Welcome to the Fringe
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe welcomes artists from all over the world, filling nearly 300 venues throughout (and beyond) Edinburgh with performances of all sorts. There are old stories and new; tales from across the ocean and close to home; people and puppets, one-man shows and huge ensemble pieces, short plays and all-day events. Prepare for the world’s largest arts festival.
Here, stories we know and love are injected with new energy. Take a bus and boat to Macbeth on Inchcolm Island, a site-specific adaptation of the Shakespeare favourite on an island in the Firth of Forth, playing out under a darkening sky. At Summerhall, formerly the Royal ***** Veterinary School, award-winning actor Guilherme Leme brings to life Camus’ most famous novel, The Stranger, using an adaptation by Morten Kirkskov. Nearby, the venue Zoo is hosting an adaption of George Orwell’s 1984. The production by EmpathEyes Theatre in Association With UCLU Runaground will use multimedia projections, live music and physical theatre to take us into a world where everything is watched by Big Brother, promising to disorient, challenge and excite its audience.
Other shows promise the entirely new. There’s drama and insight in Boy in a Dress, showing at The Stand III & IV. La JohnJoseph will combine monologue, song, striptease, vaudeville and philosophy in an exploration of their story; being a third gendered, ex-model, fallen Catholic from a working-class background provides them with a unique perspective of class, gender, identity and religion.
Or there’s new comedy: in the Quaker Meeting House, the Paper Crane Puppet Company present Ronnie and the Other World, telling the story of puppet Ronnie who wakes up one day to find his perfect life in Happydale has disappeared and he is in the real world. The horrified puppet is faced with the biggest challenge of his life.
The Blind, being shown in Old College Quad, is an outdoor performance by The KTO Theatre 2 company inspired by Blindness, a novel by Nobel Laureate Jose Saramago. Expect a spectacular and disturbing performance, set in a hospital among the secluded blind.
For those with the best of stamina, 24h is a 24 hour play presented in Summerhall by Waclaw Miklaszewski with the Szwalnia Theatre. This is an ambitious theatrical experiment, telling the stories of 24 lives in one long, slow, lazy day, filled with a cappella music, working with improvisation, live painting, images and sound. Tickets are only £1, and people can enter and exit as they wish, but it’s only running for 48 hours – 2 shows.
Between performances, look out for the Hunt and Darton Café, an installation theatre project in the St James Centre, where everything from the food, the clientele and the profits or losses are part of the art. It’s open til late, offering games and a full program of artist waiters.
The Fringe has not escaped national and international politics, either. Learn a little about Scotland at the Gilded Balloon with I, Tommy, a comedic theatrical look at one of Scotland’s most popular and eclectic politicians, Tommy Sheridan. Then head to the Pleasance Dome for Coalition, a fast-moving satire about the coalition of the Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats.
Taking a more serious tone is Mike Daisy’s The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, showing at the Guilded Balloon. The play tells the story of the factory workers involved in the production of Apple products, acting as a theatrical and confronting expose of their working conditions and our consumer culture. The Price of Everything by Daniel Bye also examines how and why we value things, and will be showing at the Northern Stage at St Stephen’s, a venue dedicated to work from the Greater North of England.
Performers come from everywhere, to do everything. From America we have David Hasselhoff, giving behind-the-scenes insight into his life every night for a week at Pleasance Courtyard. Also look out for Santigold, the incredibly talented American writer and performer of the best sort of modern pop music, who will be appearing at the HMV Picturehouse on the 22nd of August.
As per usual, Australia has provided a huge number of comedians, among them Fringe veterans Adam Hills, at Assembly Hall, and Axis of Awesome at Pleasance Courtyard. There are also serious offerings: The Day the Sky Turned Black is a drama based on interviews with survivors of 2009’s Black Saturday bushfires, playing at Assembly Roxy.
Brazil! Brazil! are a group from – you guessed it – Brazil, whose late night performance of Samba/Salsa fusion at the Assembly Rooms will be a festival fixture throughout August.
The National Youth Orchestra of Iraq, the brainchild of a pianist from Bagdad, founded four years ago when she was just seventeen, will be visiting the UK for the first time, to perform at Greyfriars Kirk. They will be joined on stage by British cellist Julian Lloyd Webber, and Khyam Allami, best known for his performances on the Arabic oud lute.
The list goes on, amazing performances fillings the city’s venues with burlesque, drama, dance, music, comedy, children’s shows, operas, exhibitions, spoken word and much more. If you can stage it, it will be here, and the wonderful challenge for visitors is finding it all. So enjoy. The full program is available here for exploring, alongside ticket sales.