Rob Auton, Assembly George Square. Until August 26. (Not August 13).

Needing a time-out from all that biting political satire? Looking for a show that ramps the feel-good up to 11? Something that'll leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy round the edges? Then Rob Auton is definitely your man. Funny, moving and relentlessly uplifting, this may well be the most magical hour you'll ever spend in a converted classroom. The stand-up, actor, poet, painter and professional ponderer likes to contemplate a different theme each Fringe. Previous subjects have included the colour yellow, the sky and hair. In this, his seventh year, he's turning his attention to time. Basically, that's all you need to know. Trying to explain the softly-spoken Yorkshireman's act in any more depth is about as easy as herding cats. Oh, and don't be surprised if you spot a few famous faces in the audience. Rob's a firm favourite with fellow comedians.

Gayle Anderson

Phil Wang

Pleasance Courtyard, Until August 25. (Not August 12).

As a child, Phil Wang learnt about comedy by watching repeats of French & Saunders on Malaysian TV. They clearly taught him well. After a sell-out run and rave reviews at Melbourne earlier this year, the former Cambridge Footlights president brings his show, Philly Philly Wang Wang to Edinburgh. It's his first visit since the critically-acclaimed Kinabalu in 2017. Don't be misled by the light and fluffy title, this show is about morality and the modern sense of self. Expect a unique combo of super-smart and super-silly. Phil has recently used his outsider perspective to explore some of the big debates currently dividing Britain in the BBC Radio 4 show, Wangsplaining. He plans to spend his free time this August posting noodle bar reviews on Twitter. He's even organising his own Edinburgh Noodle Awards.

Gayle Anderson


West Side Story, Usher Hall, August 5 & 6, 8pm

OF all the many surprises that have arrived as part of the music programmes of Edinburgh Festival director Fergus Linehan, these two concert performances of Leonard Bernstein’s best-loved work of musical theatre raised eyebrows in quarters previously un-moved. West Side Story conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner, the Bach and Berlioz bloke? And the Scottish Chamber Orchestra playing a Broadway score?

It transpires, of course, that the project is the culmination of a very long held ambition of the 76-year-old conductor, who saw the original London West End production at Her Majesty’s Theatre three times as a 15-year-old. And when he was studying in Paris in the 1960s he had the chance to talk to its composer, who was a friend of his teacher, Nadia Boulanger. Apparently Bernstein conceded that the rhythm of his hit song, America, was inspired by the music of Monteverdi, whose operas Gardiner memorably brought to the Usher Hall stage two years ago.

It is those dance rhythms that Gardiner says are the essence of all the best music, no matter the period, although he adds that the melodies in West Side Story are also crucial to its success.

Staged by Edinburgh-born Stephen Whitson, who directed last year’s BBC Proms version with the rather more obvious choice of John Wilson on the podium, the roles of Maria and Tony are sung by Sophia Burgos, whose association with Sir John Eliot embraces his wide breadth of repertoire, and Alek Shrader, who sang the same role last year in Rome under Antonio Pappano.

Particular interest should focus on the Chorus. Directed by Christopher Bell, it teams members of the National Youth Choir of Scotland, with which Gardiner has formed a bond, with students from music schools in Chicago, Baltimore and New York.

Keith Bruce


If You’re Feeling Sinister: a play with songs, Gilded Balloon, Doonstairs.

Until August 26 (Not August 12), 3.45pm.

The songs of Glasgow indie-pop sensations Belle and Sebastian have always been steeped in everyday narrative. Stuart Murdoch’s lyrics in particular are full of oddball characters embarking on adventures of their own making. It’s taken 23 years, however, for the words and music for the band’s second album to make it to the stage in full dramatic fashion.

This comes by way of this hour-long two-handed adaptation that teams up writer Eve Nicol with director Paul Brotherston to tell the tale of Boss and Kid, an unlikely pairing of an exhausted academic desperate to lose himself and a reckless artist waiting for life to begin. Together they look set to pull off Glasgow’s greatest heist as they go on the run, barely able to keep their hands off each other and their eyes on the road ahead.

Where songs from Belle and Sebastian’s original If You’re Feeling Sinister album such as The Stars of Track and Field and Judy and the Dream of Horses fit into this remains to be seen. With writer/director Nicol, who recently directed Abi Morgan’s The Mistress Contract, and director Paul Brotherston of Glasgow enfant terribles Blood of the Young at the wheel of this co-production between BBC Arts and Avalon in association with the Tron Theatre, Glasgow, the possibilities are endless in a story about dreaming, shame and the fear of being left behind.

Neil Cooper


Russian String Orchestra, theSpace @ Niddry Street

The world class Russian String Orchestra – or Misha’s Gang – have brought superb performances of music from the big beasts of the classical repertoire and emotionally profound tangos to The Flight of the Bumble Bee to the Fringe, and even to unsuspecting pedestrians on Edinburgh’s pavements, over the past two years.

As well as afternoon and tea-time concerts at theSpace from today onwards, they are giving evening performances at the magnificent Old St Paul’s in Jeffrey Street, with guests including baritone Vladimir Chernov, pianist Suzanne Bradbury, clarinettist Calum Robertson and Scottish harper Karen Marhalsay joining them at various points throughout the duration of the Fringe. No two concert programmes are the same and never mind one, two, three or four experiences of their vivacious, virtuosic ensemble work might not be enough.

Rob Adams

SymphRONica, the Jazz Bar, Chambers Street

Canadian pianist Ron Davis formed SymphRONica to celebrate music without borders and has succeeded in integrating a jazz quartet and a string quartet into a unified mini-orchestra capable of following a re-imagined jazz standard with a Hungarian dance tune and chasing a bourrée with a barnstorming romp through the theme from Popeye.

After a five-day run at the Jazz Bar from Tuesday (6th), they move onto theSpace @ Niddry Street from Monday 12th to Saturday 24th. So there are plenty of opportunities to experience the music from their new album UpRONt and to find out why the ebullient Davis proclaims “this is the music you’ve been looking for, the jazz you want to hear.”

Rob Adams


Dance Base

14-16 Grassmarket

With more shows on its lists than ever before - 29 in all, hailing from 10 different countries - Dance Base continues to be a tremendous one-stop shop for Fringe-goers keen to have their dance card filled with a variety of performance styles and subject matter. There’s a thrilling abundance of new work by Scottish dance-makers: among them, choreographer Christine Devaney of Curious Seed - once again in collaboration with musician Luke Sutherland for her own solo, And the Birds Did Sing - and Kally Lloyd-Jones, artistic director of Company Chordelia, who reflects on the slipping away of time, and life, in The Chosen.

There’s the flair of the Irish with two companies, CoisCéim Dance Theatre and Fishamble, making a welcome return - the latter in the shape of Fringe favourite, Pat Kinevane, in his new piece, Before. And yes, for the sixth year in succession, there’s a Taiwan season with Monster by Dua Shin Te Production and Floating Flowers with B.DANCE. If there’s a real pleasure in re-connecting with old friends, catching up with their current projects and discovering both change and continuity in their work, there’s also the sheer excitement of seeing visiting performers and productions that probably wouldn’t come to Scotland otherwise. The Dance Base programme is crammed with such enticing unknowns - a Basque Showcase is one, the Steve Reich Project (from Belgium, with live music) is another. And what’s more - as a final week treat, the Jo Strømgren Kompani have responded to a special request by the venue’s artistic director, Morag Deyes, and are bringing the internationally acclaimed The Hospital back to the Grassmarket.

You’ll be spoiled for choice - see full details online at

Mary Brennan