Fringe 2013: How much can you pack in?

Dublin Fringe Festival has kicked off, and you’ve only got a few weeks to catch more than 100 productions. Here’s what we recommend – and who you should bring along – whatever kind of show you’re after

Each preview includes a code. Here's what they mean:
BYM: Bring your mum
BYD: Bring your dad
EB: Early bird – starts before 8pm
L: On at lunchtime
S&S: Short and sweet – less than an hour
D: Bring a date

Things that make you go
Last year they made The Irish Times use words like "recockulous" in a five-star review; this year we're bringing our mammies. Yes, the Briefs troupe is back with The Second Coming. Australia's answer to Cirque du Soleil and RuPaul's DragRace (although we're not sure what the question was) is taking its burlesque with balls indoors to Vicar Street (runs until September 11th, BYM).

Less testicular, but just as spectacular, is Gabby Young, who brings her spiegel-style party combining Balkan brass, jazz and swing to the Workman’s Club on September 16th (BYD). And keeping with the circus theme, Bunk (today until September 14th, EB) and Damn the Circus (September 17th-21st, EB) – the former a fantastical aerial circus show from PaperDolls, the latter a rollicking reinvention of the experience of Irish Circus – should sate all the carnie-vores.

Both Figure It Out (Monday until September 14th, S&S) and How to be a Lad(y) (Wednesday until September 15th, EB) tackle issues of gender – the first, from the makers of the previous fringe shows Seekers and Chemistry, is a site-specific piece combining dance, physical theatre and film; the second is an all-dancing, (mostly) all-male troupe ready to take you on a gender-bending "journey of learny".

And for younger spectators, check out Brat Kids Carnival (tomorrow and 14th, L).


Prefer a walk on the dark side? Try one of these: Animus (September 16th-21st) features live music by the composer Denis Clohessy; Distance from the Event (until September 21st, D) combines Irish noir with sci-fi.

Things that make you go 'Aaaaah!'
For the more curious, this year's fringe has plenty to offer. In Confusion Boats (today until September 14th, EB, BYD), Gerard Kelly tackles myths of masculinity, asking why some boys don't cry. Using dance and technology, John Rogers will indulge your inner conspiracy theorist with Decision Problem [good time for questions] (Monday until September 14th, S&S). And in Of Rogues and Knaves (today until September 21st, EB, S&S), Paul Gleeson reveals the secrets of a con artist.

For your more old-fashioned whodunnit, The Secret Art of Murder (September 15th-21st, S&S) brings the genre into the 21st century with blank verse and bright talent. The Curious Case of the Stoneybatter Strangler (September 16th-21st, EB, S&S, D) will use site-specific storytelling to take audiences back to 1780s Dublin to reopen the case of Billy in the Bowl.

Returning fringe favourites this year include Brian Fleming, Rise Productions and Dead Centre. Fleming is back with Have Yis No Homes to Go To (September 17th-21st, S&S, D), the follow-up to Gis a Shot of Your Bongos Mister, telling the true story of one eejit drummer's expedition to Africa with Clowns Without Borders. The Games People Play (September 17th-21st, EB, L), Rise Production's follow-up to Fight Night, is a reworking of the Tír na nÓg myth for the negative-equity generation. And Lippy, created by Bush Moukarzel with cameo playwright Mark O'Halloran, is the new show from the creators of the critically acclaimed Souvenir.

Still curious? Try these: Amy Conroy's Break (until 21st, D); (Grindr/A Love Story (September 10-14th, EB, S&S), with the incredible spoken-word talent of Oisín McKenna; You Remember the Stories You Wish Were True (until Friday, EB, L), exploring the fictions we use to make sense of our lives; Exit Strategy, a show where what happens next it is up to the audience (12th-14th, L); Kitschcock (14th-21st, EB, S&S), which examines celebrity and our public and private identities; and In Dog Years I'm Dead (10th-14th, EB).

Things that make you go 'Awwwww'
There are plenty of shows in this year's line-up to have you reaching for the tissues, and Nic Green's moving Fatherland (17th-21st, EB), in which she follows the trail of her paternal line, is one of them. Finding Sympathy (17th-21st, EB, S&S) is the story of Ellen and Henry, told through the discovery of a small chocolate box full of letters, dance cards and receipts found in a shop in Cork.

Melanie Wilson's fourth show at the fringe, Landscape II (17th-21st, BYM) combines performance, film and sound art to tell the stories of three women spread across 100 years. After a sold-out run at Galway Arts Festival, Sanctuary (14th-15th, three shows only) makes its Dublin debut, exploring sex and disability in the captivating story of Larry and Sophie, who find themselves unsupervised at last. And if it's a date you're on and something sweet but funny you're after, in Stories of a Yellow Town (16th-21st, EB, D), the Gombeens intertwine true stories, told in the words of the people of Gort, to explore the impact of the arrival of Brazilian migrant workers to the town in 1999.

