Since 1843, the church that is now known as Bedlam Theatre has stood at the foot of George IV Bridge, formerly frequented by the parishioners of the New North Free Kirk. A century after its founding, with attendance falling, the Kirk was abandoned and sold to the University of Edinburgh at a rock-bottom price. For decades it stood as a glorified broom cupboard, piled high with dusty benches and desks for examinations. It was not until 1977, when Richard Crane’s musical adaptation of Master and Margarita, (performed in the chaplaincy) went on to win the Fringe First award that things began to change at Bedlam.
Having proved its potential as a theatre venue, Bedlam Theatre was finally born in 1980. Named after the ruins of Edinburgh’s notorious sanatorium upon which the church was built, Bedlam quickly garnered notoriety. From all-night lock-ins – justified to concerned university staff as “fundraisers” – to blasphemous adaptations of the life of Christ, the EUTC (Edinburgh University Theatre Company) chewed up the rulebook and spat it out. Bedlam Fringe has, for years, pushed back against mediocrity and has garnered a plethora of Fringe First and Perrier awards to prove it.
To this day, Bedlam is a by-word for unparalleled performances that test their audiences – they do not shy away from taboo. This year their line-up is no different. Among a vast array of acts, they have festival favourite’s The Improverts, the longest running show in Fringe history, returning for their 28th year.
Sofie Hagen, the comedian on everyone’s to-see list is there for a full run of her show Dead Baby Frog, and they will be showcasing Sugar and Salt, a brand new play from the company that brought the Fringe Firstwinning 8 to the festival in 2008.
Princes of Main bring biting sketch comedy back to the stage, and The Other Room Theatre reveal their challenging new drama Seanmhair (pronounced shen-avar) to the Fringe audience.
And as always, every evening their Late Night Cabaret brings together a selection of the very best comedy at the Fringe.
Bedlam does not only have brilliant comedy on offer. In what is fast becoming a tradition, they are proud to serve the cheapest pint anywhere at Fringe venues. They have a fresh new menu to go along with a drinks menu produced in participation with Scottish locals Porter’s Gin, and a renovated outdoor seating area that provides an opportunity to take in the sunshine. They have even teamed up with local gelateria Kitsch to serve their delicious homemade ice-cream on Bedlam’s doorstep. Whether it be the shows in their auditorium, or the drinks served in their bar, they want to improve on the already stellar reputation of their little theatre by ensuring people have a great time coming there.
Bedlam Theatre has had a storied past. Over one-and-a-half centuries Bedlam’s history has been punctuated by changes: a building that was once a church now seats an undeniably different congregation. So as they look to their history and admire the bravery and creativity of generations passed, they also look to the future. For Bedlam, the future is built on bold new ideas that rest on that storied past.
Bedlam Theatre is back for yet another Fringe, but they never really left.