A record number of shows will be staged at this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe, brushing off fears that the clash with the London Olympics would harm the Festival. A 6% increase on last year's programme will see 2,695 shows take to theatres, pubs, nooks, crannies and gardens all over Scotland's capital in August with 47 countries represented .
Kath Mainland, Chief Executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society said:
This is the Year of Creative Scotland and it is the year in which the world's greatest sporting event, the Olympic and Paralympic Games, happens in London while the world's greatest cultural event takes place in Edinburgh. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is still the first choice for performers, producers, artists and creators to come and tell their story; we are proud that the Fringe is still the place to bring your work, with opportunities to amaze, enthral and excite audiences from both far away and close to home. We have a programme that will capture the attention of people all over the world and demonstrate why over the last sixty six years the Fringe has grown into the greatest show on earth.
It is also Jubilee year and the 60th anniversary of The Queen's reign is marked with La Clique Royale – The Queen's Selection, Maurice's Jubilee sees Julian Glover and Sheila Reid in a brand new play by Nichola McAuliffe, and Tea With The Old Queen tells the true story of the Queen Mother's butler ‘Backstairs Billy'.
There's the usual mix of politics and comedy: Tony Benn: Will and Testament at the Assembly Rooms will see the former Minister sharing some of his life experience (no comedy here), while Alan Davies – Life is Pain; Paul Merton's Impro Chums with guests Mike McShane, Lee Simpson, Richard Vranch and Suki Webster, and Sandi Toksvig Live: My Valentine will try and get 'em rolling in the aisles.
Well-known names include Les Dennis in Jigsy, the story of a comedian with over 30 years in the business, and Willy Russell's Educating Rita has a new outing starring Matthew Kelly and Claire Sweeney.
The Olympic's may be down south, but they're not forgotten: Chariot: The Eric Liddell Story tells the story of one of Scotland's greatest Olympic athletes, and Al Murray the Pub Landlord: The Guv's Olympic Pub Quiz hopes to be the ultimate Olympic Pub Quiz.
There's a vast selection for kids with Elmo, Cookie Monster and Big Bird in Sesame Street Live – Elmo Makes Music and Fringe favourite The Enormous Turnip is back for a tenth year.
A number of plays have a woman, best known for being behind the male lead, coming to the fore to tell her own tale: I Shall Be Remembered – The Story of Madame de Pompadour, Lady M from the Scottish play and Miss Havisham's Expectations are some. Miriam Margolyes – Dickens' Women sees the actress explore 23 of Dickens' female characters.
Shakespeare is, as always, at the n°1 slot with more than 45 productions that involve him in some way: The Merry Wives of Osaka moves the drama to Japan, Macbeth in Scots is exactly what it says, and Macbeth Unsexed! has an all female cast. Fringe First winners in 1995, Poland's Teatr Biuro Podrozy, will perform Macbeth: Who Is That Bloodied Man.
Music is everywhere, from Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells For Two, which is a two man interpretation of the 1973 classic, to The National Youth Orchestra of Iraq making their Edinburgh début. The orchestra, formed in 2009, together a mixture of self-taught Kurdish, Arab, Turkmen and Assyrian 16-29 year old musicians. For the concert, the orchestra will be joined by Julian Lloyd Webber and the Edinburgh Youth Orchestra.
The Fringe programme comes in at 376 pages, weighs 605 grams!
Photo: Educating Rita,Matthew Kelly and Claire Sweeney
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.