The National

The National

There's something a little unusual about The National's rise to power as a festival-filling headline band; their sound is so hushed, so intimate, so suited to a guttering candle and a glass of Jack, that they seem unlikely as a live proposition... 

An Evening With David Sedaris

An Evening With David Sedaris

While undoubtedly a good show by anyone's standards - apart from someone who doesn't like American men with high, nasal voices reading comic but ultimately touching stories, presumably - An Evening With David Sedaris is a strange fit with the Fringe... 

Bashir Lazhar

Bashir Lazhar

French-Canadian drama Bashir Lazhar draws its tension from the point at which two forms of loneliness intersect – that of an Algerian immigrant trying to make his way in a new world less tolerant than it originally appears, and that of a teacher at the front of a classroom, surrounded and alone... 

Caligula

Caligula

Although his writing is poetry as much as philosophy, there is a danger that any performance of a work by Albert Camus might neglect the more intriguingly human aspects of his literary questioning and produce an effect akin to that of being beaten by a chalky board-eraser for sixty minutes... 

Body of Water

Body of Water

There's a comedy show at this year's Fringe entitled All Young People Are C*nts. I haven't seen it, but Body Of Water seemed to capably transmit the same piece of information; it's the story of a group of gap-year-friendly, intermittently committed activists who try to bring down the capitalist system by taking a lot of drugs and listening to abrasive rave music... 

Isy Suttie: Pearl and Dave

Isy Suttie: Pearl and Dave

Some suggest that you have to like a performer to be able to laugh at their work. This isn't true in all cases, there are games to be played with persona, with audience response, or simply with being so funny it doesn't matter that you're a tw*t... 

Guilt & Shame

Guilt & Shame

Guilt and Shame is a sketch show about the failure of a sketch show, or more specifically its utter breakdown. It's also a grotesque parody of 'controversial' comedy, signalled most clearly in a sequence where a series of slides with hand-drawn pictures of genitals and words like 'RAPE' plays over abrasive rave music as its two performers shout things like 'Yeah, guilt and shame... 

Medea

Medea

Many readers will be familiar with the experience of almost falling asleep in a lecture theatre; it is probably less common for the urge to arise while a Greek tragedy is in full swing, but this is the intriguing situation in which the audience of Assembly's Medea risk finding themselves... 

Henning Wehn No Surrender

Henning Wehn No Surrender

This is the second year running that I have seen a Fringe set by Henning Wehn – and although the man is a brilliant stand-up, the common threads running through his material are a little too overriding for me to recommend such a course of action... 

Richard Herring: What is Love Anyway?

Richard Herring: What is Love Anyway?

Love is a pyramid scheme, suggests Richard Herring, in an extended fifteen-minute segment of his strongly-themed set, in which he contemplates the devastating consequences of a lover's obligation to increase the scale of their Valentine's gifts as a token of increasing affection... 

Ed Byrne: Crowd Pleaser

Ed Byrne: Crowd Pleaser

It's hard to fault this set by Ed Byrne, although it's very tempting to do so. Stewart Lee describes Byrne as 'a much better stand-up than he has any reason to be'. It's easy to find reasons why Byrne, in his current professional position, could settle into tepid blandness... 

Andy Zaltzman: Armchair Revolutionary

Andy Zaltzman: Armchair Revolutionary

If you only see one stand-up comedy set at this year's Fringe, it should probably be Andy Zaltzman. Although I can't claim to have seen everything on offer, I'd be willing to bet there are more punchlines per minute in his hour of material than in the rest of the shows on his page of the programme combined... 

Chris Martin: No. Not That One

Chris Martin: No. Not That One

Three years ago, at my first Fringe, I saw Chris Martin do a fifteen-minute free set in a basement room. I was young and naïve, I hadn't seen much comedy, and I enjoyed it very much... 

Sherica

Sherica

Last year, Wednesday by Ian Winterton was one of my picks of the Fringe. This year, Shred Productions return with Sherica, his next script, and though it lacks some of the previous production's compelling focus, its place is still assured on the top shelf of fringe new writing... 

Bridget Christie: Housewife Surrealist

Bridget Christie: Housewife Surrealist

When Bridget Christie bounds onto the stage in a bishop's vestments and mitre, running around the audience distributing crackers and squeezes of water, and then a couple of minutes later declares herself a devout Catholic, you know she's not going to be like other comedians – or like other Catholics... 

