31 great things to do in Edinburgh this May

By Martin Gray
Monday, 29th April 2019, 4:38 pm
Updated Monday, 13th May 2019, 1:00 pm

From wacky witches to dashing dancers to soulful singers, there's some great entertainment in Edinburgh this month. Here's my pick of the bunch.


The Verdict

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Once upon a time it was plays that were adapted into films but these days, the traffic seems to be all in the other direction. Dirty Dancing, Ghost, Local Hero... now here's The Verdict, based on Sidney Lumet's 1981 US drama starring Paul Newman and James Mason. Frank Galvin is a washed-up veteran lawyer and an alcoholic. He's presented with one last chance to redeem himself via a medical malpractice case no one thinks he can win... Bringing the show to the Capital are former Emmerdale star Ian Kelsey and, from pretty much every Seventies TV series ever, Denis Lill. Hit or miss, you are the judge.

King's Theatre, 2.30pm/7.30pm, £18.50-£32


UB40 - 40th Anniversary Tour

UB40 have been around so long that people may have forgotten what that despised form from the Eighties actually was. This celebratory tour features Robin Campbell, Brian Travers, Jimmy Brown, Earl Falconer, Norman Hassan, Duncan Campbell, Martin Meredith, Lawrence Parry and Tony Mullings. OK, there's no Ali Campbell - remember that sad family feud? - but there's enough talent there to ensure the likes of One in Ten and Red, Red Wine sound great.

Usher Hall, 7pm, £41.25-£46.75


Donny's Brain

Donny wakes up in hospital after a car crash, desperate to see his partner Emma and unable to recognise the strange woman crying at his bedside. With no memory of the last three years, Donny sees the world as the person he used to be, when his life was in a very different place. Could his injured brain be a second chance for everyone to mend old wounds and move on? Rona Munro's funny, moving play raises fascinating questions about the essence of love, human nature and our sense of self.

Traverse Theatre, 7.30pm, £7/£5


Scottish Ballet: Spring!

To kickstart their 50th anniversary year, Scottish Ballet presents a fresh double bill fizzing with energy and guaranteed to send you home smiling. Resident choreographer Sophie Laplane will premiere her latest work, Dextera. Her trademark edgy style promises a tour de force of creative ideas, set to the music of Mozart, performed by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra. Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Elite Syncopations is an irresistible carnival of colourful characters. This much-loved whirl of 1920s dance hall glitz is set to a series of Scott Joplin’s tunes, performed live by an onstage ragtime band.

Festival Theatre, 7.30pm, £17.50-£30.50


Sherlock Jr with live music

Buster Keaton's physical daring and use of props helped him push early film into new comic territory. Here's a chance to catch one of his finest silents with live music. There's a supporting film too, but as for what that is, organisers remain, er, silent.

Leith Depot, 4pm, £8


RuPaul's Drag Race: Werq the World Tour

If life's a drag, this could cheer you up - telly's long-running camp contest comes to the stage. Mission leader Michelle Visage takes voyagers on a journey to save the universe with the help of her intergalactic queens including Aquaria, Kameron Michaels, Asia O’Hara, Kim Chi, Naomi Smalls, Monét X Change and Violet Chachki!

Edinburgh Playhouse, 8pm, £27.90-£155.15


The Worst Witch

Meg and Mog, Harry Potter, Lizzie Dripping (if you remember that one, let us know in the comments!), kids love witches and wizards, so a stage version of Mildred Hubble's classic adventures is bound to be a winner. Mildred's school is no Hogwarts and she's certainly no Hermione Granger, but she is loads of fun. Featuring all of Jill Murphy’s beloved characters, this new stage adaptation offers original songs, music, magic and Mildred’s unique brand of utter pandemonium!

King's Theatre, 7pm, £17-£25


A Play, a Pie and a Pint: The Origins of Ivor Punch

Set in the present day and in the 1860s on a remote Scottish island that is about to give up its secrets, this bite-sized play by Colin McIntyre (aka Mull Historical Society) explores mythology and how it washes up against faith.

Traverse Theatre, 1pm, £13.50 (includes a pie and a pint/soft drink)


The Bizarre World of Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa's been dead since 1993 but this is the 21st century, why should that stop him playing Edinburgh? Meet Hologram Frank, here to bring never-before seen performance footage to life. The 'touring unit' - actual living people - boasts guitarists Ray White and Mike Keneally, bassist Scott Thunes, multi-instrumentalist Robert Martin, Ed Mann and drummer and Zappa archivist Joe 'Vaultmeister' Travers. It certainly sounds inventive, if a little creepy - would a mother like Frank approve of such invention?

