JUST when it looked as if the National Theatre of Scotland’s contribution to the 2022 Edinburgh Festivals might be a programme best forgotten (thanks to the depressingly disappointing dance-theatre piece Burn, starring Alan Cumming, and the misfiring political satire Exodus), the company pulls a rabbit out of the hat with this Edinburgh International Festival production of Medea (The Hub, until August 28).

In truth – blessed, as it is, with Liz Lochhead’s excellent Scots-English adaptation of Euripides’s ancient tragedy, directing by the acclaimed Michael Boyd and a top-notch cast, led by the fantastic Adura Onashile in the titular lead – it was always likely to be as close as one gets to a safe theatrical bet.

Lochhead’s script (which was first staged back in 2000) is gorgeously lyrical, yet bounce-a-brick-off-it robust, humorously sarcastic in its feminism, and, ultimately, gut-wrenchingly emotive. Boyd’s production – which is played on a thrust stage surrounded by audience members who are largely (and uncomfortably) required to stand for the 80-minute duration – is the second excellent Medea in Scotland this year (following Gordon Barr’s marvellous, on-a-shoestring production for Glasgow’s Bard in the Botanics, starring the astonishing Nicole Cooper).

Casting both Cooper and Onashile has drawn upon the powerful possibilities of having the titular half-god, half-human played by a woman of colour. For her part, Onashile performs the part with a commanding stridency and a compelling anger that enable her all the more powerfully to throw herself into the deep well of despair that drives her to a revenge that still shocks more than 2400 years after the play was written.

Onashile (a Scotland-based theatre artist of Nigerian heritage) plays in front of what looks like a rusting, post-industrial version of the skene from which actors emerged in Ancient Greece. Backed by a sympathetic, all-female chorus (which is bursting with acting talent), her Medea rages against the arrogance of Jason, her one-time lover and the father of her children, who has dumped her in preference for the younger Corinthian princess Glauce.

If Onashile is transfixingly brilliant, she has a universally excellent supporting cast. Anne Lacey’s Nurse speaks Lochhead’s beautiful Scots, as one should, with the same love and care one would give to the poetry of Burns.

Stephen McCole’s Scots-speaking monarch Kreon has the perfectly balanced air of a man whose sense of kingship encompasses both ruthlessness and a desire to be considered fair. Robert Jack’s Jason swaggers towards catastrophe with the misplaced certainty that only the leader of the Argonauts could muster.

Accompanied by live, often premonitory percussion – which is played on a perch above the stage by composer James Jones – the piece is performed in suitably restrained modern dress. Boyd’s staging has the stature and contours of a great classic, like an impressive sculpture chiselled from granite.

The entire affair is utterly spellbinding, from poetic start to heart-stoppingly brutal conclusion. It benefits from a thrust stage, but its audience deserves to be seated.

Equally brilliant – in its own, highly original way – is Truth’s A Dog Must To Kennel (Lyceum Studio, until August 28). Written and performed by the always interesting English dramatist Tim Crouch, this Lyceum Theatre Company production is an absolutely absorbing 70 minutes of meta-theatre.

The National: Truth's a Dog.

Crouch is, by turns, his recognisable stage persona (personable, seemingly honest), a bleak stand-up comedian (who is a variation on his stage persona) and the Fool from a very British, modern-dress production of King Lear. Seemingly worn down by the dystopian chaos of the play, the Fool has downed tools and walked out of the play.

Wearing a virtual reality headset, he has stepped into the world of a contemporary repertory theatre, very much like the Royal Lyceum playhouse which is located just across the road. Wearing the headset, the Fool describes to us an audience, which is, of course, very different from the one in which we are sitting.

There are, for instance, a group of private school boys (group discount), a “chancer” (who has snuck down from the standing area in the gods to sit in a vacant, expensive seat) and “pre-theatre dinner man” (£131 inclusive ticket, feeling somewhat bloated from the black truffle gnocchi he has just eaten in the brasserie).

As Crouch flits brilliantly between his three characters, the hellish world of the play and the burgeoning maelstrom that is contemporary human society begin to resemble each other. This resemblance is confirmed as we are told a tale of a TV talent show that descends – to the live studio audience’s delight – into a euphemistically described orgy of scatological and sexual degeneracy.

That Crouch can draw us so powerfully into this conceit, performing on a bare studio stage, with no props other than a VR headset, a stool and a glass of water, is testament to his brilliance, both as a writer and a performer. This superb, distinctive piece – which is directed sharply by Karl James and Andy Smith, and enhanced magnificently by a memorable, often thunderous soundscape by Pippa Murphy – is a must-see of this year’s Fringe.

Also part of the Lyceum at the Festivals programme is This Is Memorial Device (The Wee Red Bar, until August 29). Created by adapter/director Graham Eatough after David Keenan’s 2017 novel about a fictional post-punk band from Airdrie, the play is co-produced by the Lyceum and the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

The National: Memorial Device.

The show’s premise is that Lanarkshire rock journalist Ross Raymond (played by the fine Scottish actor Paul Higgins) has assembled us, the few Memorial Device aficionados who still remember their neglected genius, for a celebration of the group, if not a séance with its deceased members. Where better to do so than The Wee Red Bar, the capital city’s iconic rock music venue, and scene of one of Memorial Device’s rare appearances in Auld Reekie?

Raymond sets up a band comprised of the shop window mannequins who once played support to Memorial Device on a dreich night in Ayrshire. Drawing out artefacts from the group’s archive – including an audio cassette with interview material with band members – he paints a picture of their emergence in a 1980s Airdrie that was as wasted by Thatcherite deindustrialisation as Linwood or Greenock.

If this is a piece about smalltown Scotland in the 80s, it is also about working-class youth subculture and memory. The name of the band itself, Memorial Device, describes the role of the music in the life of singer-songwriter Lucas, whose capacity to remember had been wrecked by no fewer than seven episodes of brain surgery.

Martin Clark’s video work (showing footage of the band and of Airdrie) and sound designer Gavin Thomson’s soundtrack give atmospheric support to Higgins’s enthralling performance.

The filmed videos with various associates of Memorial Device (played by the likes of Gabriel Quigley and Sanjeev Kohli) colour in some of the narrative, but they also drag on the show’s momentum in ways that other interventions (such as the airing of the audio interview or the playing of a track on a turntable) do not.

This is a minor flaw, however, in a piece that boasts flashes of brilliant, poetic prose, spoken by an actor who would demand one’s attention if he was reciting a restaurant menu.