Brief Candle

Theatre (historical, new writing)

  • theSpace @ Surgeons Hall - Theatre 3
  • 21:20
  • Aug 26
  • 45 minutes
  • Suitability: 12+ (Guideline)
  • Country: United Kingdom - Scotland
  • Group: Blushing Caligula
  • Warnings and additional info: Contains distressing or potentially triggering themes, Scenes of violence, Strong language/swearing
  • Accessibility:
    Wheelchair Accessible Toilets
    May not apply to all performances. You'll find more information about accessibile performances and how to book tickets in the accessibility tab below.
  • Babes in arms policy: Babies do not require a ticket
  • Policy applies to: Children under 18 months


Deep beneath the streets of Regency Edinburgh lies a labyrinth of pitch-dark vaults, housing the downtrodden and hiding a criminal underworld. Within, Isla dreams of one day lifting her ill Mum out of their basement vault. Today though, her Mum’s birthday, just seeing her face for the first time in years will do. As Isla fights to find a candle, she discovers secrets about the place she calls home, and the people who run it, while the Great Fire of Edinburgh rages above. Class war meets climate emergency satire in this new play by David R. Ford.

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General venue access

  • Wheelchair Accessible Toilets
  • Accessible entry: Information not supplied
  • Wheelchair access type: Level Access

  • Stairs: Information not supplied

Each venue can contain several space with different accessibly information. Visit the venue page for full venue accessibility info

How and when to make an access booking

Our access tickets service is available to anyone who:

  • Would like to book specific accessibility services, e.g. a hearing loop, audio description headsets, captioning units, seating in relation to the location of the BSL interpreter
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  • Requires a complimentary personal assistant ticket to attend a performance

Rebecca Moessmer 23 days ago

Absolut incredible show, both in terms of writing and performance! Emma Ford’s energy here is unmatched, I was completely captivated by her the whole time, I felt like I completely forgot it was only her on stage and not all of the vaults' residents. And she truly WAS Isla.
The writing also had me nearly crying at the end, I loved the way this story was told through the eyes of such an optimistic, resourceful, and daring girl. Her thoughts and feelings were so interesting to hear, how normal these horrifying conditions were to her or how she really experienced two different worlds, below and above, with different rules and societies. I feel like this perspective gave us, the audience, a way more hopeful outlook on things and I loved to see her character development through that short span of time. The way the dichotomy of fire, as bringer of light/hope/life/connection, but also of destruction/death/etc., was used here was also genius. The show was so atmospheric, it truly felt like we all were on this endeavour with Isla in the vaults. I’d love for this show to return to Fringe (one day?), so I could experience it again.

Corene L 32 days ago

This show is superb. David R Ford’s beautiful writing brings the setting and characters to life, and Emma Ford’s performance is a joy. I can’t stop thinking about Isla. She’s witty and brave, and she’ll steal your heart. If you enjoy tales of secrets and subterranean places, you’ll love Brief Candle. A truly unforgettable production.

Albert 33 days ago

What a captivating story and performance! So much narrated in a one-woman show.
Emma manages not only to portray Isla but also other characters in the story with such an emotion, that keeps you intrigued from beginning to end. A lot of talent, a must see show.

Emma + Craig Gibson 33 days ago

What an incredible show! The history of Edinburghs vaults is just as dark as the depths of them. Emma was phenominal, and portrayed so many REAL faces of the vaults and brought them to life. Poignant, beautiful, historical, heartbreaking, hopeful... Honestly a must see if you wish to know the hardship/hope the people of the vaults endured and hear their true stories!

Evelyn and Bob Haddock 33 days ago

The topic of this show appealed to us, so we decided to go and we certainly weren’t disappointed. We were transported to the depths of the Edinburgh vaults by the young and beautiful Isla, brilliantly played by Emma Ford while the fire raged above. The story quickly drew us in and we were mesmerised by the clever writing of David R Ford and the way the story was brought to life and we felt the horrors of living in those times. We would 100% advise booking this show, it was brilliant.

