Storytelling at the Edinburgh Fringe

Storytelling can be a catch all term toi include a lot of stand up comedy shows listen in the Fringe programme. Storytelling is also a craft going back thousands of years and becomes a genre in its own right in August in Edinburgh. Traditional tales, fables, myths, legends, and histories form the backbone of storytelling at the Fringe, spanning the genres of theatre, poetry, music, clown and mine, comedy, puppetry, circus, cabaret, live literature and more.

In Edinburgh, venues such as the Scottish Storytelling Centre hold the blazing flame for storytelling of all kinds, mostly traditional, year round. But search the Fringe programme for 2023 for storytelling and you’ll find 325 results and most are actually stand-up comedy. Shows you how respected the genre is – storytelling I mean.

Leaving stand-up aside for what is about to follow, here are our storytelling picks for Edfringe 2023.

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Milly Moon walked the length of Aotearoa New Zealand. In Walking Songs, she combines storytelling and music in a direct performance. “Moon’s retelling of walking Te Araroa hiking trail, celebrates the power of voice, body, and being shit scared but doing it anyway.” “To scream at the ocean, to sing at the trees, to curse the effing supplejack vine. She walked to process grief, to know alone, to remember home.”

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In the evocative and atmopsheric Prison Room of the List Close, Natalie Nardone performs Witch? Women on Trial in a venue “where the ominous underground ambience adds real atmosphere to a truly powerful storytelling experience.” The reason for this site-specific show? “85% of executed witches were women! Why? The brutal truth of the witch hunts in Scotland, told with humour and empathy. Be prepared to laugh and cry as you gain a shocking insight into the untold stories of ordinary women (and some men) caught up in a whirlwind of politics and the religious repression of old magic.”

Something for the children (5s and over). Wee Seals and Selkies is show in which “storytelling and music combine to create an enchanting performance, evoking Scotland’s northern seashores. The Wee Seal is the true tale of a seal born in the storyteller’s garden, while The Selkie Girl is a retelling of the much loved magical selkie myth, blending fiddle music and traditional storytelling to create the atmosphere of the sea and shore. Based on two of Janis Mackay’s much-loved books, The Wee Seal, and The Selkie Girl (Floris Books), and brought to life with storytelling, movement and music.”

Also worth checking out for all the family are Traditional Tales of Scotland which invites you to “relaxed and fun sessions with some of Scotland’s best storytellers as they share the wonderful, and sometimes wild, traditional tales that have shaped the myths and legends of this country.”

For something for 8s and older, head to the Gilded Balloon for a “spooky show of terrible tales, bothersome books and gruesome goings on!”. Tales From a Haunted Bookshop is billed as “a weird and wonderfully dark show for horrid children and irresponsible adults.”

For a “highly-physical storytelling performance from Shona Cowie, with original live music from accordionist Neil Sutcliffe, you’ll need to book for With the Devil’s Assistance, I’ll let the show description speak for itself for this acclaimed performance at the Scottish Storytelling Centre: “Sit down, I’ll tell you a story. Maggie Osborne made a deal with the devil to bring prosperity to the high street and built a business in just one night with Auld Horny himself. The deal was cracker and the town boomed, so they burnt Maggie alive. The deal broke though and whilst I’m not saying any of this is true… just look at the state of Scotland’s high streets now. Call a town meeting!”

Now it doesn’t get more traditional than Tam Lin. Commissioned by the Scottish Storytelling Centre, this reimagined for modern times version of the classic tale, ” is reimagined in a near-future dystopian Scotland, exploring themes of bodily autonomy, reproductive rights and sexual freedom. Through original harp music, song and spoken word Kirsty Law, Kirsty Logan and Esther Swift tell a thoroughly modern story built on the bones of ancient wisdom”. So, for something experimenting with an original old tale, try Tam Lin: A Future Tale.

Marjolein Robertson, Scottish Speaker of the Year, comedian and storyteller from the Shetlands is a must see at the Fringe. A Shetland Folktale ” transports the listener back to life in Shetland in the 1800s, exploring crofting, fishing and other traditions. Yet there is more to this story than meets the eye as the characters delve into the magical world of the trows, a prolific being in Shetland folklore.”

Storytellers from a range of backgrounds, ages and cultures share stories of LGBTQ+ lives past, present and future in Queer Folks’ Tales. “With a different line-up at every show featuring household names alongside upcoming storytellers and the occasional audience micro-story. Sometimes hilarious, often moving, occasionally shocking and always queer. Hosted year-round by Turan Ali (Producer of BBC comedy/drama), this Fringe edition of the Scottish Storytelling Centre’s bimonthly event will showcase some of the best queer talent from across the festival.”

Paul Zenon is a legend from the world of magic and mentalism. Perhaps you have heard of him. You might not know he is also an acclaimed and accomplished teller of the occasional story. In Paul Zenon in Monkey Business we get the show-length ancedote, the elongated vignette covering the”amazing, strange-but-true story behind the weird stuff advertised in vintage American comics. Incredible! Alive! Scientific! A nostalgic deep-dive into the cynical sea of con tricks targeting kids – a world of wonder, promising the Moon on a stick, but which generally delivered just a stick”.

Mohan: A Partition Story takes us back in time to the Partitiion of India. For just two final performances, “Award-winning storyteller Niall Moorjani weaves first-person telling of their Grampa’s experiences during the Partition of India with fascinating and sardonically funny historical insight. Set to live music on Sodhi (tabla) and Dibyo Mukerjee (keyboard), the performance is moving, visceral and at times hilarious.”

In the intimate space of Paradise at The Vault we are invited to “Be bold, be bold / But not too bold / Lest that your heart’s blood should run cold.” Mr Fox is “Polis Loizou’s award-winning retelling of the wicked old folktale. Fallen aristocrat Lord Leander is visited by a true-crime blogger who wants to discover the truth behind a horrific incident involving his former research assistant. Leander both evades and answers the questions by launching into the classic story of Mr Fox – in which Lady Mary, an intelligent and plucky young woman, discovers that her mysterious fiancé harbours a deadly secret”

For some comedy multimedia storytelling with underpinning politics in the free fringe, Conspiracy Theory: A Lizard’s Tale is worth a look. “Marlon’s a Jew. This didn’t bother him until he found out that some people he knew didn’t believe the Holocaust happened. A darkly comic tale of one man’s journey through the conspiracy underworld. Marlon explores why conspiracy theories are more popular than ever and examines how fake news gives fresh currency to ancient slander. Conspiracy Theory: A Lizard’s Tale is a one-man, multimedia piece of storytelling; it’s a comic tale which is no laughing matter. “

These are our early choices. Check back as we add more in the run up to, and during the Fringe.