17 must-see shows by artists of colour at the Edinburgh Fringe, from stand-up to musicals

17 must-see shows by artists of colour at the Edinburgh Fringe, from stand-up to drag musicals (Getty, Supplied)

This year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe is officially underway, and there’s a brilliant offering from artists of colour.

The Fringe has a proud legacy of catapulting hidden gems to mainstream fame, counting the likes of Stephen Fry and Phoebe Waller-Bridge among its esteemed alumni. In recent years, however, leading creatives of colour have criticised the festival for being too white and financially inaccessible, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic.

After Lagahoo Productions artistic director Emily Aboud tweeted that Fringe audiences often felt 99 per cent white, she told The Stage: “Every year it’s getting more and more inaccessible and unfortunately that means it’s going to be the rich, white people who are coming here, making work, seeing work and reviewing work.”

New initiatives such as Fringe of Colour, founded by Jess Brough in 2018, have been created to redress the balance, support people of colour and give their work a platform.

So, here are the best shows made for and by people of colour, which we advise you not to miss.

You may like to watch

Santi & Naz

Santi & Naz at Edinburgh Fringe 2023.
Santi & Naz brings queer love to Edinburgh.

Santi and Naz are best friends – one Sikh, the other Muslim – living in pre-partition India. But when political upheaval threatens to tear them apart, they have to take drastic action.

Award-winning production company The Thelmas brings this light-hearted and lyrical tale of queer love, identity and female friendship to the Edinburgh stage. Described as a “deeply personal” show, Santi & Naz sheds light on this vital time in the subcontinent’s history and the stories that have shaped a whole generation of South Asian communities.

Santi & Naz runs at Pleasance Courtyard from 2 to 28 August. Tickets available here.

Dugsi Dayz

Dugsi Dayz.
Dugsi Dayz is a twist of the cult film The Breakfast Club. (Abdi Alasow)

This “twist on The Breakfast Club” follows four Somalian friends, Salma, Yasmin, Munira and Hani, who are trapped in detention in dugsi (an Islamic school). Looking for a way to pass the time, the girls start to bond over urban folktales and, one by one, reveal how they arrived here.

Written, directed and produced by Somalian women, Dugsi Dayz is a witty comedy bringing refreshing Muslim representation to the stage.

Dugsi Dayz runs at the Underbelly, Cowgate, on most days from 3 to 27 August. Tickets available here.

It’s A Motherf**king Pleasure

It's a motherf**king pleasure.
It’s A Motherf**king Pleasure is a darkly funny satire. (Hannah Smith)

Following a public ableism debacle, the non-disabled HR manager of a large PR firm calls an emergency workshop on how to support disabled workers. And who better to front the company’s changing face than triple threat (“gay, blind and brown”) wannabe celebrity Ross.

Edinburgh Untapped award-winning It’s A Motherf**king Pleasure is a darkly comic satire deftly unpacking the modern-day complexities of identity politics, brought to Edinburgh Fringe by disability-led theatre company FlawBored.

It’s A Motherf**king Pleasure runs at Underbelly, Bristo Square from 2 to 27 August. Tickets available here.

Kuan-Wen Huang: Ilha Formosa

Up-and-coming South London based comedian Kuan-Wen Huang debuts his hour-long comedy set at the Fringe. Described by comedy guide Chortle as a “Taiwanese force of nature”, Huang takes audiences through the hilarious tale of how he traded his “beloved Taiwan for the rainy British Isles”.

This laugh-out-loud show will touch on Taiwanese culture, migration, LGBTQ+ identity and much more.

Kuan-Wen Huang: Ilha Formosa runs at the Gilded Balloon Teviot from 3 to 27 August. Tickets available here.

One Way Out

One Way Out.
One Way Out delves into the Windrush scandal. (Underbelly)

Presented by Theatre Peckham and written by Montel Douglas, One Way Out tells the powerful story of young British Caribbeans during the Windrush scandal. When Devonte’s life is turned upside down by “world-shattering” events, four friends on the cusp of adulthood must make tough choices that threaten to tear their brotherhood apart.

One Way Out runs at Underbelly, Cowgate from 3 to 27 August. Tickets available here.

Eme Essien: Fine Print

Eme Essien: Fine Print. (Underbelly)
Hilarious sketches abound in Eme Essien: Fine Print. (Underbelly)

Fresh from her acclaimed 2022 run, comedian Eme Essien’s new solo show Fine Print promises captivating storytelling and hilarious sketches. Essien tackles everything from oat-milk woes to bad credit rating as she asks the important question: “Where we are all going wrong, and how exactly do we level up?”

Fine Print runs at Underbelly, Bristo Square from 2 to 27 August. Tickets available here.

Don Biswas: The Revolution Will Be Disorganised

Don Biswas.
The Revolution Will be Disorganised offers a unique look at politics. (Gilded Balloon)

“Politically charged gag merchant” Don Biswas offers a unique take on politics, through the lens of dyspraxia and autism. From the cost-of-living crisis to conspiracy theories, Biswas will tackle the hot issues gripping the nation, with a healthy dose of laughter and chaos.

