory experience” about asylum and immigration gets another airing. “I’m a little bit psychic,” says Rae. “And I’ve risen from the dead …”

My Left Nut’s Michael Patrick.
My Left Nut’s Michael Patrick. Photograph: Paul McErlane/The Guardian

My Left Nut
Another chance to see the award-winning, autobiographical 2018 show recounting why actor Michael Patrick earned the nickname “big dick Mick” at school. (Answer: a hugely swollen left testicle, which eventually required surgery.) Co-written with Oisín Kearney, it’s a raucous yet tender exploration of guilt, grief and masculinity.

We’ll Meet in Moscow
A monologue about hope and resistance written in response to the Moscow courts’ 100-year-long ban on gay pride celebrations, which made headlines in 2012. It’s written by Natalie McGrath, who is also writer-in-residence at Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum as part of a “queering the museum” initiative.


Chris Wiegand

The GuardianTramp

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