12 top shows with a social impact to see at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe


Travis Alabanzer’s piece is not brand new, but it’s receiving a long run-up in Edinburgh this year as part of the excellent Traverse Theatre’s season. Burgerz takes its starting point from when someone threw a burger and a transphobic slur at Alabanzer, prompting the performance artist to explore everything they could about the meaty meal. Of course, it’s not really about food, instead, it’s an exploration of trans bodies, how they survive everyday acts of violence and complicity.

Traverse Theatre, 1 to 25 August, 1 hr 10, times vary

Rich Kids: A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran

After wowing audiences at the Fringe in 2017 with The Believers Are But Brothers – which examined radicalism, politics and the murky worlds of the internet – Javaad Alipoor is back with a new work. Alipoor’s is a relevant and fiercely urgent voice which refuses to shy away from saying uncomfortable things about our society and Rich Kids promises to be no exception. It focuses on how we consume, digital technology and how societies reproduce themselves. Certainly one not to be missed.

Traverse Theatre, 1 to 25 August, 1 hr 10, various times

Until the Flood

Described by the New York Times as an ‘urgent moral inquest’, this piece by Dael Orlandersmith arrives at the Fringe fresh from a critically lauded run in the US. A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, the show tells the stories and lives of the people involved in the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18 year-old who was killed by a police officer in 2014.

Orlandersmith’s one-woman show uses a documentary-style, based on interviews she conducted with people after the shooting, much like in Anna Deavere Smith’s work and it promises to be no less shocking or galvanising in its call for social change.

Traverse Theatre, 1 to 25 August, 1 hr 15 mins, various times

Who Cares

Brilliant young verbatim-based theatre company LUNG performed its show Trojan Horse last year to rave reviews and return this year with a new play. Often taking a political or social event as their starting point, the company use court testimony, interviews and media coverage to piece together a larger, more 360 degree picture for an audience. This time they take the care system as their focus, examining what impact austerity really has on people and children.

Summerhall, 31 July to 25 August, 1hr 15 mins, 6.20pm

A Womb of One’s Own

Taking on the subject of abortion, this production has been supported by the very excellent Pleasance Theatre Trust and the Charlie Hartill Special Theatre Reserve Fund. Wonderbox is a new company and this piece explores religion, sexuality and abortion, issues which are all taking centre stage on our society at the moment. It should be both humorous and hard hitting and a chance to see a new company on the cusp of big things.

Pleasance Dome, 31 July to 25 August, 1hr,  2.50pm

Since U Been Gone

HighTide’s season this festival is an absolute corker and slap bang in the middle of it is Teddy Lamb’s Since U Been Gone. It is a coming-of-age tale about growing up queer in the mid-noughties and should mix pop music, important themes and good old fashioned storytelling.

Assembly Festival, 31 July to 25 August, 1hr, 15.45


The UK’s foremost homeless theatre companies – which makes work with, for and about homeless people – brings its latest piece to the Fringe. Bystanders looks at several stories of homelessness and in the hands of Cardboard Citizens’ boss Adrian Jackson, it’s likely to mix humour and playfulness with vital, compelling stories of some of the most vulnerable and neglected members of society. The company is known for its use of Forum Theatre, which encourages audiences to think and act on what they see playing out onstage.

Summerhall, 31 July to 25 August, 11.30am, 1hr

How Not to Drown

Based on a true-life story of Dritan Kastrati’s first-hand experience of people smugglers, theatre company Thick Skin’s How Not To Drown tells the story of a child asylum seeker arriving in the UK. It’s one of several refugee narratives up at the Fringe this year and should go some way to illuminating the complex reasons why people make perilous journeys to this country. Kastrati himself stars in the piece which is part of the Traverse Theatre’s excellent line-up.

Traverse Theatre, 30 July to 25 August, 1 hr 20, various times


Charlotte Josephine is a bold and compelling voice onstage and off and this is her new play exploring a father and daughter stuck in a cycle of addiction. Starring Nigel Barrett and Sophie Melville, this has a fairly extraordinary team behind it and will likely offer a new angle on complicated, real relationships.

Assembly Roxy, Downstairs, 31 July to 25 August, 1hr, 6.35pm


What are the ethics behind our obsession with getting everything we want as soon as we want it? In the age of the next day delivery, smart company SharkLegs offers you Robot, your personal fulfilment device. As Amazon workers strike on Prime Day, this piece should be a playful, puppetry-infused and political piece.

Underbelly Cowgate, 1 to 25 August, 1 hr, 3.40pm,

The Claim

A brilliant exploration of language, asylum seekers and mis-communication, The Claim has been around a while already. But it returns to Edinburgh as part of Paines Plough’s Edinburgh season and the British Council Showcase. Both devastating and eye opening, this surreal work by Tim Cowbury is a  provocative challenge to think anew about those trying to find a home in the UK.

Summerhall, 31 July to 25 August, 1 hr 5 minutes, 12.50pm

The Last of the Pelican Daughters

Complicite presents dynamic young company Wardrobe Ensemble’s new work, which focuses on four sisters trying to deal with splitting up their mother’s house. It looks at what it takes for young people to deal with inheritance, loss and justice and should explore loss and what it means to be young today with humour and intelligence.

Pleasance Courtyard, 31 July to 25 August, 1hr 20, 4.40pm

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