Hitler! The Musical

Hitler! The Musical

Satirical portraits of Adolf Hitler have been around since Charlie Chaplin's 'The Great Dictator', through 'The Producers', to the Mr T Experience's 'Even Hitler Had A Girlfriend'. So by setting the dark history of the Führer's rise and fall to razzle-dazzle showtunes, TL Musical Theatre are doing nothing particularly new... 

Spent

Spent

Have you ever seen a man sweat through the back of a business suit? If that's an experience in which your life is lacking, it's one of many reasons why you might be interested in seeing Spent – a Canadian double-act lampooning the excesses of the financial crisis with economic precision... 

Wondrous Flitting

Wondrous Flitting

The title of Wondrous Flitting is a double reference: it stands for both the miraculous appearance in 24-year-old waster Sam's house of the Holy House of Loreto, a medieval site of Catholic Marian pilgrimage, and for the very modern malaise that the play investigates... 

Pink Noise by FORK

Pink Noise by FORK

There's not a lot of pink in this show – the four Scandinavian singers who make up FORK spend most of it clad either in dazzling white or figure-hugging black leather – but there is a huge amount of noise... 

Alfie Brown - The Love You Take

Alfie Brown - The Love You Take

This is a show which will divide audiences, causing disputes of both an interpersonal and internal nature. I'm duty-bound to mention that my friend and neighbour disliked the young stand-up's approach intensely; it was, she said, the most depressing piece of comedy she had ever seen... 

Phillipa and Will Are Now in a Relationship

Phillipa and Will Are Now in a Relationship

'I wuv you with the intensity of a thousand suns,' yells Will (Jack Swain) in Misshapen Theatre's Phillipa And Will Are Now In A Relationship, a romantic comedy told entirely through the back and forth of a Facebook Wall-to-Wall... 

Mr Kolpert

Mr Kolpert

Adapted from a 1990s German play by David Geiselmann, this student production is a thrilling race through the cruelty and aggression underlying social etiquette. Young couple Ralf and Sarah have invited work friends, Edith and Bastian, to spend an evening in their home... 

Festival Folk @ The Oak/The Wee Folk Club

Festival Folk @ The Oak/The Wee Folk Club

Byrne's material tonight takes in a range of styles and moods, but is mostly taken from poetry written in Scots dialect traditions, and there were clearly a number of jokes that I wasn't the only one to miss through my ear not being attuned... 

Grainne Maguire - We Need to Talk About Bonnets

Grainne Maguire - We Need to Talk About Bonnets

There are about ten people in a dank attic room for what Grainne Maguire repeatedly describes as a 'late night bonnet show', meaning that for the majority of her set she doesn't even bother to use a microphone... 

Henning Wehn - My Struggle

Henning Wehn - My Struggle

Henning Wehn might be the most bizarre stand-up comedian I have ever seen, but I think that's intentional. His whole aesthetic is based on a grinning, defiant sense of otherness, his thick and unusual German accent and knowingly eccentric appearance putting layers of persona-creating distance between the audience and his highly fluent English language material... 

Belgrave and Manera's Music Club

Belgrave and Manera's Music Club

Over the last few years at the Latitude festival Robin Ince's Book Club has been a runaway success. Featuring a rotating line-up of highly literate comics and musicians, it takes a light-hearted look at the weirder side of the literary world... 

Bec Hill Didn't Want to Play Your Stupid Game Anyway

Bec Hill Didn't Want to Play Your Stupid Game Anyway

It's easy to see where Australian comic Bec Hill is coming from in this set about refusing to conform to the pressures of adulthood. At its best, comedy can release the Ludic impulse in all of us, the sense of uninhibited fun that reminds us how it felt to be a child... 

My Romantic History

My Romantic History

'Isn't memory funny?', comments Amy, one of the two main characters of DC Jackson's My Romantic History. No mere cliché, it's a thematic and formal necessity, as the play's through-the-looking-glass structure demonstrates how variably Amy and her opposite number, Tom, remember and misremember they things they have said and done to each other – not to mention their previous partners, each played tellingly by the same actor... 

Frisky and Mannish: The College Years

Frisky and Mannish: The College Years

I'm a newcomer to the Frisky and Mannish experience – a fresher, as they address me at one point – I came into this show lacking any point of comparison with last year's smash hit School of Pop... 