Edinburgh Playhouse, 8pm, £50.15-£55.15

10 MAY

The Tailor of Inverness

Inspired by the life of Matthew Zajac’s father, The Tailor of Inverness is a story of the impact of war on ordinary people and families, a tale of a boy who grew up on a farm in Galicia in Poland and became a tailor in Inverness, of how a life and an identity can be reconstructed. Zajac won The Stage Award for Best Solo Performer, Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland (Best Actor), Scotsman Fringe First - here's your chance to find out why.

Capital Theatres Studio, 7.30pm, £17-£25

11 MAY

Gung-Ho! Edinburgh

We're not convinced it's a massive category, but organisers boast that Gung-Ho! is 'the biggest 5K obstacle course in the world'. It certainly looks fun, so get ready to run, jump and climb over some of the the biggest inflatable obstacles in the world and show how gung-ho! you really are!

The Meadows, 10am-3pm, £30

12 MAY

It's Spring at the Castle!

Celebrate National Children's Day UK at Lauriston Castle's family workshop, exploring a variety of projects with landscape artist Erik Petrie, who's probably pretty excited as the Japanese Garden blooms and the other gardens fill with blossom - picture postcard perfect.

Lauriston Castle, 7.30pm, £6

13 MAY

150 Years of the People's Friend

If you're a gentlewoman of fine vintage who enjoys a pithy, comforting read along with a cuppa and a Garibaldi (whatever happened to the chocolate variety?), you've likely perused DC Thomson's 'famous story magazine' at some point. This exhibition is a chance to discover some of the secrets behind the legendary Scottish weekly, including vintage artwork by the prolific J Campbell Kerr. Here's one secret - the prolific Mr Kerr is actually four people... ssssh!

Scottish Storytelling Centre, 10am-6pm, 10.30am-12.30pm, free

14 MAY

Screening: All My Sons

Tying with A View From the Bridge as perhaps US dramatist Arthur Miller's greatest play, All My Sons is the story of Joe and Kate Keller, living the all-American suburban life after the Second World War... ignoring the secrets that will tear them apart. Catch the Old Vic's current London staging with a live screening starring Bill Pullman and Sally Field, alongside the UK's Colin Morgan and Jenna Coleman.

Festival Theatre, 7pm, from £15

15 MAY

The Comedy About a Bank Robbery

If you're into 'does what it says on the tin' entertainment, here's a show for you. Ocean’s Eleven meets the Marx Brothers in a comedy enjoying its third year in the West End. Mischief Theatre, the people behind the award-winning The Play That Goes Wrong, return with their latest fast and fabulous comedy caper, The Comedy About A Bank Robbery. A priceless diamond has been entrusted to the city bank, an institution so corrupt that even the security guards are on the take. Can it be safely stored or will it all go horribly wrong? Hmm, tough question.

King's Theatre, 2.30pm/7.30pm, £19.50-£33

16 MAY

A Play, a Pie and a Pint: Toy Plastic Chicken

At Edinburgh Airport, a squeezy toy is suspected to be a bomb. A woman is screened for domestic radicalisation, while her interrogators decide to perform a violent and radical act of their own. Based on a true story, Uma Nada-Rajah's Toy Plastic Chicken is a violent comedic exploration of degradation and revolt.

Traverse, 1pm, £13.50 (includes a pie and a pint/soft drink, cuppa...)

17 MAY

The Duchess [of Malfi]

Passion and power plays characterise Jacobean revenge tragedies. And blood, lots and lots of blood. Oh, and bags of sex. What you tend not to get is braw Scots dialogue, but Zinnie Harris' new version of John Webster's 17th-century drama may change that. The original Duchess of Malfi is an exploration of male rage and female resistance as two brothers try to control their sister, block her marriage and generally boss her around - with fatal results. Harris has updated the baked-in themes of patriarchy versus female empowerment to make this classic fresh for today's #metoo mob. No idea why those square brackets have been added to the title... what's it all about, [Malfi]?

Royal Lyceum, 7.30pm, £10 (preview price)

18 MAY

Top Dog Film Festival

From the producers of the Banff Film Festival comes a collection of heartwarming short films about dogs and their people from independent filmmakers. This carefully curated programme of canine-themed films is comprised of the most inspirational and entertaining stories about dogs and their human companions. Expect some ruff cuts...

Festival Theatre, 7.30pm, £16

19 MAY

Hormonal Housewives

Join 'Allo 'Allo star Vicki Michelle, Josephine Partridge and Julie Coombe as they blast their witty way through a catalogue of women’s bits: weight gain, weight loss, mood swings, moody teenagers, men, zumba, therapy, housework, homework, electrolysis, men, sex, working out, staying in, going out, bikini waxes, celebrity gossip, eating, not eating, chocolate, wine, more chocolate, social media, more wine, and all the other joys of being a 21st century woman!

