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Edinburgh Fringe: what's on?

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 06 August 2010

As Edinburgh's Fringe Festival gets underway, Channel 4 News takes a look at this year's hottest tickets at the world's largest arts festival.

Image copyright: Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society

The Scottish capital celebrates its 64th annual Festival Fringe this year. With 2,453 shows, it will be the largest the picturesque city of Edinburgh has ever hosted.

The Fringe is known for its celebration of artistic eclecticism. Original comedy, theatre, dance, exhibitions, children's shows, music, musicals and opera from all over the world will be showcased during the festival, which the Fringe Society promises will "engage, enthral, excite and delight".

This year, in keeping with fringe tradition, performances span everything from gritty contemporary drama and literary classics to the comedic and the absurd. Since a great deal of what takes place is not vetted by a judging panel, leftfield arts flourish in a climate of experimentation.

The fringe: a brief history
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival began in 1947 as an alternative to the Edinburgh International Festival, which centres around a slightly more 'highbrow' offering of classical music, theatre, opera and dance.

Although its name suggests the contrary, the Fringe has far surpassed the International Festival in size and become not only Edinburgh's largest cultural celebration, sprawling over three fun-packed weeks in August, but also the largest in the world.

The Fringe is dominated by comedy and theatre - making up 64 per cent of the programme this year - where up and coming talent is showcased alongside established performance artists.

Big names
Although the sheer scale of the festival, and its unique approach to welcoming new acts, means there is always something new and unfamiliar to see, the festival never runs short of famous names and big acts to impress the starstruck.

A myriad of comedians including Paul Merton, Eddie Izzard, Josie Lawrence and Greg Proops will take to the stage to chart the life and work of Fringe veteran Jim Sweeney in The Sweeney at the Gilded Balloon (17 August). At the Assembly, Alan Cumming will be performing songs from his debut album in I Bought a Blue Car Today (13-15 August).

While the Divine Comedy kick off the fringe on Friday 6 August at the Liquid Room, Dizzee Rascal, who wowed festival-goers at Glastonbury earlier this summer, will be performing at the Corn Exchange on August 26.

As seen on TV
The Wire
fans will be able to catch Clark Peters (Detective Lester Freamon) in the musical Five Guys Named Moe at Underbelly (4-29 August), and Mighty Boosh officionados will be treated to Rich Fulcher: An Evening with Eleanor, the Tour Whore (21-30 August), and Noel Fielding from behind the scenes directing Paul Foot - Ash in the Attic (5-15 and 17-29 August). Ugly Betty's Michael Urie (Marc St James) and Cheers's George Wendt (Norm) will also be reading choice extracts from the confessions of the rich and famous in Celebrity Autobiography (5-30 August).

The Fringe: facts and figures
40,254 performances
- 21,148 performers
- 2,453 shows - 17 per cent more than in 2009
- 259 venues, not to mention numerous impromptu street acts
- Comedy makes up 35 per cent of the programme, theatre 29 per cent, music 16 per cent and musicals
  and opera 5 per cent
- The Fringe has a 75 per cent  market share of all attendance at Edinburgh's year-round festivals
- The Fringe generates around £75m for the Edinburgh and Scottish economy

Free frolics
Of the 2453 shows at the festival this year, a whopping 558 are absolutely free. At Fringe Central, for example, the Royal National Theatre is curating a series of events including Kwame Kwei-Armah: The Artist in Society, a free ticketed event in which the playwright and broadcaster will discuss the role of the artist in society (24 August).

The Fringe is known for its weird and wonderful offerings - and sometimes the moments that can't be pencilled in the diary are the most memorable. Acts taking place outside the proscenium arch include site-specific shows such as a restaurant 100 feet above the city and a Festival in the Sky at The Sky Gardens (7-31 August).
Image courtesy of Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society

While many events are ticketed, a great deal of the action takes place in the streets - particularly the Royal Mile - where festival-goers can catch a host of acts for free. At the beginning of the festival this is also a good spot to pick up the odd promotional ticket as plays and comedy acts entice audiences to their shows.

The festival can be a fast-paced frenzy with hordes of festival goers and acts thronging the streets and venues. Some of the larger venues which have bars and cafes are good places to hang out and absorb the festival atmosphere; The Pleasance Courtyard - which hosts a plethora of comic acts - is always a good spot to sit down, have a well-earned drink and eavesdrop on some comedians exchanging one-liners inbetween shows.

The Fringe online
- Follow the festival on Twitter
- Join in on Facebook
- Get the latest news at the festival website

The 2010 Edinburgh Fringe runs from 6-30 August. The Fringe Box Office opens Friday 11 June. Tickets can be booked at or by calling +44(0)131 226 0000.

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Edinburgh Fringe

Courtesy of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society

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