Joanna Sykes 33 days ago

This show was phenomenal!
The actress was captivating - she had the audience in tears at some points and brought us all along the journey so beautifully.
The writing was really clever - I knew some of the history, but the storytelling really translated it into something truly relatable - imagining what it was actually like to live down there, the way you'd have to move to the characters you might meet and the secrets they're hiding.
It was clearly very well researched, but the facts were effortlessly woven in.
The story has stayed with me and I feel like I care about the characters we 'met' along the way! I could barely believe you could achieve that in a one woman show!
So pleased we went to see this, was absolutely one of my highlights of fringe - couldn't recommend enough!

Helen 34 days ago

This play expertly unearths the history of the Edinburgh vaults and brings a personal touch when doing so. Both the writer and cast perfectly portray what life was like within the vaults but also creates the illusion that you are too living this with Isla as you follow her journey.

Brilliantly written. Amazingly acted. 100% must see at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Rachel and John 34 days ago

Wow - a brilliantly written and acted play depicting a little known event that has been lost in history and takes you through a full range of emotions.

Set in Edinburgh in 1824 during the great fire, this moving and emotional story is cleverly written by David R Ford and features Isla, a hugely likeable 15 year old girl, expertly played by Emma Ford. The play portrays in detail what life was like for the poor, forgotten and socially invisible residents of the horrific underground vaults and the tragic events that unfolded when the fire took hold in the streets above them. The ending was poignant and brilliant.

I would love to see this play again and highly recommend it to everyone.

Bronwen 35 days ago

This is a really clever play that unearths a forgotten part of Edinburgh's history by way of the Great Fire of Edinburgh in 1824 and the people that lived underground in the vaults of the Cowgate. Brilliantly performed by Emma Ford, whose family live in the vaults, the fire rages above and we are reminded that little has in fact changed. This summer fires rage as a result of climate change and access to decent affordable housing is very much a live issue in Edinburgh and the UK at large. I hope to see more plays in the future by David Ford, definitely new writing talent.

Bill 35 days ago

Excellent show. Fantastic performance. Highly recommended.

Lyn and Tim Bunker 35 days ago

So good we saw it twice! We went on Thursday and had to return Friday.

This show was so cleverly performed, taking you back in time to the Great Fire of Edinburgh in 1824. The show is performed by one actress. Her character, Isla is a 15 year old girl who tells of her life story of living underground in the vaults. Her dream was to make a better life for herself on the outside world one day.

The tale is how this one event changes everything and her story of growing up in such times.

So pleased we came across this performance, whist shocked to discover it is their first Fringe as the performance was confident, informative and enthralling. If you get the chance to go before it ends we would highly recommend it.

Sean Davis 36 days ago

Brief Candle (****)
A 15-year old girl tells of life in the 4-level vaults under the Edinburgh South Bridge where hundreds of people lived before the three-day fire in 1824. She does a wonderful job of conveying what life would be like when your family lives in total darkness without candles, and doesn’t see the sun for months at a time.

This is the 12th most enjoyable of the 131 shows I have seen so far at the Fringe this year. I hope to see almost 200.

Amy Watson 36 days ago

A fantastic and captivating performance telling a dark tale of Edinburghs history. I highly recommend going to see this brilliant show- not to be missed! The highs and lows of the story were portrayed excellently by the actor. A real treat to see.

Simon Argyle - Anam Alba 37 days ago

This is an incredible performance of a story unknown to me. The actor was superb and my friends and I were intensely following the story throughout. I recommend this show for the acting, story and to learn some of Edinburgh's dark past.

Paul Stephens 38 days ago

Brilliant. Carried you into the underworld of 1824 Edinburgh. An impressive solo performance. A chance walk in off the street for us, and definitely worth seeing.

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Neurodiverse Review (4/5 stars) 32 days ago

Writer David R. Ford arms Emma Ford with descriptive and powerful imagery which engulfs the audience. Their work, partnered with minimal but impactful tech makes Brief Candle unmissable.

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The Smu Reviews (4/5 stars) 32 days ago

Brief Candle is an artful example of a tale delivered in a pure, and fittingly old fashioned way.

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