Wed 04

Telling Lives

Eric Northey's challenging, disjointed script last came to Buxton in 2011 – and it earned five stars from us back then. Part drama, part documentary, it tells the story of Prestwich County Asylum, and the real-life tales of the patients who lived under its cruel, uncomprehending regime. Our review praised a highly effective, disturbing play, which used music and movement to punctuate a chilling yet insightful text. Hopefully, this new production from Buxton Drama League will match the unsettling power of the original.

The Pump Room

4-7 Jul 7pm to 8:15pm

Thu 05

Taking it Badly

Beat-poet duo The Glummer Twins are on their way to becoming a Fringe institution, and with this new show, seem set to cement their reputation as Buxton's favourite grumpy old men. The title refers to the fact that the pair are now into their sixties; past shows have combined unashamed nostalgia, bemusement at modern ways, and commentary on the indignities of aging. The themes may be downbeat, but the rhymes are filled with energy and humour, earning the duo an awards nomination last year.

Underground at The Old Clubhouse

5, 12, 19 & 21 Jul 1pm to 2pm

Fri 06

The O.S. Map Fan Club

This geeky, warm-and-fuzzy, sweetly nostalgic show earned 4* from us at this year's Brighton Fringe, and is sure to do just as well here in Buxton. A celebration of Ordnance Survery's iconic maps of the British countryside – and by implication, a rejection of the modern ways of sat-nav – it's a delightful oddball miscellany, delivered with enthusiasm by the personable Helen Wood. It's niche humour to be sure, but if you've ever unfolded a Landranger in a cramped car or on a windy moor, there's plenty here you'll enjoy.

Rotunda – Pavilion Gardens

6-9 Jul 6:30pm to 7:30pm

Sat 07

Behind the Agony

It's another return to Buxton for Ms Samantha Mann, the inspired comedy character from the multi-award-winning Charles Adrian. Over the past few years, we've witnessed Mann's transition from provincial librarian to YouTube agony aunt; now, we're promised a peek behind the curtains of her new career. On the surface Mann is nervy, even silly, but her brittleness hides compelling strength. She’s funny in the most bittersweet way, and Adrian paints her with a poignancy that's sure to make you care.

Underground at The Old Clubhouse

7 Jul 2:30pm to 3:30pm, 9 Jul 8:30pm to 9:30pm, 18 Jul 5:45pm to 6:45pm, 19 Jul 8:30pm to 9:30pm

Sun 08

The Unknown Soldier

If you think you never want to see another play about World War One, then you want to see this play about World War One. A powerful one-man performance set in the aftermath of the conflict, it's earned universal acclaim since its debut in 2015, including a five-star review from Fringe Guru. While there are moments of humour, it’s most notable for capturing the visceral reality of close-quarter combat – and for conveying the true horror of life in the trenches on a comprehensible, individual scale.

Rotunda – Pavilion Gardens

8 Jul 5pm to 6pm, 15 Jul 7:30pm to 8:30pm

Mon 09

A Curse of Saints

Actor-playwright Polis Loizou invariably delivers intelligent, layered scripts, with his creepy psychological drama Peaceful earning particular plaudits a couple of Fringes ago. This time he's performing solo, and taking the action to his country of birth – Cyprus, a multicultural melting-pot, where Europe and the Middle East meet. The story's set in the late 19th century, but we're promised timeless themes of sovereignty and xenophobia – and a ghost story that emphasises rumour and superstition.

Underground at The Old Clubhouse

9 Jul 7pm to 7:45pm, 17 Jul 5:45pm to 6:30pm, 19 Jul 7pm to 7:45pm

Tue 10

Garry Star Performs Everything

We didn't catch it ourselves, but this self-aware thespian comedy went down well at the Brighton Fringe this year – and earned positive reviews in its native Australia before that. The eponymous Garry Starr is on a self-important mission to "save theatre", taking on every style of performance in under an hour, ranging from slapstick and clowning to Shakespearean parody. Reviews praised its energy and tight direction, as well as the exhilarating fast-paced humour.

Underground at The Old Clubhouse

10 Jul 6pm to 6:50pm, 11 Jul 4:15pm to 5:05pm

Wed 11

One-Man Shows: Hitler Alone & Of Willie Maugham

Solo actor Paul Webster has two one-man shows in Buxton, performed on alternate nights. Today's is Hitler Alone, a disturbing and eerily convincing monologue which we reviewed at the Brighton Fringe back in 2011. There's no denying the impact when Webster re-enacts Hitler's notorious oratory; arms clutching his chest, fingers stabbing the air, it's a 60-year-old film brought shockingly to life. An hour in the Fuehrer's bunker won't be to everyone's taste, but it's a highly-focussed and very professional production.

Scrivener's Bookshop

9-11 Jul 6:15pm to 7:15pm

Thu 12

Guy: A New Musical

Leoe and Hyde burst onto the Fringe scene with their stunningly ambitious musical The Marriage Of Kim K, which combined opera with reality television and remarkably, made the whole thing work. Their follow-up Inevitable Quiet Of The Crash was far darker, and showed they're not afraid to take chances; and to prove that point, they're back with a single-sex rom-com, tackling issues of race and body image in the gay community. Previews in London earned a promising reception, praising its balance between introspection and humour.

Underground at the Arts Centre Studio

12 Jul 7:30pm to 8:45pm

Fri 13

Twonkey's Night Train to Liechtenstein

Any attempt to categorise “Mr Twonkey” is doomed to failure. Nonsense poet? Stand-up comedian? Fanciful story-teller? He’s all of those. If you’re a Twonkey first-timer, there’s a definite risk you just won’t get the point at all, but a growing number of fans are drawn back each year for a mind-bending fix of patter, puppetry and song. This latest show promises "a tiny Al Capone, a mysterious package and a sexual dance that leads us off a cliff"; trust us, it'll all make a strange kind of sense by the end.