Festival Theatre, 7.30pm, £22-£32

20 MAY

Lost at Sea

A storm is brewing in a small fishing village. A young woman returns home, searching for answers about her father’s death. But as she begins to weave together the strands of her past, a mysterious force unravels family secrets. Lost at Sea journeys through a labyrinth of myth and memory in an epic tale spanning 40 years of the fishing industry. Featuring the voices of fishermen and their families in their own words - with music, songs and Scots language - this is the lyrical and powerfully evocative story of a North-East fishing family. Morna Young's play - inspired by the death of her fisherman father - features Tam Dean Burn, Ali Craig, Jennifer Black, Helen McAlpine, Andy Clark, Kim Gerard and Gerry Mulgrew.

King's Theatre, 7.30pm, £14.50-£23.50

21 MAY

Angela Barnes: Rose Tinted

Angela is trying to look on the bright side of life - which makes sense, she is a comedian - but it's not always easy...

The Stand, 8.30pm, £14/£12

22 MAY

Fringe Preview double bill: Jay Lafferty & Liam Withnail

We're not always fans of WiP shows, the nature of the beast means the material isn't always stellar. But with comics as sharp as Lafferty, currently bringing the laughs on BBC Scotland's Breaking the News quiz, and resident Monkey Barrel MC Withnail, you can be sure it'll be fun all the way as they test material that may or may not make it into this year's Fringe shows.

The Stand, 8.30pm, £6/£5

23 MAY

The Fureys

The legends of Irish music and song, renowned for such hits as I Will Love You, When You Were Sweet 16 and From Clare to Here, make a welcome return to Edinburgh.

Queen's Hall, 7.30pm, £23

24 MAY


Blending theatrical storytelling with digital and live performance, Annie George and Flore Gardner's TWA exemplifies the way women have been silenced over the years, and found hope in creative resistance. It sounds ever so serious, but who are we to silence anybody? So, a fuller description: 'A contemporary tale interwoven with the Greek myth of Philomela - based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses – with dark poetic text, startling imagery, music and sound design, Twa explores duality and how the creative act can become an act of resistance.'

Traverse, 8pm, £12/£10.50

25 MAY

We're Going on a Bear Hunt

Join an intrepid family of adventurers and their musical dog on a quest to find a bear; as they wade through the gigantic swishy swashy grass, the splishy splashy river and the thick oozy, squelchy mud! Expect catchy songs, interactive scenes, plenty of adventure and a few surprises along the way. Based on the much-loved book picture by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury, this mischievous celebration of play is the perfect treat for families with children aged 3 and up.

Festival Theatre, 11am/2pm £14

26 MAY

Manic Street Preachers: This is My Truth, Tell Me Yours

The popular beat combo are back on the road to celebrate/promote the 20th Year Collector’s Edition of their fifth album, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours. As ever, James Dean Bradfield leads the Welsh wonders.

Usher Hall, 7pm, £14, £43.45

27 MAY

Avenue Q

Sesame Street has done a fine job down the years of introducing kids to some of life's tougher subjects but it's never gone as far as Avenue Q, in which a community of Muppet-style folk and their human pals tackle racism, gay love, internet porn and whether or not to drink away your rent money. The hilarious adults-only musical is back and the Bad News Bears are worse than ever...

King's Theatre, 7.30pm, £24.50-£34.50

28 MAY

Kevin Clifton in Burn the Floor!

The reigning Strictly Come Dancing champion may be sick of the acres of recent tabloid gossip, but it doesn't half get bums on seats for his current stage tour. Fellow Strictly pro Graziano Di Prima joins Kevin and a cadre of talented dancers for a whirlwind tour of the nations's favourite dances - the Foxtrot, Waltz, Paso Doble, Tango and more.

Festival Theatre, 7.30pm, £28-£36

29 MAY

Emil and the Detectives

When young Emil catches a train to visit family in the big city, something valuable is stolen. But the thief soon discovers Emil was not such an easy target. A group of quick-thinking and resourceful children rally around. Can a bunch of kids work together to uncover and outsmart the true criminal? Adapted from Erich Kästner’s ever-popular 1929 novella by Nicki Bloom, this two-person show is just one of the delights of Edinburgh International Children's Festival.

Traverse Theatre, 10am, 1.15pm, tickets from £9

30 MAY

Leah MacRae - My Big Fat Fabulous Diary

Join the star of BBC’s River City, Gary: Tank Commander and the huge hit stage comedy 51 Shades Of Maggie, as she delves into the hilarious pages of her Big, Fat, Fabulous Diary! With silly stories, comic songs and a belting ballad or two this show is guaranteed to stop you worrying about weight!

Queen's Hall, 7.30pm, £22

31 MAY

Bill Bailey: Larks in Transit

Well, that's an intriguing title. It turns out Larks in Transit is a compendium of travellers’ tales and the general shenanigans of 20 years as a peripatetic comedian. See musical comic Bailey fashion a symphony from a ringtone, tell the real story of Old McDonald and reimagine the Stars and Stripes.

Edinburgh Playhouse, 8pm, tickets from £40.15