Lorraine Wilson offers her selection of the very Best of Scotland performing at one of the planet’s biggest cultural events, the Edinburgh Festival. For more information on all the top tickets, check out edfringe.com

Gail Porter: Hung, Drawn and Portered

Assembly George Square, Studio 2

From being the perfect pop popette of the 1990s, the favourite of FHM, the ladette of Loaded, Gail Porter’s life took a different turn. In fact, at many points it’s been a spiral rather than a turn. For many years all the press could talk about was the loss of her lustrous blonde locks due to alopecia, but soon they were able to focus on the fact that her life was a tabloid hack’s dream – being homeless and even sectioned at one point.

From the usual route of dating (and eventually marrying) pop stars, Gail became a mother but divorced from Toploader’s Dan Hipgrave.
The strength she has shown in rebuilding what constitutes a normal life is admirable, and she says herself she can laugh at her life, now that she won a BAFTA for “being mental”. After being the subject of so many column inches in the Red Tops, the best way to reclaim her own story is to tell it herself and that’s why she’s making a Fringe debut this year.
“This show explains who I am today. From school to right now, some of my story is relatable, as it can be, and some is maybe less relatable to everyone. There’s also some real what-the-eff moments – but all part of who I am, and most of the time it’s as funny as it is unbelievable, even to me looking back. I want it to be one big hug in a room.” 

Despite what many people think of as the unfortunate aspects of her life, Gail is very much of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” attitude and, if it doesn’t make you stronger, you at least have to think about how these events affect you. It’s not a self-help show, it’s not a show for sympathy – Gail is the first to say that her baldness has often been handy when travelling and she’s been upgraded – it’s a show to think about how we all got to this point in our lives. How do we cope with the scars we all have but what are the moments that bring absolute joy when we look back on them.

August 2 to 28 (not 14, 15, 18, 21) at 7pm


What Are Girls Made Of

A Raw Material / Traverse co-production. Assembly Rooms - Music Hall

Cora Bissett’s rollercoaster of a show returns for a well-deserved Fringe run. It’s a gig and it’s a play. In some ways there are parallels with Gail Porter’s 90s experience – the dream of Britpop going a bit flat. While Gail came from Edinburgh, Cora’s true story is of joining a band from her home in Glenrothes in 1992 and becoming the new darling indie kid with the band Darlingheart.

There were recordings for a major label, touring, supporting the likes of Blur and Radiohead – a dream? Well, as you might expect, not quite.
This show has been created from Cora Bissett’s excellent diaries from the time. Teenagers thinking of forming bands now might wonder about the prehistoric notion of signing with record labels and roughing it in vans to every toilet venue the length and breadth of the country, but it’s an honest depiction of what that life can be like – not just the downside but the unbelievable excitement of thinking that a band will take over the world.
The past few years have seen a slew of autobiographies about the time, Miki Berenyi from Lush and many more but Bissett bringing this to a stage and telling the story in that more personal and upfront way should be experienced.

Also, Bissett had the talent to recover from the demise of Darlingheart. The diaries were found at a time in her life when she had just given birth and lost her dad. It was time to look back and reflect on the days when she went from being a girl to a woman in the most extraordinary way possible.
What Are Girls Made Of has become something of a classic of contemporary Scottish theatre. Historic to the next generation, but something that those of us who were still in sweaty venues watching bands (or trying to form bands) in the early 90s can absolutely relate to.

Aug 4-8, 10-13, 15-20, 22-27, 1pm


Craig Hill: I Always Knew I Had It In Me! 

Just The Tonic – Atomic Room
Often known as one of the smaller of the Fringe venues, Just The Tonic is introducing the 300-capacity Atomic Room this year – and has invited a guaranteed seat-filler to open it.
Craig Hill remains one of the stalwarts of the Scottish live scene and has a new show for this new venue. His performances are always high-energy and this promises to be just as popular with the Fringe crowd looking for something a teeny bit outrageous, but guaranteed laughs.
August 4 to 28, 7.15pm


The National:

I Hope Your Flowers Bloom

Raymond Wilson, presented by All the Figs. Scottish Storytelling Centre, Netherbow Theatre
There’s something quite magical about this show as it covers romantic obsession and botanical description. Raymond Wilson offers us a semi-autobiographical piece that covers healthy masculinity, self-worth and working-class access to nature – but in a humorous way. A friendship is his key to escaping the sometime greyness of a Glasgow scheme and into the beauty of Scotland’s natural world. 
August 2 to 27 (not 9, 13, 16, 20).
BSL interpreted: 10/19; Socially distanced: 6; Captioned: 17/2


Colin Cloud After Dark

 Underbelly – McEwan Hall
The best piece of promo about this show reads “Warning: This show contains spoilers about your future.”
Scottish stage mentalist Colin Cloud has developed a show that’s mentalism and humour and can also offer a bit of a theatrical hug at times.
He has been working around the world for many years now and takes the deductive powers of Sherlock Holmes as his inspiration.
This is a new show for Colin, but it will still provide the head-scratching and wonder that all great showmen provide in these events.
August 17 - 21, 9.15pm


