Edinburgh Fringe picks 2011

Once again, the tome that is the fringe guide has landed on doormats, and hidden somewhere at the back – behind the hundreds of pages of comedy listings – is a thin list of theatre that will be going on during the month of August.

The programme, notwithstanding its use as a reference, is pretty much an unreadable document – you very quickly lose the will to live if you plough through it. But it’s Sunday morning and I’ve got a full pot of coffee. There’s never going to be a better time.

One of the most striking things about reading the programme cover to cover is just how many duplicates there are.  You can imagine the horror at Domina Productions HQ as they open their freshly minted programmes, dreams of Edinburgh stardom only moments away, only to exclaim “Fuck! There’s another Be My Baby. And we both begin our blurb with the words ‘It’s 1964′”.  And who would want to see pure old Bouncers when there’s Bouncers Remix to be had? Most unforgivable of all, however, must be The American High School Theatre Festival which has managed to field two productions of the Crucible, which rather seems to indicate a hedging of bets or betting against onself.

But enough of that. What are the Sans Taste picks of 2011?

Well, you can’t go far wrong backing the National Theatre of Scotland. Their big show this year seems to be The Wheel by Zinnie Harris at the Traverse: “Beatriz and her sister Rosa are happily preparing for Rosa’s wedding. Their world is turned upside down when the groom arrives, pitchfork rabble in tow, ready to occupy their farm.”

Also from NTS, The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Heart promises to be “an evening of anarchic theatre, haunting folk music and strange goings-on”: it comes highly recommended.

Other sure bets include Tuesday at Tescos (in which Simon Callow plays Pauline, “loving daughter, carer and transvestite”) and Guy Masterson in Shylock, both at Assembly. Also on the theme of reimagining Shakespeare characters, Tim Crouch’s I, Malvolio looks pretty interesting.

Beef from Nottingham New Theatre promises to be “a witty and radical reinvention of Noah’s Ark”. Spent comes highly recommended from Canada and unapologetically describes itself as a “clown / buffoon piece”. And while we’re on the subject of single syllable titles, Dust imagines what Arthur Scargill might get up to on the morning of Margaret Thatcher’s death.

Federer versus Murray wins my award for best speculative shot at contemporary relevance (how successful this shot proves to be will be determined over the next couple of weeks).

One Million Tiny Plays About Britain comes from Citizens Theatre which means it has both a great pedigree AND a great name.

Phillipa and Will Are Now in a Relationship is probably not the first play to be a “funny, filthy, bittersweet romance told entirely through a Facebook wall-to-wall” but it looks worth a shot and The Proceedings of That Night looks like a bit of fun.

My last two bets would be on Stella Duffy’s adaptation of Medea and a version of Turandot in which “deaf and non-verbal performers and a choir create an opera for deaf people”. If that’s not what the Edinburgh fringe is about, I don’t know what is.