8 Edinburgh Fringe Shows Tackling Climate Change Through Comedy & Performance

by Lauren Sharkey
Stewart Kirby/Shutterstock

The 2019 Edinburgh Fringe kicks off on Friday. Lasting the entire month of August, it's full of mega artistic performances exploring a wide range of topics. But one big theme this year is the environment. From comedic climate crisis talks to plays detailing the lesser-known planetary influences, there really is something for everyone. Here's a rundown of the best Edinburgh Fringe climate change shows.

The entire festival has taken an eco-friendly turn this time round. One theatre company has made an entire venue out of recycled materials, reports the Guardian, while several performers are promoting a zero waste police by refusing to hand out paper flyers.

Climate protest group Extinction Rebellion even have a space at the Fringe. Member and artist Natalie Taylor explained the important of art to Sky, saying "it can reach emotional levels that perhaps a scientific report can't. In a sense I think people can become quite numb to hearing all the bad news and I think that sometimes if an artist is trying to explain the same information to you, it comes across in a different way."

She's right. So if you want a different take on the climate crisis, why not head to one of these brilliant Edinburgh Fringe performances?


Laura Lexx: 'Knee Jerk'

Laura Lexx

Eco-anxiety. A lot of people are suffering from it. But stand-up comedian Laura Lexx is here to teach you tips and tricks on how to cope with the potential impending doom of the human race.

Ultimately though, "Knee Jerk is about why we get divided when we’re all humans underneath it all," she tells Bustle. "It’s happy and positive and cuts the crap. I’m tired of being labelled and tribed... I’d like to have an opinion without being told what group that means I automatically belong to." The show runs throughout the festival (except for August 14) at 5:15 p.m. daily.

Tickets available here.


'Sea Sick'

"The ocean contains the switch of life. And that switch can be turned off," reads the official blurb of science journalist Alanna Mitchell's production. Her one-woman show takes the audience on a journey to the bottom of the ocean, combining facts and humour to demonstrate how the planet got to its current state. Sea Sick is on throughout August at 12:30 p.m.

Tickets available here.


Jon Long: 'Planet-Killing Machine'

Comedian Jon Long wants to talk about how we're all planet-killing machines. Throughout his hour-long show, he has plenty of questions, and few answers. But it's still a powerful watch. "The fact [the climate crisis is] so serious is one of the factors why we put off talking about it quite a bit," he told Sky. "Comedy can be quite a good way to sneak in a few of the facts, putting some sugar in the medicine." Planet-Killing Machine runs every day from August 2 until 26 at 9:30 p.m.

Tickets available here.


'Play Before Birth'

Coast to Coast Theatre Company's play doesn't outwardly seem like an environmental production, but it is. When a young woman discovers she is pregnant at the age of 21, she must deal with all the emotions that come with being a mother in a climate crisis. One friend in particular, who believes the world doesn't need more children, presses the issue. Catch Play Before Birth every day from August 12 until 17 and August 19 until 24. Times vary.

Tickets available here.


Matt Winning: 'It's The End Of The World As We Know It'

Another show mixing comedy with science, Matt Winning's It's The End Of The World As We Know It is an hour-long storytelling lecture on coping with climate change. His day job as a research associate at the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources led to the show's creation.

In a recent Guardian feature, he described humour as "a coping mechanism," saying: "I believe that laughter is an excellent way of reaching wider audiences and engaging people who are less interested in the topic. Comedy makes people more open to new ideas. So humour can also be used to get the message across." The show runs from August 2 until 11 and August 13 until 25 at 4:25 p.m.

Tickets available here.



closeup of a replica of fossilized scary petrified Velociraptor dinosaur fossil remains in stone with details of the skeleton with skull and white bonesShutterstock

Vigil, according to its creators, Mechanimal, is a "wildly intimate, interspecies meditation on mass animal disappearance." A bit of a mouthful to say, but its point is one to sit up and listen to.

In an interview with The List, member Tom Bailey delved further into the performance's concept: "Vigil is about the sixth mass extinction of animal and plant life that we are currently experiencing. It's happening now and it's happening very fast. Our show explores all 26,000 names in the IUCN [International Union for Conservation of Nature] Red List of extinct, disappearing and endangered species. It may seem a lot, but it's really just the tip of the iceberg in terms of actual species decline and extinction. There's so much out there that is unknown." Catch the performance on various August dates at 1 p.m.

Tickets available here.


Sam Haygarth: 'Climate Crisis'

Comedian and activist Sam Haygarth helped organise the Extinction Rebellion protests, so he knows exactly why we need to rebel. This funny and free show will relay those reasons.

"Is it possible to protest and keep your sense of humour?” he recently told The Scotsman. “It’s not only possible, it’s absolutely imperative. When [Extinction Rebellion] put a massive pink boat in the middle of Oxford Circus, it wasn’t entirely serious. In fact, it was basically a piece of surreal performance art. But its ability to make you laugh was part of its point. To protest is to resist. And so, sometimes, is to laugh." His show runs from August 2 until 11 and August 13-25 at 6:35 p.m.

Tickets available here.


'Fake News Kills World!'

In this seminar, the University of Edinburgh's Richard Milne examines how climate science deniers use fake news to denounce the environmental crisis and will teach you effective ways to fight back. Catch Fake News Kills World! on August 22 and 24. Times vary.

Tickets available here.


If there's anything that these shows prove, it's that, together, we really can make a difference.