Our Top 20 Picks from this year's Greater Manchester Fringe Festival

The Greater Manchester Fringe Festival arrives in July and a visit to the website will uncover a huge treasure trove of theatre, comedy, spoken word and events - over 120 of them in fact, taking place all over the region.

By Ben Brown | Last updated 3 December 2018

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Now I think you’ll agree with me in saying that that’s an awful lot of things going on – where do you even start? Well I decided to trawl through the Fringe website for a couple of hours, see what’s going on and choose my favourites – hopefully giving you an idea as to what is happening, as well as perhaps to get you a bit excited. 2 days later and I present you this…

One Man Bond: Every Bond Film In 60 Minutes
Taking the audience from the groovy, psychedelic sixties of the super smooth Sean Connery, through to the modern-day bone-crunching, and ultra-realistic, Daniel Craig.

Probably the most Alan Partridge thing ever, Brian Gorman plays over 200 characters as he travels through every single Bond film in 60 minutes. From humble beginning in Dr. No through to Jaws, Scaramanga, Timothy Dalton and Sean Bean – everything is in there and it sounds fucking brilliant.

Kings Arms Theatre, 11 Bloom Street, M3 6AN
Tuesday 17th – Thursday 19th July at 9pm


Burn the Witch by Norris & Parker
This is a debauched late-night sketch comedy for lovers of the strange, the sordid, the musical and the dark.

In a similar vein to The League of Gentlemen, Katie Norris and Sinead Parker present Phallus Ridge – “the saddest town in the North West” where there is a growing hysteria at the threat of ‘sex witches’ and basically women in general. From here you’ll be presented with a load of characters in an inventive story exploring female sexuality, hysteria and repression.

Kings Arms Theatre, 11 Bloom Street, M3 6AN
Wednesday 11th July at 7.30pm and Thursday 12th July at 9pm



Just Like a Woman
Liz, Tig, and Ellie have worked in the factory for a long time. Assembling stuff. Checking stuff. Rejecting stuff. But they can never remember what the stuff actually is… until today.

Manchester-based Breathe Out Theatre won Best Drama at last year’s Fringe so you should expect something good again this year surely? Just Like A Woman is a surreal feminist black comedy, exploring gender politics as three working women turn the ‘world of men’ upside down.

Kings Arms Theatre, 11 Bloom Street, M3 6AN
Thursday 5th – Saturday 7th July at 7.30pm


John Porter Can’t Help Falling (In Love)
Write what you know!’ they say. Well, when you’re disabled and unlucky in love, the thing you know the best is falling. In and out of cars, off chairs, and in and out of love.

This is the story of John Porter, a proper comedian who is proper disabled and is proper shite at the love game. In this candid show, he looks at all of the pitfalls, difficulties, good times and the bad when you’re out looking for the right lady. You should expect plenty of laughs and happily – it’s free!

Gulliver’s Lounge, 109 Oldham Street, M4 1LW
Saturday 21st July at 8pm, FREE


PlotFest – Three New Plays in one Night
Lyceum Theatre Oldham has chosen three winners from 33 entries to its one-act playwriting competition.

They had a competition at the Lyceum Theatre in Oldham and the 3 winners get their productions put on during the Fringe. There’s ‘Twister’ which is a humorous exploration on the effects of enhanced interrogation on the practitioner as well as the victim. The Salutation imagines a meeting between Charlotte Bronte & Karl Marx while A Good Man explores what makes a good man through an interview between a Probation Office and John, someone who is on remand for stabbing someone.

Lyceum Theatre Oldham, 95 Union Street
Friday 13th & Saturday 14th July at 7.30pm


Conspiracy Theory: A Lizard’s Tale
I don’t know much about what this actually is because there’s no proper information on the Fringe website but the title is enough to tickle my fancy – what seems like a delve into all of those fucking bat shit conspiracy theories that make out that the Royle Family are lizards (they are), the world is run by the Illuminati (it’s not) and that blue M&M’s are a way for the government to brainwash children into stealing people’s mail (they are). Sounds brilliant.