Random History of Rock'n'Roll in Middle English, by Geoff Chaucer Junior

Random History of Rock'n'Roll in Middle English, by Geoff Chaucer Junior

This is the weirdest thing I have ever seen. Doing exactly what it says on the tin, this show features a range of classics from the history of rock music reinterpreted in Middle English by Pete Morton, aka Geoff Chaucer Junior, joined on accordion by a self-flagellating monk, for absolutely no discernible reason... 

In This Lonely Town

In This Lonely Town

Andrianna Smela and her accompanist Maria Dessena are classically trained musicians playing cabaret music, and my main gripe with this programme of the songs of Kurt Weill and other artists is that it shows... 

Fee Fie Foe Fum

Fee Fie Foe Fum

Kids are a notoriously tough crowd. Lose their interest once and they're gone forever, and while they might enjoy being pandered to they hate being patronised. Clearly I'm not the target market for Gas and Air's Fee Fie Fo Fum – I'm not a child – but I think this production's sole performer knew how to strike the balance... 

The Meeting

The Meeting

Reuben Johnson's The Meeting commands a strong central performance by Reuben Johnson, speaking the lines of Reuben Johnson under the keen directorial eye of Reuben Johnson. This is quite impressive in itself – how can he be in so many places at once? – but although the Citizen Kane trick is a neat one I felt his writing lagged slightly behind his other two, more developed talents... 

Tim Turnbull's Tales of Terror - Free

Tim Turnbull's Tales of Terror - Free

It ought to be mentioned from the beginning that Tim's Turnbull's Tales of Terror aren't particularly terrifying, but it soon becomes apparent that actual thrills and chills aren't really the point... 

The Gilded Red Cage

The Gilded Red Cage

I actually feel guilty about disliking this play so much. It’s about a blind Slovakian pianist abandoned in America by her jet-setting lover, her eyesight cured but her life stuck in a rut of dog-walking anomie... 

Pork

Pork

David Egan's Pork is an interesting stab at an interesting topic; set in a future dystopia where pigs live side by side with feral humans in a sinister charitable enclave known only as 'the reserve', it uses comic seasoning to mask some dark, unpalatable questions about humans and animals... 

Gary Delaney: Purist

Gary Delaney: Purist

Most comedy shows, like most reviews, come with some kind of inbuilt narrative, some trajectory from A to B that allows the performer to hook on their best jokes, anecdotes and observations like some kind of hilarious washing line... 

Don't Call Us We'll Call You

Don't Call Us We'll Call You

Ring-ring! Ring ring! What's that sound? It's the sound of ten students from London trying to get to grips with an un-winable war. Don't Call Us, We'll Call You centres on that dreaded phone call families of servicemen are terrified to receive, and its frankly over-excitable marketing campaign details how the big red instrument can become 'an object of hate, fear, desire and even lust!' for those left behind... 

Wednesday

Wednesday

Brutality is hard to sustain onstage. Given that most Edinburgh audiences are unshockable the interest doesn't come from the violence itself; after all there's only so many times you can watch someone hit someone else with an axe before your arms start feeling tired... 

Fever Chart: Three Visions of the Middle East

Fever Chart: Three Visions of the Middle East

War! What is it good for? Well, in this case, it's good for about half of this Warwick University student production of Naomi Wallace's The Fever Chart: Three Visions of the Middle East... 

Damion Larkin: Cuddly Loser

Damion Larkin: Cuddly Loser

Early in his set Cuddly Loser Damion Larkin describes himself as 'five foot seven and made of pies.' It's a pretty good introduction to the type of material the show contains – vaguely waggish self-deprecation about Larkin's looks and inability to succeed with women which occasionally raise a good laugh but after a while get a bit repetitive... 

Chris Addison

Chris Addison

Picture Chris Addison in your mind for a minute. Just picture what he looks like. Here's a question. How old do you think he is? Go on. Guess. You're wrong. Chris Addison is thirty-eight... 

Night Heron

Night Heron

If you've ever been anywhere near the Fens you'll probably have realised that they're fucking mental, but if unlike me you haven't visited Spalding's Springfields Centre for a fun day out then Jez Butterworth's The Night Heron will serve as an equally adequate introduction... 

Lach: The Day I Went Insane

Lach: The Day I Went Insane

Previous reviewers have compared Lach to Woody Allen and Woody Guthrie, and while these two are good reference points I'd like to start by pointing out just how much he looks, and even moves, like a young Elvis Costello... 

