The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world, with nearly 3,500 shows. This year, Playbill is in Edinburgh for the entire month in August for the festival and we’re taking you with us. Follow along as we cover every single aspect of the Fringe, aka our real-life Brigadoon!
As part of our Edinburgh Fringe coverage, Playbill is seeing a whole lotta shows—and we're sharing which ones you absolutely must see if you're only at the Fringe for a short amount of time. Consider these Playbill Picks a friendly, opinionated guide as you try to choose a show at the festival.
Just on the other side of the worst year-and-a-half of her life—a high-risk pregnancy, the premature birth of twins, months spent visiting them in the hospital, and then debilitating postpartum depression—Eden Sher decided to write a show.
"I want to do a show. I don't know what it's gonna be. But I want to be on stage. And I want to be talking the whole time. I want to be talking to the audience," she tells Playbill about the creation of her debut solo show I Was on a Sitcom, now playing at Edinburgh Festival Fringe. "I have so much to say. I have so many thoughts and feelings."
Those thoughts and feelings come pouring out of Sher, sometimes with a raw emotion that even takes her by surprise on stage. Stopping for a moment to catch her breath in the middle of a sob, she tells the audience that she usually cries a few moments earlier. Make no mistake, though. This show is funny.
Sher, after all, spent nearly a decade on the ABC sitcom The Middle. She played middle child Sue Heck in the middle-America middle-class family. The character was so popular that at one point, a Sue Heck spin-off was in the works, but it never materialized.
Much of the audience is there to see Sue Heck, and Sher generously obliges, delivering Sue's trademark "Really???!!!" and celebratory dance, eliciting giddy laughter from the crowd. But what Sher also give the audience is herself. Fully. Not just after the show for chats and photos (which she does nightly), but also on stage.
Sher deftly weaves a narrative that draws allusions to spending the formative years of her late teens and early adulthood as another person (Sue Heck) and then giving birth to identical twins. She is a gifted storyteller—recounting her traumatic pregnancy (often with her legs in the air in imagined stirrups) with the comedic flair of someone who grew up on a popular sitcom.
She bops back and forth, playing herself and the many doctors and nurses she dealt with—they tend to give her horrifying news while trying to figure out where they know her from. Just as she flips between characters, so does the audience between emotions—one moment in stitches as a pregnant Eden berates her husband for ruining her perfectly-planned Sea Foam Mist nursery with a poor paint application, then moments later nervously holding our breath as we wait with her to hear if her infant's first cry will come.
Sher felt so much failure around her pregnancy and found that what she was going through seemed solitary. "Nobody talks about postpartum. Nobody talks about just actual labor. Nobody talks about how insane being pregnant is, going into labor, giving birth to a child, having a C section, and then months or maybe a year, years postpartum. Nobody talks about how fucked it all is. How crazy it is," she says. "Everyone's just like, 'Oh, yeah, you had a job. And now you're a mom.' And, actually, it's not like that at all!"
Though Sher's story is uniquely her experience, she's finding it's still striking something in her audience. "So few people have had twins and have grown up on a television set. And somehow people are like, 'It really resonated with me,'" she shares. People can relate to the notes of identity crisis or postpartum depression, or, as Sher says, "Maybe it is even more basic. Just, like, everyone has had a period of their life that sucked that they can't quite articulate."
But then, even as we are talking on a picnic bench just outside the Gilded Balloon Teviot theatres, amongst a throng of Fringe-goers, an audience member and long-time fan approaches to tell Sher how much she loved the show. She also shared that she'd also had twins via C-section, and that she was fighting to hold it together during the performance. They spend a few moments trading stories, park recommendations, and even chocolates, before Sher returns to the interview. It really is a lovely exchange to witness.
"I have not had one negative interaction," Sher says with joy, and almost surprise, hinting that for as brave as she is in her performance, there may have still been some reserves about getting so personal.
Sher says that the first draft of the play was easy. That everything really did pour out onto the page, and the challenge was whittling it down to the one-hour monologue. She did so with the help of her husband, television writer Nick Cron-Devico, who is in Edinburgh with her and the twins for the whole month-long run of the show.
"I eventually realized, maybe if I just tell my story from start to finish, just talk about that honestly, that I'd sort of found the show. And I don't even have a clear cut, 'This is what I'm trying to say.' Maybe it is just "Now I'm this, and this is what being me is,'" she says. Then more decidedly: "I think there's something to just getting on stage and being like, 'This is me.'"
Eden Sher: I Was on a Sitcom runs at Gilded Balloon: Teviot through August 28. To learn about more Playbill recommended shows at this venue, click here.