53two, 8 Albion Street, Manchester, M1 5NZ
Saturday 28th July at 7pm


Come to visit her in her chambers …if your dare

This one is about the true story of Countess Elizabeth Bathory, who was reputed to have murdered over 600 people in her lifetime, and that was just the bodies they found, insane or not she was notorious for torture, bloodletting to the point of death, then bathing in it and a masochistic infatuation with youth and beauty. Idiot.

Kings Arms The Vaults, 11 Bloom Street, M3 6AN


18 Victoria
What would you do if you had three weeks to live? Get very drunk? Have lots of sex? Make amends with your family?

18 Victoria asks these questions and more. Personally, I’d go and smash up a bar and then a car like in Street Fighter 2 but I’m sure other people will do much more interesting things. The play revolves around 3 siblings, struggling to get their lives together as a huge meteor is about to crash into Earth. Sorta like a real-life Deep Impact but probably better.

53two, 8 Albion Street, Manchester, M1 5NZ
From Tuesday 17th July – Friday 20th July at 7pm (9pm on Friday), £10


Garry Starr Performs Everything
Starr tears through artistic genres with little regard for personal safety and even less regard for art.

This one sounds like a right bit of chaos with a fully-grown bloke clowning around on stage like a kid who’s had too many E numbers. Apparently, he’s going to perform everything ever, including some miming, acting, musical, interpretive dance, tap and probably a section where he just stands like a tree while everyone sits in silence.

Kings Arms: Theatre, 11 Bloom Street, M3 6AN
Friday 6th – Sunday 8th July at 9pm


Cheaters: A Play About Infidelity
“I like to think of it as Noel Coward meets The Office meets Bottom”

One for the serial cheaters here – a comedy about adultery that won’t make you feel like you want to jump off a bridge. Ramsbottom comedian Lewis Charlesworth is presenting ‘Cheaters’, a farcical tale of infidelity that includes aims to shed a bit of light on the ridiculousness of marriage, monogamy and of course, infidelity.

Kings Arms Theatre, 11 Bloom Street, M3 6AN
Sunday 1st, Sunday 8th and Sunday 22nd July at 7.30pm


Robin Ince’s Chaos of Delight (Work in Progress)
The man who will forever be known for his outstanding portrayal of Steward Foot in at interview episode of The Office, Robin Ince is heading on down to the International Anthony Burgess Foundation with his stand-up Chaos of Delight. As you can see with the title it’s very much a work in progress so expect some jokes to not really work. He’ll also most likely be reading from a sheet of paper, so don’t let that put you off either.

International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Chorlton Mill, 3 Cambridge St, Manchester M1 5BY
Tuesday 10th July at 7.30pm


On Behalf of The People
“Based on extensive research about the people who lived in mining communities just after the war and how the aftermath of the war and the massive change.”

On Behalf of The People is a story about a post-war family in a Yorkshire mining community coming to terms with a rapidly changing world. There’s political, social and family issues all flying around, making this a family drama that aims to be filled with warmth, humour and above all – realism. It also features that bloke who used to be in The Bill so you can get his autograph and ask him about Reg Hollis afterwards.

The People’s History Museum, Left Bank, Spinningfields, Manchester M3 3ER
Sunday 1st July at 2pm

International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Chorlton Mill, 3 Cambridge St, Manchester M1 5BY
Tuesday 3rd & Wednesday 4th July at 7pm

Waterside Arts Centre, 1 Waterside Plaza, Sale, M33 7ZF
Tuesday 10th July at 7pm


Pretty Evil
While superheroes become celebrities, three amateur villains see a new opportunity for mayhem.

Taking the opposite view of most forms of art nowadays, this show focuses on the villains of the story, as three baddies hire out a conference room in the local community centre and get to work on giving evil a new face. The gang are hoping to make a big impact at the Fringe with some quick wit and off-the-cuff physical comedy.