Feather Productions with MJE Productions and Glass Handbag Productions. Assembly George Square – Gordon Aikman Theatre
The story of the little girl with the huge voice is still a story for our times, even though Rothesay-born Lena Zavaroni first appeared on TV as a 10-year-old in 1974.
It was Hughie Green and Opportunity Knocks, rather than Simon Cowell and Britain’s Got Talent, but the experience of being catapulted into the limelight is the same. This takes place 25 years later. Jon Culshaw is Hughie Green and Erin Armstrong is Lena, along with a full live band.
August 3 to 28 (not 15), 12:35


The National:

Trainspotting Live

King's Head and In Your Face presented by James Seabright. 
Pleasance at EICC - Cromdale Tunnel

If you’ve ever wanted to be in “the worst toilet in Scotland”, this live, immersive experience of Irvine Welsh’s book – now 30 years old – is your opportunity. It’s becoming something of a stalwart of the Fringe and is staged in a specially created space to make sure that the audience are more like extras than spectators.
Aug 3-8, 10-15, 17-20, 22-27


The Grand Old Opera House Hotel

Traverse Theatre Company with Dundee Rep Theatre. 
Traverse Theatre - Traverse 1

With a stellar team from both theatres, Isobel McArthur’s play is a welcome new comedy with genuine imagination and heart. And some popular opera.
The Grand Old Opera House Hotel has seen better days. The clue is in the name as it used to be an opera house.
But now it’s more down-at-heel, with a team that’s also seen better days and guests who are less than ideal. When Aaron comes to work there, he hears the voice of a mysterious singer haunting the corridors and is determined to find the person behind it.
Thursday, July 27 to Sunday, August 27. Performance times vary


No Love Songs

Dundee Rep Theatre in association with Traverse Theatre. Traverse Theatre 
Another gig/theatre show, this time to the songs of Kyle Falconer from his solo work. The songs are Kyle’s and the stories are jointly Kyle’s and Laura’s – his partner. Laura has created the book with Johnny McKnight, looking at the couple’s challenges with postnatal depression.
Neither Kyle nor Laura are in the play, with actors reimagining the songs from Kyle’s second album No Love Songs For Laura.
August 3 – 27 (not 7, 14, 21); times vary

The National:

Lynne Ferguson: Storyland

Gilded Balloon – Billiard Room 
One of the surprise hits of last year’s Fringe, Cumbernauld-born and LA-based Lynne has been concentrating on the power of storytelling for the past few years. Now she’s telling us all about it – and how the casual stories that we tell about ourselves – and how they reveal who we really are. It’s also about realising our stories through the stories of other people.
Lynn takes us through the dangers of too many cats, the mystery of Nana Mouskouri, and how it can often be tricky to tell Los Angeles and Grangemouth apart. 
August 14 to 28, 3pm


The Collie's Shed

Island Life Productions. Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose - Other Yin
The importance of Men’s Sheds as a place they can gather and talk away from the usual alcohol-fuelled pub banter has risen over the past few years.
In this play, the Men’s Shed is located in East Lothian. The men at The Collie’s Shed are four retired miners. They look back at the 1980s, their days as miners and particularly the harrowing time of the miner’s strikes and what that happened in the communities that were most deeply affected by the pit closures. Still today, people are judged by which side of the picket line they were on. It’s essentially an examination of friendship. 
August 2 to 20, 1.15pm


Rebecca McGlynn: Asexuality

 Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the question of gender and identity is something of a theme in this year’s programme. This is a personal take by transgender artist Rebecca McGlynn, looking at Robert – an asexual man navigating a hypersexual world.
The questions range from what does it mean to be a man in the 21st century to what's so great about sex, and why won't people shut up about it for two goddamn seconds and just let me play my video games in peace?
August 2 to 27 (not 4, 11, 18 and 25), 11pm

The National:

Kieran Hodgson: Big In Scotland

Pleasance Courtyard: Forth
“Oh, would some Power the gift give us/To see ourselves as others see us!”
That little Burns reference can only work if we still think of Kieran Hodgson as an “other” of course. In many ways it’s what the show is all about though. He was born and raised in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, so can he term himself an immigrant to Scotland? Big In Scotland is a journey of both discovery and belonging. In 2020, Kieran’s life changed when he moved to Scotland when his husband’s job brought them here.
It’s a story of fitting in and not fitting in. Also of building a new life that he never could have imagined in a place that he knew but didn’t know. Could this be the chance for a new start? The Edinburgh Fringe isn’t exactly a foreign land though – his shows Lance (2015), Maestro (2016) and '75 (2018), were all nominated for Best Comedy Show there. 
Kieran has made Channel 4 specials and before Scotland stole him his trajectory could have all London and all panel show. We clearly saved him.
Or maybe you just know him as Gordon in Two Doors Down, or the viral video of Happy Valley impersonations and fancy finding out a bit more about  him. More than anything the show is a thoughtful and funny look at attempts to integrate in a different culture – and he has thrown himself into that. Unlike many Scots who are reading this, he has learned a bit of Gaelic and give Munros a go… Kieran will introduce us to a cast of characters that we’ll recognise and a new way of looking at Scotland through a newcomer’s eyes.
2 – 27 August, 7:00pm