Kieran Hodgson: Big in Scotland
Hodgson has become an Edinburgh fixture and his new show focuses in on another Scottish link – relocating to Glasgow to film BBC sitcom Two Doors Down. As they say in sitcomland, with hilarious consequences. Anyone who has seen Hodgson’s Bad TV Impressions clips online will know he is a brilliant mimic and there are so many voices in this virtuoso show it feels like a cast of hundreds. Pin-sharp comedy with a poignant undertow – creator of Two Doors Down, Simon Carlyle, died shortly after Hodgson’s show opened. He is one of three on this list to be nominated for the 2023 Edinburgh Comedy Awards.
Soho Theatre, September 11 to 23, sohotheatre.com
Mike Birbiglia: The Old Man and The Pool
This American storyteller does not visit the UK often, so when he does it feels special. In Birbiglia’s latest work he tackles big themes in his trademark idiosyncratic style, finding hidden meanings lurking in small details. If you are a fan of Daniel Kitson’s narrative-based work you’ll find a similar mischievous sensibility and zest for language with Birbiglia, who recently had a health scare that made him focus on what really matters. For him it meant spending more time in the YMCA pool. Dive into this show and enjoy.
Wyndham’s Theatre, September 12 to October 7, mikeonwestend.com
Ania Magliano: I Can’t Believe You’ve Done This
We tipped Magliano for success when she made her Fringe debut last year and this year’s show is a further step up – as shown by her inclusion in the shortlist for this year’s comedy awards. The starting point is that ever so relatable experience, the haircut from hell, but from there Magliano moves into more complex areas, including relationships, body image and sexual assault. It might sound heavy but the London-based comedian has a lightness of touch that immediately draws you in and keeps you drawn in. Like the hairstyle Magliano wanted, this is beautifully layered.
Soho Theatre, October 16 to 21, sohotheatre.com
Darren Harriott: Roadman
Black Country comic Harriott was chosen to host the Pleasance Theatre’s opening gala at the Fringe and it is easy to see why. He is a gifted, charismatic performer who immediately connects with his audience. He is becoming a go-to comedian for TV too, appearing on Dancing On Ice this year. But it is standing onstage where he excels. He is a seamless raconteur, whether talking about going from hanging with a street gang to hanging with celebrities, having an epiphany during the 2011 riots or learning Japanese.
Leicester Square Theatre, October 18, leicestersquaretheatre.com
Janine Harouni: Man’oushe
You’ll have to wait a while for the London run of Harouni’s Edinburgh hit, but she has a good excuse. At the time of writing she is almost nine months pregnant so deserves a pause before gigging again. Harouni has previously talked about her parents onstage – particularly her Trump-supporting dad – but here she sees connections between her life and her Lebanese grandmother, who had to choose between career and family. You won’t see a smarter, slicker set this year. And the critics agree as she was also a nominee for the comedy awards.
Soho Theatre, December 5 to 9, sohotheatre.com
Based on testimonies from the families of men who died at Woodhill Prison in Milton Keynes, this piece from the activist theatre group Lung is a stunningly powerful combination of dance, documentary and music. It’s another leap forward for the company, a relentless and mesmerising piece of work that stuns as a piece of theatre as much as it fires up anger in its audiences about the need for prison reform.
Shoreditch Town Hall, September 20 to October 7; shoreditchtownhall.com
Diana: the Untold and Untrue Story
Two rival Princess Diana shows will take to London for one night only in September. Diana the Musical heads to the Eventim Apollo, but where that show’s tastelessness is accidental, Linus Karp’s Fringe hit is entirely deliberate in its irreverent retelling of the life of the People’s Princess. Karp’s demure Diana talks to us from heaven, taking us through all her highs and lows and satirising the sanctity of the Royal Family. Fair warning, audience members are involved – you may be called on to play a corgi or, to give you an idea of the level of humour we’re talking, a landmine.
Clapham Grand, December 6; claphamgrand.com
Strategic Love Play
Succession writer Miriam Battye’s new play is a wonderfully funny, awkward enactment of a first date that plays out in real time. Archie Backhouse and Letty Thomas star as a couple who’ve both swiped right; he’s relaxed, happy to commit to obligatory small talk, while she is keen to get to the good stuff and starts immediately deconstructing the forced nature of the situation they’re in. Two great performances and a sharp script earned the show a slew of great reviews, and most performances sold out in Edinburgh as Battye touched a nerve about the ins and outs of modern romance.
Soho Theatre, September 6 to 23; sohotheatre.com
Frankie Thompson and Liv Ello both had breakout shows at last year’s Fringe, but this year they’ve come together to create a frenzied series of skits from the end of the world which examines their relationships to their bodies. Cleverly edited video, featuring Come Dine With Me, Bake Off and other cultural touchstones, combines with talking and dancing to explore eating disorders and gender dysphoria. It’s a strange and unsettling piece, but also a very funny one, which had Edinburgh audiences buzzing.
Soho Theatre, September 25 to October 14; sohotheatre.com
England and Son
For the first time, the brilliant comedian, writer and activist Mark Thomas is performing in a play that he hasn’t written. England and Son is by Ed Edwards, whose previous hit The Political History of Smack and Crack triumphed at the Fringe in 2018, and it’s a harrowing indictment of colonialism, the care system, young offending, abuse, addiction and the connection between all of those things. If it sounds a bit much, bear in mind that Edwards wrote this especially for Thomas, whose performance is something to behold.
Arcola Theatre, November 14 to 25; arcolatheatre.com