53two, 8 Albion Street, Manchester, M1 5NZ
Wednesday 4th, Friday 27th and Saturday 28th July at 9.30pm


The Blade of Barrington
Storytelling meets stand up, set in 17th Century Newport, a mad cap mixture of boy’s own adventure and general nonsense.

The concept of Blade of Barrington is genius – if there’s only two of you, pretend that there should be more people but they haven’t shown up. As two actors record a silly and surreal story about Sir Arthur Barrington for a radio serial, they must take on multiple parts and try not to make too many mistakes in this chaotic and [madcap] comedy featuring a part boy, part badger, dragons and asthmatic donkeys.

Kings Arms Studio 1, 11 Bloom Street, M3 6AN
Saturday 14th July at 3pm


The Girl in the Grate/Me, You & Godzilla Too
Top up your glass of Babycham, squirt yourself with Charlie perfume, dodge flying sponge fingers and fight flatpack furniture for a night full of surprises.

There’s two stories for one here with The Girl in the Grate starting off as award-winning writer Cathianna Hall introduces you to Lucy Green, a girl whose life just hasn’t turned out quite how she wanted it to. Part 2, Me, You & Godzilla Too aims to challenge notions of what is ‘normal’ by exploring the public and private agonies that people struggling with mental health have to go through.

3MT, Affleck’s Arcade, 35 – 39 Oldham Street, Manchester, M1 1JG
Thursday 5th July at 7.30pm


Romeo and Juliet by the Rubbish Shakespeare Company
Enemies. Balconies. Kissing. Sausage rolls!?!

The aptly named Rubbish Shakespeare Company are bringing everyone’s favourite – Romeo and Juliet to the fringe and they’re going to be adding a much-needed comic twist to the beloved classic. They’ve reworked the play for a wide family audience – aiming to provide the antithesis to the typical boring and dry interpretations you remember from school.

Salford Arts Theatre, Kemsing Walk Off Liverpool St, Salford M5, 4BS
Friday 13th July at 6.30pm


Thespianage Live Comedy Showcase
A spectacular showcase of your favourite games performed by your favourite funsters!

Working together for 8 years, this gang of comedians and performers head to the Fringe with a description of a show which just doesn’t really make much sense but still manages to intrigue. They promise a comedy show featuring ridiculous impressions, cutting-edge satire, dodgy accents, terrible puns and plenty of silly sketches. It all sounds like a right laugh and even if it’s not – it would still be an interesting watch.

53two, 8 Albion Street, Manchester, M1 5NZ
Friday 6th July at 7pm


This one sounds a bit serious to be fair – listen to this: “In a dimension suspended between reality and dream, a man is about to be executed. We do not know the reasons behind the execution; instead, we are shown two executioners talking about trivial things. In the same room, another man – perhaps his alter ego – interacts with his family members and confronts his past and fears in what seems like a prolonged farewell.” Bloody hell.

The Whiskey Jar, 14 Tariff Street, Manchester, M1 2FF
Wednesday 25th & Thursday 26th at 8pm


“Exploring one of the most exciting periods of history – The American West… with hilarious consequences.”

This comedy takes place in a pop-up saloon, hopefully with them swinging doors, where 4 wannabe storytellers join forces to tell the ultimate Wild West Story. Throughout the story there’ll also be some live Country & Western songs – so if you’re into that kinda stuff – head on down. Bring a Stetson too!

53two, 8 Albion Street, Manchester, M1 5NZ
Wednesday 18th – Saturday 21st July at 7.30pm
Wednesday 25th – Saturday 28th July at 7.30pm


Maisie Adam: Vague
“Imagine a Yorkshire female Peter Kay”

A lovely bit of stand-up comedy here from Maisie Adam who has been making sides split all over the country since she first started telling gags 18 months ago. She was a winner at last year’s ‘So You Think You’re Funny’ award thingy, and her self-deprecating charm has quickly ensured that she has received praise up and down the country.

Kings Arms Studio 1, 11 Bloom Street, M3 6AN
Sunday 1st & Monday 2nd July at 7.30pm