This summer the West End’s leading ladies, including star of screen and stage Claire Sweeney will tread the boards of McEwan Hall! In Don’t Tell Me Not To Fly a range of stars will take centre stage to perform songs from smash-hit West End and Broadway musicals and iconic movies for an epically special Underbelly Production. Full line-up to be announced soon!

Showcasing emerging writers is at the fore front of Underbelly’s theatre programme. The Untapped Award in partnership with New Diorama Theatre, shines a special light on emerging companies with three thought-provoking shows focusing on female voices: It’s True, It’s True, It’s True by the Fringe First and Total Theatre Award-winning Breach Theatre which revisits the 1612 case of rape of baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi and how it influenced her work; Queens of Sheba from Nouveau Riché delves into the harsh reality of our society, inspired by the true story of three young black women turned away from a club for ‘being too black’ and finally dressed. by ThisEgg, the company behind huge Fringe 2016 hit Me & My Bee, uses an intense combination of direct address, dance, original music and design to tell the true story of a girl who gives all her clothes away and starts making her whole wardrobe from scratch, after being sexually assaulted at gunpoint while travelling.

BBC Arts and comedy producers Avalon have joined forces for the DEBUT initiative, inspiring writers to step out of their comfort zone and write their first play. BAFTA Award-winning and Emmy-nominated TV and film director Beryl Richards presents Diamond which tells the story of a successful surgeon Jordan Sullivan meeting his birth mother for the first time and rejecting her. When she passes away, he realises that he may never know the truth about where he came from. The arrival of a mysterious young woman may just be the catalyst to change everything as he embarks on a journey of discovery and redemption. Also DEBUT-ing, is Hoard, a new play from the hugely popular Guardian and BuzzFeed journalist Bim Adewunmi. Hoard tells the story of Bili and her two sisters, Rafi and Ami, facing up to Wura, their mother who doesn’t know of Brian, Bili’s boyfriend. An explosive secret forces the three sisters and their mother to face up to old hurts and unspoken tensions.

Sisterhood is a key theme in this year’s programme. Named in the Top Five Talents to watch from VAULT Festival 2018 young Irish playwright Erica Murray presents her take on dark comedy in bittersweet The Cat’s Mother which focuses on sisterhood. Also exploring a relationship between two sisters is 3 Years, 1 Week and a Lemon Drizzle which pieces together some of Alexandra and Kate Donnachie’s sometimes heart-breaking but often hilarious memories of growing up together in a show sparked from Alexandra’s severe eating disorder. Dangerous Giant Animals offers a unique insight into one family’s life with a girl with a mental disability, with all its challenges and rewards: “you had to be a really f*cking good person growing up with my sister.”
KIN, a new play from the acclaimed playwright Max Dickins (The Man on the Moor and The Trunk) revolves around two estranged sisters reunited after 20 years at their father’s dying bed. In an airless room over a single night, they talk it out. How can you forgive the past when you can’t even agree on what it looks like? A gripping story of sibling rivalry examines the meaning of family.
In other theatre highlights, star of current UK hit Fleabag, Maddie Rice writes and performs her debut one-woman play Pickle Jar. A teacher is a responsible adult. Someone who knows how to deal with any situation and never makes any mistakes. Because teachers are real grown-ups. Right? Stranger danger, heartbreak and piña coladas are on the syllabus in this dark comedy.
The UK’s beloved TV star Su Pollard makes her theatre debut at Edinburgh Fringe with Harpy, a new play from Fringe First-winner Philip Meeks (Kiss Me Honey, Honey!) about hoarding. The play focuses on Birdie, a hoarder who the neighbours call a harridan and a harpy, although most have never even met her. What they see as rubbish, she considers her life’s work and it exists because years ago something deeply cherished was stolen, and Birdie’s not been able to give up anything since.

Underbelly’s ambitious theatre programme also features two shows about toxic masculinity. Angry Alan, Penelope Skinner’s first play since 2015 which promises to be another critically acclaimed hit from one of the UK’s leading female playwrights. Penelope is the winner of the prestigious George Devine Award and has written for Channel 4 (Fresh Meat) and the big screen (How I Live Now, featuring Saoirse Ronan). A darkly comic and provocative new play about masculinity in crisis and the men’s right movement, Angry Alan focuses on Roger who – just as his life is about to collapse - discovers Alan: an online activist and a voice of reason. World premiere from 2012 and 2016 Fringe First winners, The Abode is an 80s style adventure following the story of Samuel, a white American male who, feeling oppressed in his own country, joins the alt-right movement of Trolls… will his sister Wendy manage to rescue him from the greedy hands of the Troll King?
Mixing dance tunes with rap and spoken word Love Songs is a coming-of-age one woman show exploring wider issues such as hyper-sexualisation of Asian women. From Rhum and Clay, the makers of the acclaimed 64 Squares, comes Mistero Buffo, a take on Dario Fo’s seminal masterpiece: a daring and explosive rallying cry for the disenfranchised.
Vessel is an urgent and insightful take on the issues surrounding illegal abortion. Vessel explores motherhood, fertility, bodily autonomy and the restrictive abortion laws in Ireland and many other countries around the world. Inspired by real cases of women who fought the Irish government for the right to choose, this is a timely reminder of the struggles women take to gain control of their own bodies. The show is to be rewritten in light of the recent referendum in Republic of Ireland.

