SOUTH African actors are the toast of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

While the cast of JM Coetzee’s Life & Times of Michael K are receiving merited plaudits for their production at Assembly Hall, their compatriot actors in the brilliant show Dark Noon (Pleasance @ EICC, until Aug 27) are knocking the metaphorical ball out of the figurative park.

The play is presented by Danish company Fix+Foxy, with the backing of a bunch of producers (including Pleasance). Simultaneously hilarious and serious, the show is a stunningly inventive contemplation of the history of the “Wild West” of the United States and of the phenomenon of cinematic and TV Westerns.

Crucially, it views its American subjects through the prism of the brutal racial and economic history and legacy of European colonialism in South Africa.

From the early moment when members of the predominantly Black cast “white-up” to represent European settlers in North America, we are in a theatrical world of brilliantly observed irony and razor-sharp political comedy.

Playing on a large, initially bare square thrust stage, with the audience situated on three sides, the excellent cast turn the underground auditorium into a crucible of high-octane performance.

They use live video ingeniously in their telling of Wild West history, from the genocide of the peoples of the First Nations, through the gold rush, to the US Civil War.

The National:

In one darkly comic moment live film projects “Settlers vs. Natives” in an American football game. In others, 21st-century newscasts explore one of the most rapacious colonial projects in world history.

Remarkably, as the cast constructs a frontier town before our eyes, the bleakness of the subject is conveyed by a fabulously creative combination of deliciously sarcastic comedy, fast-paced performance and cleverly conceived audience participation.

Brought back powerfully to contemporary South Africa, this is political theatre of the most innovative, resonating and deceptively entertaining kind.

From a new political work to a modern classic in socially engaged theatre. The Berliner Ensemble’s production of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s great “play with songs” The Threepenny Opera (Festival Theatre, ends today) was always going to be a highlight of the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) programme.

The National:

Directed by the outstanding, Australian stage director Barrie Kosky, this is a sharp and stylish telling of Brecht’s tale of competition between organised criminals, and their collusion with senior police in Victorian London.

It is played on Rebecca Ringst’s extraordinary set, an intricate series of metal ladders and platforms that combines abstract modernist aesthetics with theatrical functionality in a way that would, I suspect, have met with Brecht’s approval.

The play premiered in 1928 and, denigrated by the Nazis as “entartete musik” (“degenerate music”), it was the epitome of everything that Hitler and his band of philistine thugs hated in German culture. Weill was Jewish, Brecht was Germany’s pre-eminent Marxist poet and playwright, and the music combined Weill’s Jewish heritage with the jazzy (ie: African-American) cosmopolitanism of the Weimar music hall.

As Kosky writes in his brilliant programme notes, whereas Wagner wrote about “the loneliness of the German forest, Weill wrote about the loneliness of the German city.”

This atmosphere of brittle urbanism runs like a thread through the Australian’s stunning production.

The music is lively, catchy, dissonant and, when required, played with tremendous force by the superb orchestra. The performances – from Gabriel Schneider’s cocksure crime baron Macheath to (his primary love interest) Polly Peachum, played with glamour and politicised anger by Cynthia Micas – spark with knowing, satirical irony.

Weill should, as Kosky writes, be considered as great a composer of songs as Schumann or Strauss. Brecht is the greatest innovator of 20th-century theatre.

Both facts are reflected in this masterful production and, on Friday night, attested by a sustained standing ovation from an enthralled Edinburgh audience.

Dimanche (Church Hill Theatre, run ended) is, surely, among the most original, and the most brilliant, theatre works ever to be presented at the EIF. The work of Belgian companies Focus and Chaliwaté, it combines puppetry, mime, physical comedy and video work to consider the climate emergency that – recent events from India to Hawaii attest – is not so much coming as well-and-truly upon us.

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We follow a film crew as they set out in their little camper van to capture on camera the realities of the anthropocene. The bonhomie of the group is represented hilariously by a mime scene of them crammed in the front of the van as they drive along.

The varied, but thematically, interconnected scenes that follow include the devastating consequences of the melting of the polar ice caps. The pathos and empathy with which the company manages to imbue a remarkable, life-sized puppet of an adult polar bear is truly remarkable.

Indeed, scene after scene – including the very funny, but arrestingly terrifying, slapstick comedy that depicts the impacts of climate chaos on a middle-class, Western family – is characterised by an extraordinary level of technical proficiency.

One finds oneself simultaneously in awe of the company’s theatrical ingenuity and stopped, soberingly, in one’s tracks by the undeniable urgency of the show’s observations of ecological disaster.

The moments in which the ever-dwindling film crew is suddenly reduced by another member are a breathtaking combination of the Chaplinesque comedy of mishap and heart-stopping horror. Although constructed of a series of scenes in a variety of locations, the piece moves forward (as does the climate crisis) with a compelling momentum.

It can only do so thanks to a cast and crew who are able to rise impressively to the constant demands of the production’s complex stage technology.

There is a remarkable cast of a very different kind in the extraordinary Gusła (Summerhall, until August 27). The piece is directed for the Lubuski Teatr of the Polish city of Zielona Góra by Grzegorz Bral, artistic director of the acclaimed Polish company Song of the Goat.

Based upon a text by the great pillar of Polish culture Adam Mickiewicz, this production dares to combine mythology, ritual, forceful song, emotive performance, astonishing costumes and highly stylised movement in ways that are simply foreign to the cultures of the UK.

The National:

In Scotland, only Company of Wolves (whose founders worked with Song of the Goat in Poland) dare to aim for such aesthetics.

Bral seems to have decided that the piece, which is built around a ritual of mourning, is so powerful that it doesn’t require English surtitles to accompany its Polish text. He is almost correct.

Astounding though Gusła is, one can’t help but feel that both Edinburgh audiences and Bral’s amazing actors are being short-changed by the absence of translated text.

Finally, a brief word about Friday’s concert (in the EIF’s wonderful series of 11am Queen’s Hall chamber music performances) by the Castalian String Quartet.

Sandwiched between gorgeously performed pieces by Janáček and Beethoven was the world premiere of Awake for String Quartet by acclaimed English composer Mark-Anthony Turnage.

Closer stylistically to Janáček than to Beethoven, this excellent new work shares with the great Czech composer a predilection for enlivening, carefully considered moments of discordance that break pleasingly through the harmonies.

If Turnage’s composition impressed, so, too, did the exceptional violinist Yume Fujise, who, at very short notice, replaced the Castalian’s second violin Daniel Roberts (who was taken unwell).