Underground at The Old Clubhouse

13 Jul 7pm to 7:50pm, 14 Jul 10pm to 10:50pm

Sat 14


Youth theatre company Shadow Syndicate are a well-known fixture at the Buxton Fringe, and invariably impress us with their elegant and energetic ensemble work – particularly the clever, well-worked details which they build around their theme. Their subject matter's always topical as well, and this year they tackle the government's anti-extremist "Prevent" policy, asking if the tensions it exposes might spiral out of control. If previous years are any guide, it'll be further proof that the future of theatre is in capable hands.

Underground at the Arts Centre Studio

14 Jul 7:45pm to 8:35pm, 15 Jul 8:45pm to 9:35pm, 18 Jul 7:45pm to 8:35pm

Sun 15

Gated Community

The premise is comically creepy, but it's the performance style which makes Handheld Arts' return to Buxton stand out. Working with old-fashioned overhead projectors, and a range of cardboard cut-outs, they promise a series of shadow-puppet ghost stories – all set in on an exclusive housing estate somewhere in Middle England. The show's been around for a couple of years now, and it's picked up promising reviews from past outings, notably from Buxton-regular theatre blogger Chris Neville-Smith.

Underground at The Old Clubhouse

13 Jul 4pm to 4:45pm, 14 Jul 7pm to 7:45pm, 15 Jul 4pm to 4:45pm

Mon 16

The Shape Of Things by Neil Labute

Fringe veterans Sudden Impulse always deliver a quality performance, often finding new angles on much-loved scripts – with recent performances of Two and Bouncers earning positive reviews. The Shape Of Things is perhaps less well-known, but it sounds fascinating: focussing on a unusual relationship between a nerdy man and a stylish woman, its twist ending touches on topics of artistry, love and trust. Neil Labute's 2001 script should be a solid bet, from a company that's earned five stars from us in the past.

Underground at the Arts Centre Studio

16, 17 Jul 8pm to 9pm, 20 Jul 7:30pm to 8:30pm

Tue 17

In For A Quid: An Evening With Miss Wong

It's a pretty quiet day at the Fringe today, so it's the perfect chance to sample Rotunda's In For A Quid season – where you can experience the thrill of brand-new writing for the princely sum of £1. Today's show is an early, script-in hand performance, but it should still be a cracker: the tale of pioneering Chinese-American actress Anna May Wong, who became one of Hollywood's best-loved stars, yet because of her origins was never allowed to kiss a leading man. The story's performed by Michelle Yim, last seen in Buxton in last year's dramatised biography The Empress And Me.

Rotunda – Pavilion Gardens

17 Jul 6:30pm to 7:30pm

Wed 18


It's become a staple highlight of the Buxton Fringe: a show in Poole's Cavern, whose outcrops, stalactites and echoing darkness provide an incomparable backdrop for site-specific theatre. Previous years have seen adaptations of classic texts, but this new show from first-time visitors Experimental could barely be more appropriate to the space: the tale of the 33 Chilean miners first trapped by a rockfall, then rescued from deep underground. We're promised film sequences and live music to add to the mood.

Poole's Cavern

8-21 Jul 6pm to 6:45pm, 7:15pm to 8pm, 8:30pm to 9:15pm

Thu 19

Ayres and Graces: An Evening in the Companie of Samuel Pepys

Most people know seventeenth-century diarist Samuel Pepys from his iconic chronicle of the Great Fire of London. But there's far more to his diaries than that, including (as one past review of this show explains) "tales of drinking, womanising, historical intrigue and bodily functions". This strictly adults-only reading is accompanied by live period music from Mr Simpson's Little Concert – who won a Buxton Fringe award last year for their "deliciously bawdy" yet erudite show, Cupid and the King. Expect more of the same.

St Peter's Church

19-21 Jul 7:30pm to 9:30pm

Fri 20

The Fetch Wilson

It's a bit of a gamble, this one: we haven't encountered this Dublin-based company before, and they're being deliberately mysterious about the themes of their brand-new script. But their teaser trailer's slick and well-produced, evoking scenes of hedonism with an undercurrent of brutality – and we're promised a revealing portrait of a complex character, with at least one major twist. The Fringe is all about trying something new, and this play should be worth a punt as it stops off on its way to Edinburgh.

Underground at the Arts Centre Studio

19 Jul 9pm to 9:55pm, 20, 21 Jul 5:45pm to 6:40pm

Sat 21

Hancock and Co - One Man, Many Voices

It's becoming a bit of a trend just now: recreations of old-style radio shows, performed by actors with microphones in front a live audience. The nostalgic aura and much-loved characters add up to a sure-fire success, and this show – based on the perennially popular Hancock's Half Hour – has picked up plaudits earlier on its national tour. In a twist to the format, all the characters are voiced by one actor… and he's written his own brand-new scripts to perform alongside a classic episode from the radio series.

Rotunda – Pavilion Gardens

15 & 21 Jul 5pm to 6:45pm

Sun 22

Strife In A Northern Town

For our final pick this Buxton Fringe, we've gone for a fast-paced, character-filled comedy set in the eponymous "northern town". Two actors play all the parts in this all-female sketch drama – praised by previous reviewers for its rapid-fire humour and believable characterisation. You'll meet supermarket workers, council functionaries and over-competitive secretaries, whose stories intertwine as the narrative develops. If reviews are a guide, it should be an upbeat and engaging way to round off the Fringe for another year.

Underground at The Old Clubhouse

10 Jul 3:15pm to 4:30pm, 11 & 19 Jul 2:30pm to 3:45pm, 22 Jul 1pm to 2:15pm