Tackling the ever topical questions around immigration is Diary of An Expat, a one-woman show telling the comic story of young Italian woman, Cecilia, and her adventures in London – a contemporary El Dorado craved by generations of young Europeans. Cecilia has been trying to become British whilst remaining deeply Italian. Now, numerous dubious jobs and weird encounters later, she finds herself alone among the chaos of multi-ethnic London whilst the European dream of life abroad slowly drifts away.

New from the acclaimed Dawn State Theatre Company is Gulliver Returns: a haunting new play about broken dreams, enduring love and the weird world we live in, inspired by Jonathan Swift’s timeless masterpiece. Lil's husband is lost in Gulliver's Travels and now she has a mission of mercy to perform. No matter what the cost, she must find a way to drag this broken man out of his fantasy. She must find a way to bring him home.

Two talented American comedians present Camp Be Yourself, a surreal and anarchic two-woman comedy packed with glitter, bug juice and desperation. Camp counsellors Emily and Betsy are here to help you figure it all out. This is adulthood. No one is going to take your trash out for you. Welcome to Camp Be Yourself! For those of you that can't be yourself in real life, you Camp Be Yourself here.

Debut solo show from Barbican’s Young Poet and former Roundhouse Resident Artist Kit Finnie comes Mabel and Mickey, a ghost story for a new generation, and a fresh response to an ongoing Hollywood crisis. What happens when you try to tell someone else's story, but they're not done talking? Kit has written a show about Mabel Normand, a notorious 1910s movie star, and the murder case that swallowed her legacy. But there are pigeons cooing in the walls of the theatre and she keeps getting calls about a strange woman in her flat…

Funny and unsettling, Awkward Conversations with Animals I’ve Fucked by Rob Hayes returns to Underbelly following a critically-acclaimed 2016 run! One-night stands are awkward. One-night stands with animals are more awkward. And when you're as desperate to please as Bobby, things get really awkward…

Onstage Dating sees Bron going on first dates - live onstage! Featuring a different person each night, this hilarious and award-winning show has thrilled at festivals all over the world with its unique insight into the world of online dating. Watch first-hand as Onstage Dating takes modern romance to the next level – all in front of the audience.

As 2018 marks the centenary of the end the First World War, Private Peaceful, the theatre adaptation of the award winning children’s book by Michael Morpurgo is given added significance and is sure to move audiences of all ages. The team behind Private Peaceful also presents An Elephant in the Garden, another Michael Morpurgo adaptation set in the war time: Lizzie, her mother and an elephant flee the Dresden firebombing, trying to escape the Allies on the West and Russians on the East.
OTOSOTR is a powerful story of 200,000 Koreans who were deported from the Russian-Korean boarder by the Soviet government in 1937 told from a perspective of Anatoliy Ogay, a Soviet soldier of Korean descent. This is a journey of a WWII hero who fought Nazis in Berlin in 1945, survived the communist regime in 1991 and preserved his Korean identity throughout his life – told by his grandson.

As ever there is a marvellous theatre programme at Underbelly for children and families. Following a sell-out 2015 season, the UK's best-selling author Julia Donaldson returns to Edinburgh with a brand-new show The Gruffalo the Witch and the Wardrobe. The cast of five, including guitar-playing husband Malcolm, bring Julia's stories to life with songs, puppetry and audience participation. Beowolf also deals with themes of loss but told from a child’s perspective. Nine-year-old Sophie knows the story of Beowulf well and has shared it many times with her mother, a professor of Old English. But Sophie is fighting her own monsters, every bit as terrifying as those that Beowulf must face. Her mother is dying and Sophie's life is changing beyond her control. A loveable rogue from children’s literature makes an appearance in Just William’s Luck. The invincible William Brown considers he is "jolly well equal" to solving most of life's trickier problems, although devising a plan to get the elder brothers of the Outlaws married off might be a considerable challenge...