CULTURE

16 Unmissable Edinburgh Fringe Shows

The festival may be over, but the #FringeSpirit carries on, and we are here to share a few of our favorite picks from the Fringe festival.

For those of you out of the loop, Edinburgh just finished up being the world's centre of art and culture for most of the month of August.

This happens every year for about three weeks during the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival. Legendary among the performance community, the festival is a great opportunity to see everything you can possibly imagine in the world of live entertainment. Popdust was at the festival and had the time to see a decent dose of what the Fringe had to offer. Obviously, no one can see everything, and this list (presented in no particular order) is subjective, but here are a few highlights, from the relative unknowns to international hits.

1. Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre Podcast

Better known by its acronym RHLSTP (pronounced Ruh-huh-luh-stuh-puh), the podcast is hosted by comedian Richard Herring as he interviews comedians performing at the Fringe. He does so using a trademark blend of sincerity, childish schoolboy humor, genuine insight, and an almost Andy Kaufman-esque disregard for his own public image. Despite his pretense of incompetence, Herring is actually a rather good host, with a knack for getting answers you would never expect out of guests. He usually manages this by asking questions no one in their right mind would ever ask. His recordings at the Fringe are available online via all standard podcasting apps; it's a worthy listen year-round, especially if you are a fan of British stand-up.

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2. Maggie Lalley - Cold Blooded Witch: The Sex Musical

Maggie Lalley's show takes you through her teenage life as a "witch." In these escapades, drawn from twisted and bizarre real-life-experiences, she deals with emotional abuse, overwhelming infatuation, copious sex, and possibly being married to a certain teen actor. She's candid and raunchy, and the show would be ridiculous if it were not also true. As such, it is endearingly open and refreshingly funny.

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3. Just These Please - Suitable

Similar to many sketch shows at the Fringe, Just These Please trade in on their online reputation, having had a YouTube hit earlier this year with a musical sketch about ordering coffee whilst being Irish. Their full show does not disappoint, featuring sketches reminiscent of John Finnemore and other modern comedy greats. With an hour's worth of solid-gold material, you scarcely ever stop laughing in this plucky comedy adventure. Highlights include slow-burn reveals regarding The Grand Old Duke of York, a recurring wordless sketch involving clapping along to the Friends theme, and a very polite discussion of orgies: five-star comedy.

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4. Whose Line Is It Anyway?

The ubiquitous short-form improv troupe returned to the Edinburgh Fringe this summer in triumphant form. Featuring veteran members of the British and American cast and hosted by Clive Anderson, the show was exactly what you would expect it to be: short and sweet game-based improv performed to an impeccably high standard.

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5. 44 Inch Chest

Presented by Out of Bounds Theatre, this Guy Ritchie-esque play follows a gaggle of tough London criminals in a back room deciding what to do with an unwelcome interloper. Snappy dialogue and gritty action underscore what is, at its core, a surprisingly sensitive story dealing with fallout from toxic masculinity. With its fair share of laughs and a slew of striking (and sometimes slightly disturbing) visuals, this work shows a lot of promise for the up-and-coming company.

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6. Jamie Loftus - Boss Whom Is a Girl

When people tell you about the Fringe, you hear about shows like this and assume that they are the fantasies of an overactive imagination. Confrontationally weird in content, but held in place by infallibly good comic writing and performance, this is a show you cannot stop talking about after the curtain falls. Loftus plays a fictional female CEO giving a talk about feminism in business to an audience in various states of woke empowerment and bewilderment. In it, she espouses the benefits of her medically unsustainable daily routine, how she definitely did not cause a genocide of DJs, and argues with an increasingly sentient smart-home device.

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7. Erth's Dinosaur Zoo

This is something for all the children (and adults) who love dinosaurs. Erth's Dinosaur Zoo is just a lovely wholesome time. A miraculously patient and funny man with a wonderfully soothing Australian accent walks about the stage for an hour introducing young people to dinosaurs. These dinosaurs are staggeringly well-realized puppets operated by top-notch puppeteers. They feature several well-loved favorites and a couple you may not have heard of. Charming, fun, and informative, this is one of the few shows at the Fringe that ends with you getting a selfie with a triceratops.

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8. Connie Wookey - Denied

A one woman show of exceptional calibre, Wookey tells her true-life stories about a near death experience at the hands of a certain Canadian airline, facing down the American immigration system, and just generally processing life and its madness. It is adroitly funny, featuring off-the-wall song parodies, lethal comic insight and character work, and down-to-earth storytelling that feels unforced and unpretentious. Wookey is a genuine talent, and her show is an absolute gem.

