Just Like That! The Tommy Cooper Show
There's not a huge amount to choose from on this first Wednesday, but Just Like That! should prove a reliable opener. An authorised tribute to the late, great Tommy Cooper, it's a faithful recreation of his iconic style of humour – with the familiarity of the material one of the show's key strengths. This production's been touring for a couple of years now, and has earned consistent praise from critics, as well as from the national army of Tommy Cooper fans.
6 Jul 5:15pm to 6:15pm, 9:45pm to 10:45pm
The Communist Threat
We praised this impressively-scripted play at its recent run in Brighton, and it earned plaudits at last year's Edinburgh Fringe as well. Set in 1950, in the underground basement of a luxury Vienna hotel, it's a conversation between two secret service agents – ostensibly to discuss an upcoming murder, but later turning to questions of class and loyalty. As the pace gathers, the twists never fail to surprise, culminating in a shocking finale.
7 Jul 8:30pm to 9:30pm, 8 Jul 3pm to 4pm, 10:30pm to 11:30pm, 15 Jul 3pm to 4pm
Nonsense & Sensibility
A new play from Tom Crawshaw is always an exciting prospect, and here he's turned his trademark brand of farcical parody to the ever-popular Jane Austen. Actors Stella Taylor and Henri Merriam are familiar to Buxton audiences from their roles in Smooth Faced Gentlemen's all-female Shakespeare – but this sounds an altogether different prospect, a comic mash-up of bonnets, corsets and, less predictably, dinosaurs.
8 Jul 7pm to 7:45pm, 9 Jul 8:45pm to 9:30pm, 10 Jul 3pm to 3:45pm, 11 Jul 8:45pm to 9:30pm
Youth theatre company Shadow Syndicate are a well-known fixture at the Buxton Fringe, and impressed us hugely with last year's show Redaction. That time round, it was the company's ensemble work which truly set the mood of their play: elegant and energetic, and defined by clever, well-worked details. Let's hope for more of the same in their 2016 outing, which explores changing habits of reading between the generations.
9 Jul 4:30pm to 5:30pm, 10 & 12 Jul 10pm to 11pm
Alfie Moore: Getting Away With Murder
Policeman-turned-comedian Alfie Moore has hit the big time now, with that ultimate symbol of establishment acceptance: his very own show on Radio 4. So it’s a pleasantly surprising – and not a little gratifying – to see this highly likeable performer return to Buxton in preparation for his Edinburgh run. Based, as usual, around his real-life experiences as a Detective Sergeant, this year’s show promises a step-by-step practical guide to committing the perfect crime.
10 & 14 Jul 7:15pm to 8:15pm
Romeo & Juliet Underground
Butterfly have made a reputation for putting on good-quality theatre in Buxton’s landmark Poole's Cavern, including an award-winning Macbeth and an excellent Midsummer Night’s Dream. This year they're returning to a much-loved classic, though they promise an unusual angle: set in a ruined Verona, abandoned statues will come to life to tell Romeo and Juliet's star-crossed tale. Wrap up warm (as if you ever don't in Buxton!), because it's a constant 7 degrees Celsius in the cavern.
11-16 Jul 5:30pm to 6:30pm, 7pm to 8pm, 8:30pm to 9:30pm
After We Danced
An unusual re-telling of a love story which spans the decades, After We Danced starts with a blossoming romance... but then, with a series of flashbacks between 1952 and the present day, gradually reveals what happened to drive the dancing couple apart. We enjoyed this piece at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, highlighting its easy watchability and occasional humour. The ending is unexpected, too.
12 Jul 4pm to 5pm, 13 Jul 5:30pm to 6:30pm, 14 Jul 4pm to 5pm
Shakespere's Avengers Assembleth
This is a bold choice, because it mashes up Bardic prose with Marvel’s Avengers – and such a thing clearly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. But at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, our resident Shakespeare geek was thoroughly won over by this irreverent, endearing romp, which combines side-splitting humour with a genuine sensitivity for the most respected plays in the English canon. It’s corny, silly and utterly hilarious, and a thoroughly unexpected treat for fun-loving Shakespeare fans.
13 Jul 7pm to 8pm, 14 Jul 8:30pm to 9:30pm, 15 Jul 7pm to 8pm, 16 Jul 8:30pm to 9:30pm, 17 Jul 7pm to 8pm
Lest We Forget
Young playwright James Beagon is unquestionably one to watch, specialising in intellectual, ambitious scripts woven from intricately-entwined threads. Last year's Women Of The Mourning Fields offered a high-concept deconstruction of classical history, asking just who controls the stories we learn and tell. Now he turns to the more recent tragedy of the Somme, using an individual family's grief to once again pose questions about the relationship between truth and remembrance.
