Cowgate - where it all began!
11th Aug 2018
Underbelly’s programme might now boast over 190 shows, but it all began in the underbelly of the city, with just 4...
Many moo-ns ago, in the year 2000, Underbelly director Ed (then with theatre group Double Edge Drama) wanted to bring 3 shows to the festival fringe and needed a site specific, atmospheric venue to programme them into. With no options looking available, he asked his now fellow director and business partner, Charlie, and the then head of the Fringe Society whether they knew of any interesting spaces. They both remembered a site specific production that had taken place in some disused bank vaults under the Central Library on George IV Bridge.
The dingy warren of rooms, cobbled lanes and floor upon floor of cave like vaults struck an immediate chord and they embarked on creating their own venue there. Underbelly was born and over the coming years, Ed and Charlie worked their way down the building opening up different rooms and floors to turn into performance spaces.
Cowgate became the central hub for Underbelly, pulling in emerging artists, new writing, exciting alternative theatre and late night naughtiness. Acts started in small spaces, playing to a handful of people, year on year moving into bigger spaces meanwhile cultivating a devoted Fringe audience.
Foil Arms and Hog are one such comedy group who rose through the Fringe ranks, now performing to sell-out crowds in the magnificent McEwan Hall. Others, like comedian Paul Foot have chosen to remain in Cowgate after 10 years of Fringe performances because he “loves its gritty charm.”
While Underbelly has grown and expanded across the city, Cowgate remains the place to be for many performers and visitors alike. Visiting Cowgate comes with the promise of new talent, obscure art and the rough and ready atmosphere that has drawn people from all over the world to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for over 70 years.
ONES TO WATCH:
Fringe newbie Alissa Anne Jeun Yi’s show Love Songs, developed through the Soho Writers’ Lab 2018, is proving a huge hit with audiences, we’re expecting to see great things from her.
Abigoliah Schamaun is no stranger to the Fringe and she’s gaining increasing notoriety in the comedy circuits – The List named her in their “Top 5 Up and Coming Female Comedians”, she's back performing Abigoloah Schamaun: Do you know who I think I am? "Confident and brilliantly funny with a knack for a turn of phrase that turns the simplest comment into a solid laugh" ★★★★ Broadway Baby
Playwright Max Dickens, whose latest work, Kin, is a much loved recurring character of the Fringe. In Kin, he explores a story about families, sibling rivalry and relationships. ★★★★ Bouquets and Brickbats
Underbelly legends Zach & Viggo are back for solo shows, as a duo and they’ve even teamed up with LA funk-punk group Thumpasaurus to take you on an out-of-this-world musical experience in Where Does the Love Go?
This is your last week to catch Thrown by Jodi Gray – an immersive, intimate storytelling show that includes headphones and a binaural microphone. Fans of ASMR videos will love this show – as will anyone looking for a more serious, exploratory piece of theatre. ★★★★ The Scotsman
For those looking for more political storylines, The Providence of Neighboring Bodies is a vital piece of theatre taking on contemporary America which is both moving and thought provoking.
Diary of an Expat delves into an Italian’s hilarious experiences of London in the wake of Brexit.
Maddie Rice, for the uninitiated, is an incredible actress who performed in the tour of hit show Fleabag and now she’s back at Underbelly with not one, but three shows! One of those, Lead Pencil is making a comeback! Last at the Fringe in 2014, this multimedia show looks back at the 90’s heyday of The Art Team and their here’s-one-I-made-earlier story.
OTOSOTR is the Fringe’s first show from Kazakhstan, sharing the incredibly personal, moving story of war through the eyes of millennials. This story of identity and the displacement of Koreans from the Russian_Korea border after World War II hits hard and promises to leave a lasting impression.
On a similar vein, Willis & Vere are back after their Fringe hit Starship Osiris, this time they are tackling World War II. Of course, in their Serious Play About World War II, nothing is entirely what it seems…
Finally, we couldn’t finish our Ones To Watch without mentioning the brilliant Graham Dickson, who fans of Austentatious will recognize sans-ruffles in his solo comedy show Timber which is set in a post-Hollywood world where the cameras have stopped rolling after all the women upped and left. This show, much like its creator, is utterly brilliant and a must-see during your Fringe trip this year.
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