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9. Jimmy McGhie - Ba (Hons)

McGhie comes off as something of a British Joel McHale. He's cutting and playful in his crowd work but never unwilling to poke fun at himself. His show is an hour of incredibly solid stand-up and audience banter, performed by a man who clearly knows how to work an audience. He covers exploits in dating, class perception, and family dysfunction. Perhaps not the most boundary breaking show at the Fringe, but it's an excellent example of a well-honed comic doing what he does best.

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10. Synesthesia - The Musical

A touching one-woman show created by Jillian Vitko, which explores her life through the lense of her synesthesia, a medical phenomena which causes senses to cross-pollinate with one another. Simply presented with one woman and a guitar, it is an hour of songs and confessional storytelling that leaves you feeling melancholic yet hopeful. Her processing of relationships through colors and how this has affected her interactions with romantic partners, family, and more is well-communicated and warmly relatable. It's a welcoming show that pulls back the veil on a condition not widely understood, as explained through the conduit of one person's life.

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11. Moon Walk

Moon Walk is a touching story about the ramifications of male loneliness and emotional disengagement. Two young men living together and in need of each other's friendship are unable to connect until a female roommate joins their home and helps break down the barriers between them. It's a deftly written play full of goofy charm and messaging that more people could stand to hear. Sprutt Theater makes an excellent Fringe debut with strong actors, intelligent plot twists, and an ending that will leave you wondering.

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12. Godley on The Fringe

Janey Godley is a legend of Scottish stand-up. Google her now and you will find video after video of her being astoundingly forthright, articulate, and empathic on subjects ranging from class inequality to political injustice, whilst also being bluntly funny in a way that produces nothing short of respiration-compromising laughter. Her show is classic stand-up, mixed in with a section of live "voiceovers" wherein she overdubs videos from the news and more. It is all desperately funny, and Godley commands your attention from the moment you walk in the room. Literally: Her free show was consistently sold out, so from the moment the audience entered they needed to be told where to sit. Godley naturally took this task upon herself, and it is as funny to witness as anything else in the show.

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13. Men With Coconuts

Men With Coconuts is a musical improv show in the finest long-form tradition. If you're familiar with UCB-style montages, you know how a show like this works. The performers get a suggestion, they build vignettes from it, it's underscored musically on piano, and occasionally flourishes into song. This is a solid crew of improvisers, and their work exemplifies that.

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14. Ej*culation

Part lecture, part performance art, this Finnish piece deep-dives into the world of female ej*culation by way of one woman's quest to achieve it. Eerily scientific at times, uncomfortably personal at others, but all cleanly presented in a format that is at once welcoming and confrontational. You'll learn, you'll laugh…you'll feel a little weird, but you leave with a renewed fascination in human sensuality and the female (and other applicably gendered) body's experience with sex.

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15. Ew Girl You Nasty

Katharyn Henson is something else. The term "shock comic" has such a bombastic, male connotation to it that to use it to describe Henson seems somehow wrong. Her stand-up is shocking but only for the fact that her life is shocking. Her presentation of her own experiences doing meth, eating dog food, and working in a sex dungeon are brilliantly underplayed and matter-of-fact. She then uses this false sense of security to side-swipe her audience and filter in brilliant comic observation after brilliant comic observation. You won't see many comics like Henson at the Fringe or anywhere else.

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16. Are You Alice: A New Wonderland Tale

Described by author Neil Gaiman as a "haunting oneiric journey" and by punk musician Amanda Palmer as an "explosion of whimsy and color," this new reworking of Alice in Wonderland has people talking. Mixing dance, live music, re-purposed Lewis Carroll text, and a cast of actors all rotating roles in this dreamlike production, it's a trip down the rabbit-hole like you haven't seen before. Removed from now cliched trappings of Disney, Burton, and even its original context, Permafrost Theatre Collective took the classic tale and created something truly curious.

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Of course, this list is far from complete. No single writer, or even publication, could come close to covering all of the impossibly diverse shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Many of them already have outlets for further viewing. Others do not and could use the support of interested patrons. Either way, every single one of the shows listed above had something to offer that set it apart and demanded crowds sit down and bear witness.

CULTURE

Nazi-Chic: The Aesthetics of Fascism

Let's take a look at Nazi-inspired fashion.

Villains always have the best outfits.

From Darth Vader's polished black space armor to The Joker's snazzy purple suit, bad guys always seem to show up their protagonists in the fashion department.

Way more handsome than Batman. static.giantbomb.com

But could there possibly be a real world equivalent to the type of over-the-top villain fashion often found in fiction? It would have to be sleek and imposing, austere and dangerous. Probably black.

Maybe it's him. Maybe it's fascist ideology.

Oh, right.