The Degenerates

The Degenerates

In a dystopian future society where all homosexuals are 'rehabilitated' by being forced to have straight sex in a sinister hostel, one man and one woman do a lot of shouting in Ribcaged Productions' performance of Jonathan Shipman's The Degenerates... 

Stitching

Stitching

Various media have opted for sex as the defining theme of this year's Fringe, and a number of the shows I've been able to see are characterised by a clear-eyed recognition of the darker corners of sexual practice... 

Man Who Was Thursday

Man Who Was Thursday

There are few good things about international terrorism, but this show is one of them. Seamlessly updating the GK Chesterton novel as a twentieth-century jihad satire (though careful not to be too specific), Jam Theatre Collective strike a tone somewhere between Team America and Chris Morris's Four Lions... 

Josie Long: Be Honourable!

Josie Long: Be Honourable!

Josie Long's Be Honourable! is on some level about being nice – not the easiest subject for laughs, but one with which she succeeds partly by being such a shining example. Everything about her act exudes warmth, generosity and a sense of love for her fellow human beings; these also happen to be her themes, and while she is furious with anyone who fails to follow these basic guidelines for living (mostly, in this set, the Conservative party), she approaches her audience on the most positive footing possible... 

'Dream Man' by James Carroll Pickett

'Dream Man' by James Carroll Pickett

A word of warning: if an hour of explicit homosexual phone sex is the sort of thing that sends you running to complain to Mary Whitehouse, then look away now. Dream Man is a brash, balls-out confrontation of the realities of long-distance sexual gratification, set in a time period where real-life intimacy was haunted by the fear of AIDS, still known in some of the media as the 'gay plague'... 

Allsopp and Henderson's The Jinglists

Allsopp and Henderson's The Jinglists

Comedy is subjective – a cliché the truth of which I'd never truly experienced before seeing Allsopp and Henderson's The Jinglists. Six audience members gave a standing ovation. A girl by the exit declared it 'the best thing I've ever seen'... 

Withered Hand

Withered Hand

'I'm Withered Hand, and these are my friends', announces Dan Willson as his three-piece backing band join him on the stage of the Electric Circus. There's a pregnant pause before he adds: 'all three of them... 

Project Adorno's Top Ten of Popular Culture

Project Adorno's Top Ten of Popular Culture

Do you like Art Brut? Half Man Half Biscuit? Have you ever heard of Ian Sinclair? If the answer to any of these questions is 'no' then you may be bemused, vexed and possibly appalled by Project Adorno's Top Ten of Popular Culture, a musical comedy double-act consisting of one librarian and one 'serial library user', both in suits and one genuinely wearing a flat-cap... 

Carnivale

Carnivale

If you've ever seen or read JB Priestley's An Inspector Calls you'll be broadly familiar with the message of UnWish Theatre's Carnivale, a dinner party with a difference where the flesh is gradually stripped from the bones of five over-privileged bright young things to reveal the moral murkiness beneath... 

Apples

Apples

Adapted from Richard Milward's 2006 novel, Apples is a slice of teen life in all its grottiness, expanded to cartoonish proportions from a starting point of Northern reality. Set in Middlesborough, accents are strong and drugs apparently even stronger, but Company of Angels inject the production with a vibrant humour that prevents it feeling too grim up north... 

The Tempest

The Tempest

Aces High promise a radical, multimedia, re-gendered re-imagination of The Tempest, but deliver a bit of a damp squib, something more like a light drizzle or a power shower when the pressure isn't working... 

Last Easter

Last Easter

Bryony Lavery's Last Easter is a one-act comedy about cancer, euthanasia and the vestigial presence of religious imagery in our hopeless, secular lives. Laughing yet? Surprisingly, you will be, as the four-person cast infuse the script with different, lively personalities that all do their part towards averting the car-crash/flatline (delete as appropriate) that such a text could undoubtedly end up as... 

Mandrake

Mandrake

The Mandrake charts familiar territory for a Renaissance city comedy – cuckoldry, trickery, and professional stereotypes – but as might be expected from a play by Machiavelli, the Italian political theorist now sadly synonymous with spin doctors in the Malcolm Tucker mould, these particular schemers are more rotten than most... 

Threshold

Threshold

Some would say the journey is more important than the destination, but this rule doesn't apply to 19;29's Threshold, a choose-your-own-adventure psychodrama presenting the implosion of a rich family with more skeletons than hangers in their closets in a beautiful, undisclosed mystery location (I could disclose it, but I don't think I'm supposed to)...