IF I was a bookmaker, I would refuse to take bets on the hit show of the Traverse Theatre’s Edinburgh festival programme being a play by an Irish writer.

From David Ireland’s Ulster American in 2018 to Sonya Kelly’s The Last Return last year, the pre-eminence of work by playwrights from the Emerald Isle has become an annual event.

We can now add to that list Heaven (Traverse, until Aug 27) by Eugene O’Brien. If a better play emerges in this year’s Traverse festival programme, audiences will be blessed indeed.

Tracing a momentous night in the lives of 50-something couple Mairead and Mal, this series of interconnected monologues is presented by the acclaimed Irish company Fishamble. Janet Moran and Andrew Bennett are directed by Jim Culleton on a simple set that evokes the small town dereliction and the down-at-heel pub that form the backdrop to the Irish Midlands wedding that Mairead and Mal have come over from Dublin to attend.

Mairead grew up in the town. Her disappointment in its slide into post-millennial soullessness is expressed with a dark humour and a take-no-prisoners honesty that are her trademarks.

Her disdain for her hometown is tempered only by an inevitable encounter with Breffni, the erudite drinker who is the most fondly remembered of her former lovers.

Mal, Mairead’s husband (and friend without conjugal benefits) is facing up, with an almost youthful energy, to a lifetime of repressed homosexuality. The son of Catholic parents who were, he observes, members of “a nation of obedient children”, his resurgent desires come wrapped in the homoeroticism of the crucified Christ.

On this night of booze-fuelled celebrations and simmering tensions, Mairead and Mal are propelled on journeys of self-discovery. Their diverging sojourns are conveyed in utterly compelling, bleakly hilarious, startlingly emotive prose.

The performances match the brilliance of O’Brien’s writing stride for stride. Moran conveys with great poignancy the emotional and erotic vacuum that has long been hidden behind Mairead’s apparent ebullience.

Bennett’s portrayal of Mal – self-effacing, diffident, ashamed, yet compelled, somehow, to pursue his carnal cravings – is equally sympathetic and enthralling. Both characters tell their stories with a tremendous honesty, as if we, the audience, are functioning as their secular confessor.

This is beautifully observed, dramatically driven writing, which sews social truths about present day Ireland (not least where rising racism is concerned) through the fabric of powerfully portrayed lives.

From a new, Irish play to a South Korean adaptation of a modern, French classic.

Jean Genet’s The Maids (Assembly George Square, until Aug 27) is one of the great works of 20th-century European theatre.

The National: The Maids.

The piece is an exploration of the complex feelings of two housemaids who engage in sadomasochistic rituals and fantasy role-plays while their mistress is out of the house. Genet’s 1947 drama was inspired by the real life case of Christine and Léa Papin, sisters in their 20s, who murdered their employer, Madame Lancelin, and her daughter in the French city of Le Mans in 1933.

In this version of the play, created by director Eun Kyung Jeoung, the roles of the titular domestic workers are performed by Eunji Lim (Solange) and Eseul Kim (Claire). The fact that the piece contains a small amount of (untranslated) Korean should not act as a deterrent, as the show is overwhelmingly a work of visual and physical theatre.

It is played on a simple, black square set, on which a pair of black dusters hang on either side of what appears to be a single, symbolic black dress. Equally emblematic is the austere-yet-opulent black chair in the centre of the performance space.

Lim and Kim, dressed in iconic black and white maids’ uniforms, play out their various scenarios in a series of brilliantly envisioned, precisely executed choreographies. From the regimented obedience of their positions, to the child-like “cat’s away” freedom they feel in their mistress’s absence, every emotion is given superb expression.

The maids’ sadomasochistic fascination with their employer plays through the young women’s dangerous games. Here is represented their fear and hatred of their boss, and the violence of the mistress/servant relationship.

The scene in which they dress as their mistress seems like the act of two little girls, daring, briefly, to wear the clothes of their domineering mother. Another, in which they scrub the floor with soapy water, is not only an act of cleansing, but also, paradoxically, one of anguished destruction.

The piece is set to an unerringly appropriate soundtrack of songs and instrumental pieces (from both Korean and European classical traditions) and lit with tremendous care by Dae Kyung Ryu. It is tightly directed and powerfully performed from exquisite beginning to emotionally resonating conclusion.

There’s no shortage of emotional resonance in Fabulett 1933 (Underbelly Bristo Square, until Aug 27). Created and performed by the excellent Michael Trauffer, this one-man queer musical is performed in an appropriately intimate performance space.

Set in the decadent cabaret club of the show’s title on the night on which the German Nazi regime has ordered the closure of “venues which promote immorality”, the piece is part fictional biography, part history. In spoken word and song Trauffer tells the story of Felix, the emcee of the Fabulett, of his survival as a soldier in the First World War, and of his seeking refuge in Berlin from the virulent, small town homophobia of his father.

It is (like the excellent Netflix documentary Eldorado) also the story of the pioneering sexologist and LGBTQ+ rights exponent Magnus Hirschfeld, and of the gay leader of the Nazi stormtroopers Ernst Röhm. The musical numbers (which are played by pianist and musical director James Hall) combine songs from Weimar Germany with Trauffer’s own compositions.

They evoke excellently the fragile freedom and the trepidation of the period. Trauffer, too, reflects that same combination in his charismatic portrayal of Felix.

There are, in truth, some moments in which the performer strains a little beyond his vocal range. However, that is a minor complaint in the context of a bold, brave solo performance that is the quintessence of Fringe theatre.

Also the very essence of Fringe performance is Mamoru Iriguchi’s expansively titled What You See When Your Eyes Are Closed/What You Don’t See When Your Eyes Are Open (Summerhall, until Aug 27).

The National: Image: Medoune SeckImage: Medoune Seck

Performed in a small basement room in Summerhall, the piece invites audience members to move around the space, joining the characters of Mamoru and Cyclops (a large, one-eyed monster who has a video camera and a projector inside his head), in an exploration of seeing and being seen.

The live video (showing what Cyclops sees through his single eye) is projected onto the wall behind him (and, indeed, as per the show’s health warning, the light from the projector often shines directly into the eyes of audience members).

As ever with Iriguchi’s work, the piece (which he performs with Gavin Pringle) is comprised of deadpan, quirky humour, a charmingly rough aesthetic and a respect for theoretical thought. Sadly, whilst this show is typically original and experimental, it doesn’t quite achieve the ultimate coherence of the Edinburgh-based theatre-maker’s previous productions.

Enjoyable though it is at times, the piece ultimately feels like a variably successful attempt to explain an academic theory by means of absurdist theatrical performance.