Let's call a spade a spade. From an aesthetic standpoint, the Nazi SS outfit is very well-designed. The long coat tied around the waist with a buckle portrays a slim, sturdy visage. The leather boots and matching cap look harsh and powerful. The emblem placements on the lapel naturally suggest rank and authority. And the red armband lends a splash of color to what would otherwise be a dark monotone. If the Nazi uniform wasn't so closely tied with the atrocities they committed during WWII, it wouldn't seem out of place at Fashion Week. Perhaps not too surprising, considering many of the uniforms were made by Hugo Boss.

Pictured: A real thing Hugo Boss did. i.imgur.com

Of course, today, Nazi uniform aesthetics are inseparable from the human suffering doled out by their wearers. In most circles of civilized society, that's more than enough reason to avoid the garb in any and all fashion choices. But for some, that taboo isn't a hindrance at all–if anything, it's an added benefit.

As a result, we have Nazi chic, a fashion trend centered around the SS uniform and related Nazi imagery.

History of Nazi Chic

For the most part, Nazi chic is not characterized by Nazi sympathy. Rather, Nazi chic tends to be associated with counterculture movements that view the use of its taboo imagery as a form of shock value, and ironically, anti-authoritarianism.

The movement came to prominence in the British punk scene during the mid-1970s, with bands like the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees displaying swastikas on their attire alongside other provocative imagery.

Very rotten, Johnny. i.redd.it

Around this time, a film genre known as Nazisploitation also came to prominence amongst underground movie buffs. A subgenre of exploitation and sexploitation films, Naziploitation movies skewed towards D-grade fare, characterized by graphic sex scenes, violence, and gore. Plots typically surrounded female prisoners in concentration camps, subject to the sexual whims of evil SS officers, who eventually escaped and got their revenge. However, the most famous Nazisploitation film, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, flipped the genders.

The dorm room poster that will ensure you never get laid. images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com

Ilsa was a female SS officer and the victims were men. She spent much of the movie wearing her Nazi uniform in various states, sexually abusing men all the while. As such, Ilsa played into dominatrix fantasies. The movie was a hit on the grindhouse circuit, inspiring multiple sequels and knock-offs and solidifying Nazi aesthetics as a part of the BDSM scene.

Since then, Nazi chic fashion has been employed by various artists, from Madonna to Marilyn Manson to Lady Gaga, and has shown up in all sorts of places from leather clubs to character designs in video games and anime.

Lady Gaga looking SS-uper. nyppagesix.files.wordpress.com

Nazi Chic in Asia

Nazi chic has taken on a life of its own in Asia. And unlike Western Nazi chic, which recognizes Nazism as taboo, Asian Nazi chic seems entirely detached from any underlying ideology.

A large part of this likely has to do with the way that Holocaust education differs across cultures. In the West, we learn about the Holocaust in the context of the Nazis committing horrific crimes against humanity that affected many of our own families. The Holocaust is presented as personal and closer to our current era than we might like to think. It is something we should "never forget." Whereas in Asia, where effects of the Holocaust weren't as prominent, it's simply another aspect of WWII which, in and of itself, was just another large war. In other words, Nazi regalia in Asia might be viewed as simply another historical military outfit, albeit a particularly stylish one.

In Japan, which was much more involved with WWII than any other Asian country, Nazi chic is usually (but not always) reserved for villainous representations.

OF COURSE. i.imgur.com

That being said, J-Pop groups like Keyakizaka46 have publicly worn Nazi chic too, and the phenomena isn't limited to Japan.

In South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand, Nazi imagery has shown up in various elements of youth culture, completely void of any moral context. For instance, in Indonesia, a Hitler-themed fried chicken restaurant opened in 2013. And in Korea, K-Pop groups like BTS and Pritz have been called out for propagating Nazi chic fashion. Usually such incidents are followed by public apologies, but the lack of historical understanding makes everything ring hollow.

Implications

So the question then: is Nazi chic a bad thing?

The answer is not so black and white.

On one hand, seeing Nazi chic on the fashion scene may dredge up painful memories for Holocaust survivors and those whose family histories were tainted. In this light, wearing Nazi-inspired garb, regardless of intent, seems disrespectful and antagonistic. Worse than that, it doesn't even seem like a slight against authority so much as a dig at actual victims of genocide.

But on the other hand, considering the fact that even the youngest people who were alive during WWII are edging 80, "forgetting the Holocaust" is a distinct possibility for younger generations. In that regard, perhaps anything that draws attention to what happened, even if it's simply through the lens of "this outfit should be seen as offensive," might not be entirely bad. This, compounded by the fact that Nazi chic is not commonly associated with actual Nazi or nationalistic sentiments, might be enough to sway some people–not necessarily to wear, like, or even appreciate its aesthetics, but rather to understand its place within counterculture.

Ultimately, one's views on Nazi chic likely come down to their own personal taste and sensibilities. For some, Nazi chic is just a style, an aesthetic preference for something that happens to be mired in historical horror. For others, the shadow of atrocity simply hangs too strong.