So you didn't cry at Bambi? Try one of these: Postscript (9th-14th); Swing (10th-19th, L); The Birthday Man (5th-14th, BYD); The Churching of Happy Cullen (7th-21st, L); The Far Side (11th-18th, EB, S&S); Small Plastic Wars (10th-18th; not daily, BYD).

Things that make you go 'Haaaaa'
Plenty of familiar funny faces will be trying out something new at this year's festival, including Maeve Higgins, who returns from London with her first play, Moving City (17th-21st, EB), a love letter – but who jilted who?

In his new show, David O’Doherty Will Try To Fix Everything (15th-21st, EB), O’Doherty will presumably be, eh, trying to fix everything – with luck using only his beard and his keyboard. Keybeard.

In the spirit of the Gathering, the fringe welcomes back to these shores two promising young Irish comedians for a double bill: Aisling Bea, winner of the 2012 So You Think You’re Funny? award in Edinburgh, and James Walmsley of Dead Cat Bounce. C’est La Bea and Don’t Swim With Killer Whales (EB, D) run from tonight until Tuesday.

Tommy Tiernan describes these lads as “pure brilliant”, but don’t let that put you off: Foil Arms and Hog (tonight until 13th), are back with more sketch comedy and stand up after a sell-out run at last year’s fringe. Also returning to this year’s festival is Ruth Lehane (Best Female Performer at last year’s fringe) with Ruth 66 (16th-21st, EB, D), a comedy road trip about a clown in search of of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.

Still got a straight face? Try one of these: Lambo (16th-21st, D); Some Baffling Monster (16th-21st, EB); War Of Attrition (Monday to 14th, S&S); Counter Culture (11th-14th and 21st, S&S); Speedtrap – Confessions of a Speed Junkie (17th-21st); Boys and Girls (17th-21st, EB, D); and The Last Post (11th-14th, EB, L, D).

Things that make you go 'What the . . . ?'
This is the fringe, so if you don't leave scratching your head then what has it all been for? For one of the more beautiful but no less odd site-specific festival offerings, get yourself to Sandymount Strand for 4 of 704. Using four out of an average of 704 high tides a year – two at night (20th and 21st at 11.59pm) and two during the day (21st at 12.31pm and 22nd at 1.06pm) – their ebb and flow will be transferred on to seven garments over 48 hours.

Wage (until Tuesday) didn’t quite have us at hello, but with the line “Despite all your wage are you still just a t**t in a cage?” our interest has been piqued. Male-identified audience members pay €2 more than their female-identified counterparts, to reflect the gender pay gap in Ireland – you decide which rate to pay. Sold.

Speaking of sold, The King’s Feet (Tuesday-Saturday) tells the story of Liam and Amanda, who buy into the promised land of prosperity but end up living on “government-issued microwave burgers” (a step up from iodine tablets, surely?) and cycling the desert in search of dream jobs. The themes of emigration and disconnection will be familiar, but the dystopian fairy tale should leave you wondering.

We’re not sure what Dolls (11th-16th, S&S) means when it says it wants us to own five real performers, but we’re ready to find out and be manipulated, as promised, “to feel any number of emotions on a spectrum that ranges from exhilaration to repulsion”.

Dive and What’s the Matter? (18th-21st, D) is a dance double bill. The first show is inspired by the myth of Narcissus together with the French poet and philosopher Gaston Bachelard’s interpretation of matter; the second is inspired by the disciplines of astronomy and science fiction. And Mice Will Play (17th-21st, EB) involves real vermin.

Things that make you go 'Nice one, I'm skint'
Don't think that just because you're broke the fringe has forgotten about you. One of the most spectacular spectacles of this year's festival is bound to be Chaosmos (15th, 2pm and 5pm), a walkabout boutique street show by Macnas, promising to "discover and recover the elixir of life" as they meander through the city.

For a chance to hear original work by new voices in the theatre, Scripted (21st, 2pm) will showcase the next generation of playwrights from Ireland, Britain and the US. Extracts from the works of seven MFA graduates will be read by a professional cast. Be the first to hear original work by new voices in the theatre.

For dance lovers, The Finest: Fitzgerald and Stapleton in Conversation With Arturo Vidich (21st, 3pm) is a film screening and Q&A with the New York artist Arturo Vidich, the first in a curated series of talks marking the 21st anniversary of Dance Ireland.

And, while it's not quite free, Whelp (today until Friday, €10-€13) is a tale of being broke in more ways than one. Meet the Boomerang Babies, retreating under the threat of "insufficient funds" to live with the mammy and daddy.

A 20th Century Concert: Abridged: A two-hour version of the acclaimed singer and theatre artist Taylor Mac's 24-hour concert (17th-21st).

