Theatre and comedy in Edinburgh and Glasgow

Simon Amstell

Glasgow and Edinburgh has something for everyone from big name comedy names to unmissable productions from some of the country’s leading theatre companies, finds Claire Sawers and Talitha Kotze

The Edinburgh Festival has just packed up its bags and rolled out of town again, taking with it some of the best stand-up comedians, forward thinking theatre groups and crazy drag-jazz-mime acts that the world has to offer. But that doesn’t mean Scotland now slips into a cultureless vacuum though. Oh no it does not.

Both Edinburgh and Glasgow have an impressive selection of venues for checking out theatre, dance and comedy during the rest of the year, and whether or not you end up seeing a show, these arts venues are often a nice spot just for hanging out, just for the buzzy wee basement bars or cafes attached. Take a laptop, some newly made friends (if they haven’t happened yet, a copy of a freshly bought book slash magazine will also do) or just hide behind your drink and watch the well haircutted indie girls and interesting-looking arty types go by.

For theatre, Edinburgh’s Traverse (just off Lothian Road) prides itself on new writing, and is a good place for seeing exciting, brave productions. The Lyceum along the road does a free First Look night for every play they put on, which is worth remembering when the ever-expanding overdraft threatens to swallow up all traces of your cultural life, while in Glasgow, the Tron, Citizen's Theatre, Arches and Tramway keep the calendar packed with shows, from experimental performance art to Scottish drama, with physical theatre and musicals thrown in too.

Speaking of the Tramway, and we were just a second ago, Scottish Ballet have just moved into the building, where they rehearse some of Scotland, no Britain, no the world’s most cutting edge and beautiful dance productions, coming to a stage near you soon. If on the other hand, you want to learn how to move like a ballerina, or pose like a Burlesque pin-up or b-boy for that matter, then Edinburgh’s Dance Base almost definitely has a class for you.

We’ll also be guiding you through places to go to find live comedy, sometimes for a bargain one hundred pence for a whole night’s laughter, which even for a cash-strapped student (sounds like damn good value to us). From monster gigs at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre to intimate gatherings at the much-loved Stand Comedy Club (reputedly Daniel Kitson’s favourite venue, ever) there will very probably be a show to suit your comedy tastes. And although Edinburgh steals a good deal of the comedy limelight during August, Glasgow gets its own back in March when it hosts the annual Glasgow International Comedy Festival. Last year Rob Brydon, David O’Doherty, Ed Byrne and The Penny Dreadfuls all brought their funny stuff to town, so get March pencilled in your diary for some more of the same.

Not sure where you’re going to find time to study with all this tempting cultural stuff right on your doorstep? Yeah, actually, we were sort of wondering the same thing.

Comedy capers

There's a slight lull in the Edinburgh comedy scene in the downtime after the Fringe, a period for worn-out jokers to sit down and try to locate their funny bones once again. But that doesn't mean laughs are completely off the menu, and the Glasgow line-up especially is a promising one over the next few months.

If you want to kick off the year with an authentic home-grown comedian then try a set from Billy Connolly, appearing at SECC in Glasgow in October. Also coming up on the SECC stage are Michael McIntyre, Al Murray on The Pub Landlord's Beautiful British Tour, and Jimmy Carr in a show boldly entitled Rapier Wit.

There's more stand-up at the Theatre Royal, where Stephen K Amos and Frankie Boyle will be performing, and if you're quick off the mark then Simon Amstell is all set for an October show at the Pavilion Theatre. The Stand Comedy Club in Glasgow has booked in Russell Kane and Reginald D Hunter, but it's also worth checking out their website and testing some of the regular shows at their two venues in Glasgow and Edinburgh, where there's excellent comedy on tap seven nights a week. Jongleurs in Glasgow is another club running regular nights, and if you'd rather pick up the mike yourself there are all sorts of opportunities across both cities.

For true aficionados, though, the designated silly season is the Glasgow International Comedy Festival, running from 11-28 March at venues across the city. Last year they sold 75,000 tickets to 347 performances, attracting pretty much everyone who's anyone in comedy, from Rob Brydon to Rhona Cameron to Clive James to Paul Merton. It might not be quite the comic tiger-pit of Edinburgh in August, but it's definitely one to take seriously. (Lizzie Mitchell)

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