The city’s favourite time of year has returned, bringing with it an abundance of events throughout the month celebrating the arts community across Brighton & Hove and beyond. But with more than 4,000 performances descending upon the city over the next few weeks (covering art, books, debates, circus, classical composition, contemporary music, comedy, dance and many more genres - and that’s just the first half of the alphabet), it can be difficult to find the most standout shows across the Fringe and Festival season. Just as well, then, that we’ve had the time to cherry pick the best of what the month has to offer…

Celebrate the launch of Brighton’s festival season with the best party in town - and a taste of what’s to come over the month. From 5.30pm the Fringe’s main hub The Warren will be open to all, but get in quick as it’s sure to fill up early! The Pick of the Fringe launch night special is legendary among festival regulars for its showcase of Fringe highlights, and is perfect for those unsure of just what’s available over the next five weeks.

It wouldn’t be a true Festival highlights list without including this year’s guest curator, and Rokia Traoré is more than worthy of that title. Malian Traoré explores the complex meaning of ‘home’ with the performance of her sixth studio album Né So, which expertly combines Mandingue and Western pop/rock influences through a stylistic range and depth other musicians struggle to equal.

Later in the month, Traoré appears in conversation with Peter Sellars at The Old Market on 24th May.

It’s been almost a decade since her last solo show, and yet Bryony Kimmings’ Fringe show I’m A Phoenix, Bitch may be her most fearless yet. In 2016, Kimmings nearly drowned. Postnatal breakdowns, an imploding relationship and an extremely sick child left her sitting beneath the waves hoping she could slowly turn to shell. Two years later and she is able to deal with life again, but life after trauma is a long and winding road which still needs navigating. Combining personal stories with epic film, soundscapes and ethereal music the artist creates a dark and joyful work about motherhood, heartbreak and finding inner strength. Like a phoenix rising from the flames, Kimmings returns more powerful than ever before.

Award-winning musical comedy performer Hannah Brackenbury reflects on a decade as a Brightonian in this heartfelt and hilarious musical tribute to her adopted city. Featuring original comedy songs, poems and parodies, All Things Brighton Beautiful is the perfect antidote for those feeling disenchanted with the city - and a great reminder for why so many still love it.

If you can expect anything from fast-rising Australian comedian Brodi Snook, a tale told vividly and with a little too much information is probably pretty high on that list. “Vulgar, candid and drier than a popcorn fart” (BN1 Magazine), Snook has taken a break from her career as a foot model (selling photos of her toes to foot perverts for cash) and having panic attacks in train station toilets to return to Brighton Fringe with a brand new work in progress that is painfully relatable.

Based around his hit podcasts The Butterfly Effect and The Last Days of August, Welsh journalist, writer and documentary maker Jon Ronson explores the curious world of porn in this new show at Brighton Festival. With new stories, never-heard-before audio and some very strange (PG-rated) porn clips, Jon will reveal the mysterious, funny and sometimes sad results of his quest to discover why people are uncomfortable with porn stars when they see them in real life.

An installation set to spark wonder for all ages, festivalgoers will be able to enjoy a picnic under the moon this festival season with Luke Jerram’s touring artwork. Featuring detailed NASA imagery of the lunar surface, each centimetre of this moon model represents 5km of the moon’s surface, its internal lights meaning every crater will be visible 24 hours a day within the lush Queens Park surroundings.

Join Cut Mustard Theatre for a low-fi extravaganza through deep outer space as we join a hapless human, an unbeatable heroine and a Dark Lord bent on universal domination. 2100: A Space Novelty makes full use of physical comedy that goes beyond any regular comedy show; with elements of mime, vocal sound effects, live music, origami spaceships and multilingual characters, this is a space show like no other.

Performed by an all-female cast, TRIBE//’s debut work Still I Rise channels the resilient, unapologetic nature of the seminal poem written by Maya Angelou to create a raw, gutsy, emotive and visceral dance work where the dancers push forward with uplifting determination. Choreographer Victoria Fox’s work reflects a relentless hope for the human spirit, combined with a soundtrack from pounding beats to classical arias, drives the journey onwards, falling down, then gathering up… until again, we rise.

Two idiots at the BBC are making another Blue Planet, but how do you know what a fish is if you've never left your office? Put on your polar ice caps and climb aboard an adventure to save the oceans in this comedy show by the “hugely talented” (Chortle) Luke Rollason and the “hilarious” (The List) Christian Brighty. Suitable for children - but big kids will love it just the same.

Escape into the Russian folktales of Baba Yaga in this digital art event by Society of Cocktails, which incorporates quality spirits and recipes with stunning visuals and storytelling. Set in a digital forest which immerses all senses, adventurers will be tasked with following Baba’s riddles in an attempt to appease the Russian witch with concoctions of Tuaca, Mozart, Reyka Vodka and Monkey 47 gin (among other mysterious ingredients). 

Celebrating male tenderness, silliness, vulnerability and community with a cast of young men of colour from England, BOYS gives us a window to share their experiences, their hopes, families and globe-spanning heritage. In their stories, brought alive by a ‘slick and impressive’ (The Reviews Hub) physical performance, you will see reflections of your brothers, friends, parents and lovers. Unscripted, with each story uniquely told in every performance, BOYS is a joyful and tender dance that hopes to unravel preconceptions and uncover the endless possibilities that can make up a man.

The company behind the international smash hit shows Bromance and Kin return with Shift - an explosive display of power-based acrobatics being performed through half-term. Marooned in an unstable world, the performers push physical performance to its limits, using hand-to-hand acrobatics, Cyr wheel and more to show off how challenging contemporary circus can be. Their crowd-pleasing shows have won over legions of fans and this brand new adventure looks set to be a firm favourite as part of Brighton Fringe Festival.

Come out in your frilliest of dresses and your sharpest of bow ties for the Queer Prom’s Fringe debut. This event provides a platform for those who didn’t go to their prom (or who perhaps didn’t go as their true selves) to do it again - the right way, and as queer as they like. A celebration of queer love in all its forms with queer cabaret, drag performance, DJs, a photo booth to take home memories of the prom you always wanted.

Published -1st May 2019