14 Jul 5:30pm to 6:30pm, 15 & 17 Jul 1:30pm to 2:30pm
Barrel of Laughs
It would be a travesty to compile any list of Buxton Fringe must-sees which omits this firmest of fixtures, the Friday-night comedy club hosted in Underground Venues' atmospheric Barrel Room. The intimate vault is the perfect place to enjoy a varied programme of sets from some of the Fringe's best comedians. It's a popular event and consistently sells out, so pre-booking is all but essential.
8, 15 & 22 Jul 8:30pm to 10pm
Women Who Wank
This was one of the most controversial, and certainly the most eye-catching, of the shows at Fringe 2015 – and if you missed it last time round, you have another chance to catch it now. Joanne Tremarco's investigation of female sexuality is often uncomfortable and sometimes hilarious, using improvisation and physical fooling to respond to her audience's ideas. Our review last year praised an entertaining and genuinely thought-provoking experience.
16 Jul 10pm to 11pm, 18 Jul 8:30pm to 9:30pm, 19 Jul 10pm to 11pm
Twonkey's Mumbo Jumbo Hotel
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. Expect comic blundering, elusive meaning, disturbing sexuality... and a miniature ship's wheel with an alarming tendency to read your mind.
5 Jul 10:30pm to 11:30pm, 16 Jul 5:30pm to 6:30pm, 17 Jul 10pm to 11pm
Ms Samantha Mann's You Bring The Agony, I'll Bring The Aunt
Returning to Buxton after successful runs for the last couple of years, comedy creation Samantha Mann is a nervous, silly, uncomfortable woman. But her brittleness hides compelling strength; she’s funny in the most bittersweet way, and you'll find yourself caring more about this beautiful character than you do about most real people. Her hit monologue Stories About Love, Death And A Rabbit is back again this year, but this new show – promising to confront her audience's dilemmas – is every bit as enticing.
18 & 20, 21 Jul 8:45pm to 9:30pm, 23 Jul 10:15pm to 11pm
Return To Eredurf
Another Buxton Fringe institution, the annual promenade piece at Scrivener's Bookshop makes an off-the-wall alternative to standard Fringe theatrical fare. With its warren-like attics and claustrophobic cellars, Scrivener’s offers the perfect backdrop for an hour of entertaining hi-jinks – and our review of last year's show highlighted both its quirky details and its striking visual surprises. Billed as "completely bonkers", this year's Terry-Pratchett-inspired show sees actors and audience repair a rift in the space-time continuum.
18-23 Jul 7pm to 8pm
The Off-Off-Off-Broadway Theatre Company have scored several hits in recent years, earning four stars from us for supernatural thriller Peaceful and an award for Hitchcock riff Back Door. In this new script, they tackle the difficult subject of mental illness, following the tale of a patient in one of Britain's last remaining asylums. With a back-story echoing the Russian Revolution, we're promised a "darkly funny" show, with splashes of cabaret... and an emphasis on friendship in difficult times.
13 Jul 8:30pm to 9:30pm, 14 & 20, 21 Jul 7pm to 8pm
An Evening Of Close-Up & Stage Magic
Fringe festivals are always an excellent opportunity to try something new, and this annual show hosted by the High Peak Magic Society might be just what you're looking for. If past years' events are a guide, you'll be seated at tables as a posse of close-up magicians circulate through the room, performing impossible-seeming tricks right in front of your eyes and challening you to spot their sneaky moves.
20, 21 Jul 7:30pm to 10:30pm
Max & Ivan: Our Story
Loveable comic duo Max and Ivan are once again swinging through Buxton on their way up to the Edinburgh Fringe – where their long-form character-based comedy sketches have proved a reliable highlight over the past few years. They've scooped no fewer than three best-comedy awards on previous visits to Buxton; on past form, expect a laugh-a-minute mix of sharp observation and silly tomfoolery, with just enough added poignancy to make you care.
Arts Centre Studio
22 Jul 10:30pm to 11:30pm
Wanna Dance with Somebody!
Subtitled "Or a Guide to Managing Social Anxiety Using Theoretical Physics", this pleasantly ramshackle production – which balances physical comedy, dance and storytelling – entertained our reviewer at this year's Brighton Fringe. A good-hearted, humorous piece, it tracks the tale of a shambling hero's quest to become less lonely and socially inept. Warm and welcoming, it's a fun show, delivering some interesting commentary on how those around us see the world.
22 Jul 4:15pm to 5:15pm, 8:45pm to 9:45pm, 23 Jul 4:15pm to 5:15pm