At its root, the Edinburgh Fringe was forged out of rejection. In 1947, eight groups were refused entry to the Edinburgh International Festival. In response, they performed on the fringes of the festival and now, 70 years later, The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is one of the world's biggest and most inclusive arts events due to one important principle: no one is denied entry. As a result, the festival has become a hotspot for queer creatives to perform and share their stories.
In the year which marks the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK, LGBTQ+ theatre has gone mainstream. Angels in America, the seminal play which explores the effects of the AIDs crisis, has asserted itself as one as the biggest events in the arts calendar, whilst Rotterdam and Hir are paving the way for more transgender stories to make their way onto the West End.
These performances haven't been without their controversies, however. Andrew Garfield was attacked for remarks about his sexuality made during a Q&A panel, where he fell into the trap of claiming that he was 'gay but without the physical act' (although these remarks were misconstrued.) Rotterdam and Hir have also been criticised for allowing straight actors to take on transgender roles, in addition to having an overwhelming number of cisgender writers and directors behind the scenes. Clearly, mainstream depictions of queer lives are still problematic, even if representation is increasing.
As always, fringe theatre is where the most authentic depictions of LGBTQ+ lives can be found - and this year's Ed Fringe is no exception. Hundreds of queer writers, directors, and performers will descend on the Scottish capital to display a wide range of productions that don't sacrifice LGBTQ+ performers in search of commercial appeal.
As LGBTQ+ citizens, rejection is something that permeates our community on a personal and national level; many still struggle to come to terms with their sexuality we are still subject to hate crime, stereotyping, and discrimination. The festival's journey from rejection to pride feels emblematic of our own experiences. With its focus on arts and theatre that exists outside of the mainstream, Ed Fringe gives us a space where we can feel included and, most importantly, thrive.
Here is a selection of things to see and do at the festival:
Adam and Eve
Produced by the National Theatre of Scotland, both Adam and Eve explore what it's like to be transgender in contemporary Scotland. Blending the personal with the mythical, these are perhaps two of the highest profile events of the festival. Yet they still give LGBTQ+ creatives a voice: both Adam Kashmiry, who plays Adam, and Jo Clifford, who is the playwright behind Eve, are transgender and these twin plays present their real life stories. Blurring the lines between fact and fiction, both Adam and Eve look to the trans experience in the past, present, and future, and prove that Adam and Steve don't always take the limelight when it comes to queer culture.
Traverse Theatre (Venue 15), 5th-27th August.
Kate O'Donnell has been a role model for LGBTQ+ people working in theatre for years, but after her transgender-led theatre company, Trans Creative, received funding from the Arts Council's Elevate fund in February, she became the artistic director of the UK's first transgender theatre company to receive significant funding and support.
After she transitioned 14 years ago, her first autobiographical show told her story during a time when 'transgender' was a confused term. Now, trans issues have gone mainstream - and not always for the right reasons. Last week, for example, Donald Trump banned transgender people from serving in the US military. YOU'VE CHANGED comes just at the right time; Kate's show explores how far trans issues have come - and, more importantly, where we need to take them next - through song, dance, and comedy.
Northern Stage at Summerhall (Venue 26), 5th-26th August.
Lilith: The Jungle Girl
Sisters Grimm had an intriguing start in the industry: after creating work in spaces such as car parks, living rooms, and even sheds, they've gone on to win three Green Room Awards. Their latest project, Lilith: The Jungle Room, won 'Best New Writing' at the Australian awards ceremony, and is coming to the Traverse Theatre for Ed Fringe 2017.
Set at the height of British Colonial rule in 1861, Lilith sees neuroscientist Charles Penworth called in to raise a wild girl found in the rainforests of Borneo. Playing with gender, politics, and queer lives in history, it's been described as an "explosively messy mash-up of satire, slime, and queer rage." With their website consisting mostly of stock images of cats in hats and half nude men releasing doves, it's safe to say that Lilith might prove refreshingly bat shit.
Traverse Theatre (Venue 15), 3rd-27th August.
The Waiting Game
"Sam's in a coma. Paolo's doing his best. When Geoff reveals a secret, reality and fantasy blur."
Following a sell-out run in New York, The Waiting Game is coming to Ed Fringe for its UK debut. Director Nathan Wright has had success in New York for productions such as Naked Fish and Homorapture. For this production, he's collaborated with playwright Charles Gershman, to bring a play that deals with the frustrations of same sex relationships in the digital age.
As LGBTQ+ people in the US and the UK endure more hardship than ever before, The Waiting Game is bridging the gap between our communities by exploring what it takes for us to heal and move forwards.
Greenside @ Infirmary Street (Venue 236), 4th-26th August.
Moving between gay male saunas, chemsex parties, and the pursuit of the perfect dick pic, Ginger Beer promises to be a vibrant and raunchy insight into gay sex in contemporary England.
Last year, Bristol-based theatre company Limerence Productions had a sell-out run at the Ed Fringe with their play, The Girl With the Hurricane Hands. The Scotsman gave them a solid four-star review, describing the play as "funny, enthralling, witty, and wise." Ginger Beer will no doubt continue this trend, and provide an honest, brash, and balls-out comedy experience.
theSpace on the Mile (Venue 39), 14th-26th August.Suggest a correction