Deep: Follow Larry Lehane, as he chases the footsteps of his brother Danny, through two decades of music in Cork, from the rise of acid house to the euro changeover (17th-21st).

Dinner and a Show: Neil Watkins moved us to tears, laughter and tears of laughter with The Year of Magical Wanking; this year he and his band, Buffalo Woman, are bringing decadence and divilment together – and they’ll feed you along the way (17th-20th).

Mother Presents: Le Galaxie en 3D: We have been begrudgingly bespect- acled for Kraftwerk, but we’ll gladly don our dorky 3D glasses for these guys. They haven’t let us down yet (14th).

No Earthly Estate: It doesn’t take much to entice us to the Fumbally, but throw in music and storytelling from the likes of Tieranniesaur, David O’Doherty and Kevin Barry and you’ll have to beat us away with a big stick. Supporting the Simon Community (14th).

Record (Remix): Let’s face the music, and dance! Dylan Tighe’s album Record and the project around it, explores his diagnosis, recovery and treatment within the mental- health system. This is followed on Friday night by Disorder Disco, a one-off DJ set at Project Arts Centre bar (12th-15th).

The Late David Turpin: Turpin rises again for a one-off theatrical concert to launch his new album, We Belong Dead, joined by a chamber choir and a line-up of special guests (15th).

Life Has Surface Noise: The music journalist Siobhán Kane and the singer-songwriter Adrian Crowley mix memoir, criticism and live accompaniment to explore music and its meaning in our lives (16th).

Thirteen events are free but ticketed

Citizen X: Meets at Jervis Street Luas stop and asks, what difference can one person make? (September 9th-21st)

Resilience: Takes place at 14 Henrietta Street and asks, when is enough enough? (10th-21st)

Porous: Takes place at 2 Scarlet Row and asks, if you could help someone protest against their treatment, would you stand with them? (11th-21st)

Suasion: Explores the bowels of Liberty Hall to see what extraordinary differences ordinary people can make (12th-21st)

Constituent(s): Takes place at National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks, and asks, what is there left to lose? (13th-21st)

Backwash: Takes place at 2 Scarlet Row and asks, what do you do when "the economic downturn" takes everything you've built up from scratch? (14th-21st)

Speakers Corner At Beresford Place: You are invited to listen, air your views, or both, at the site of many of Jim Larkin's Lockout speeches (14th, 18th, 21st).
Protest: Part 1: Takes place at 14 Henrietta Street and asks, what do youse think of me now? (15th-21st)

Soup: Takes place outside the Abbey Theatre; celebrates the role of Helena Moloney in the Lockout (16th-21st).

Save the Kiddies: Meets at Markievicz Leisure Centre reception, and celebrates Dora Montefiore's role in the Lockout (17th-21st).

Inquiry: There are no great causes any more. At Dublin Castle, observe Jim Larkin in a private moment of self-examination, the man behind the rhetoric (18th-21st).

Protest: Part 2: Meets at Oonagh Young Gallery and asks, who can we trust now? (19th-21st)

Incitement: Takes place at National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks, and asks, do we learn from our mistakes? (18th-21st)

Bargaining: A debate between Ictu and Ibec at Liberty Hall (20th).

Assembly: Meets at the Art Park (Spencer Dock Luas). Stand together with your brothers and sisters (21st).

Inspired by the hedge schools that took education to the land during the Penal Laws, The Trailblazery brings a series of Sunday talks to this year's fringe line-up in what the festival's director, Róise Goan, describes as "TED with soul": Sunday Sermon with Matthew Fox (22nd); Hedge School with Emeli Paulo on Harnessing the Power Within (15th); Hedge School with John Fox & Sue Gill on Rites of Passage (tomorrow); and Hedge School with Maria Scordialos
and Vanessa Reid on Living Wholeness (22nd).

The Trailblazery is also behind three Rites of Passage events with speakers and music by Nina Hynes and St Brigid's School, Killester, who have formed a children's choir to perform at each event: Evolving Our Past (tomorrow); State of the Nation (15th); and Tour Guides to the Future (22nd).

Fair Balls T'yis: A football opera performed by real GAA fans. Come on you boys in blue (10th-15th).

Gathering in the Gaff: Whitefriar Youth Club invites you to its place for an evening of Dub-style cooking, playing and storytelling (11th-13th and 18th-20th).

Samuel Beckett’s Rough for Theatre One (12th-17th, 8.45pm) and Act Without Words II (12th-17th, 9.45pm): These take theatre to the streets to find the characters and situations from Beckett’s dramas in everyday Dublin.

Songs in the Key of ‘D’: A choral exploration of the city, recognising musicians from Handel to Hansard, Lynott to Drew, at Smock Alley (14th and 21st).