Don Biswas: The Revolution Will Be Disorganised runs at Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose from 2 to 27 August. Tickets available here.

Monet X Change: Life be Lifein’

Monet X Change at Edinburgh Fringe.
Monet X Change needs no introduction to Drag Race fans. (Underbelly)

RuPaul’s Drag Race legend Monet X Change needs no introduction. Renowned for her epic performance skills, Monet is pulling out at the stops for their debut Edinburgh Fringe show. The “operatic bass-baritone and comedienne” will share anecdotal intrusive thoughts and opinions on life, tied together with some pitch-perfect live singing.

Life be Lifein’ runs at Underbelly, Bristo Square from 2 to 15 August. Tickets available here.

Kiran Deol: Joysuck

Kiran-Deol.
There’s a unusual premise to Kiran Deol’s stand-up.(Getty)

Oscar-shortlisted and Emmy-nominated Asian American comedian Kiran Deol is hospitalised after a stranger smashes a bottle in her face. That’s the premise of her one-hour stand-up special that guarantees “belly laughs”, “surprising twists” and a “rollicking good time”. Need we say more?

Joysuck runs at Gilded Ballon Teviot from 14 until 28 August. Tickets available here.

Joe White: Ethiopian & Still Not Hungry

As one of six siblings born to Ethiopian parents, award-winning Australian comedian Joe White has plenty of stories under his belt. Now he is heading to Edinburgh Fringe with his hugely popular comedy set Ethiopian & Still Not Hungry. It was selected as one of the top six comedy shows to watch by Mark Breslin’s guide to Toronto’s top comedy shows.

Ethiopian & Still Not Hungry runs at Gilded Balloon Teviot from 2 to 28 August. Tickets available here.

Njambi McGrath: Outkast

Njambi McGrath.
Too short to be an air hostess Njambi McGrath. (NjambiMcGrathComedy)

Comedian Njambi McGrath is bringing her one-hour comedy set Outkast to Edinburgh. Self-described “product of British colonial kiln unable to fit in”, the stand-up show recalls anecdotes from “her rejection in modelling for being black” to “being too short to be an air hostess” and her optimism in the face of it all.

Outkast runs at Gilded Balloon Teviot from 4 to 28 August. Tickets available here.

Hello Kitty Must Die

From the producer of smash-hit musical Six comes this adaptation of Angela S Choi’s cult novel Hello Kitty Must Die – into a must-watch summer musical. The show follows 28-year-old Asian-American lawyer Fiona Yu who is tired of being stereotyped by “a white, patriarchal society”. Soon she embraces her murderous streak, with a helping of “sex, violence and stilettos”.

Hello Kitty Must Die runs at the Pleasance Courtyard most days until 27 August. Tickets available here.

Abbas Wahab: Gracefully Balding

Canadian-Sudanese comedian Abbas Waha (The Boys, What We Do in the Shadows) is a rising star in the comedy world. He is debuting at the Fringe with an original show about “leaving the corporate world, poorly navigating your thirties, and balding… before your dad”.

Gracefully Balding runs at The Attic from 3 to 27 August. Tickets available here.

Trojan Women

Trojan Women.
A whirlwind of dance and music in Trojan Women. (Edinburgh International Festival)

From the National Changgeuk Company of Korea and director Ong Keng Sen comes this stunning mythological retelling of the aftermath of the Trojan War.  Performed through the medium of pansori, an ancient Korean form of musical storytelling, audiences experience the perspective of the female war survivors, with a “whirlwind of music, dance and theatre”.

Trojan Women runs at Festival Theatre from 9 to 11 August. Tickets available here.

Ogresse

Ogresse. (Edinburgh International Festival)
Ogresse tackles racism, sexism and colonialism.

The UK premiere of Ogresse, from Grammy-Award-winner Cécile McLorin Salvant, tells the story of a “a lovesick, ravenous monster who lives in a forest” through 17 songs “that blend folk, baroque, jazz and country”.

The show tackles racism, sexism and colonialism, drawing inspiration from Haitian folklore and real-life tales, such as that of Sarah Baartman (a South African woman exhibited as a so-called freak-show attraction in 19th-century Europe).

Ogresse runs at Festival Theatre on 5 August. Tickets available here.

Leila Navabi: Composition

Introducing herself as a “Welsh, brown, gay, Gen-Z comedian”, Leila Navabi’s debuts her “audacious punk musical-comedy” show which explores identity politics and what it means to use your marginalised identity for “social gain”.

The show’s synopsis reads: “Leila grew up learning to utilise and monopolise her ‘minority identity’ for evil and mischief. Her show doesn’t rely on these identities, but [on] her overwhelming prodigious talent.”

Composition runs at the Pleasance Courtyard most days until 27 August. Tickets available here.

Larry Owens Live

Following his success in the award-winning musical, A Strange Loop, and appearances in hit shows such as Abbott Elementary and Modern Love, Larry Owens brings his one-hour stand-up show, featuring original music, with a promise to make fans “epically combust” to the Fringe.

Larry Owens Live runs at Assembly Roxy most days from 3 to 27 August. Tickets available here.

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