All the Fun of the Edinburgh Fringe

28 July 2014

String Band Madness Fringe

Edinburgh Fringe Festival
1-25 August 2014

Whatever August festival you visit the Scottish capital for, chances are the first you’ll encounter will be the Edinburgh Fringe Festival - even if you weren't planning on it! That's because, during summer, Edinburgh and the Fringe become almost indivisible. Whether you're arriving at Edinburgh Airport, getting off the train at Waverley, driving in to find a park in the suburbs, or just walking out of your front door - the Fringe is everywhere!

This quasi-ubiquity (try saying that after a few in the Pleasance Courtyard…) is no surprise though - with this year’s Fringe boasting 3193 productions hailing from 47 countries and making up 49,497 performances in 299 venues, the world's biggest arts festival needs every inch of space it can get. Performers pile not only into theatres but also lecture halls, cafes, pubs, clubs, basements, vaults, storage spaces, parks and the streets themselves. The Fringe floods through the city, ready to engulf you – but in a good way.

How It All Began

The Fringe story started with just eight theatre groups, who turned up uninvited to Edinburgh in 1947 to stage their shows on the 'fringe' of the first Edinburgh International Festival. Their cheeky performances were a hit, attracting more performers the next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, and… well, you get the idea. Now the Edinburgh Fringe is known throughout the world as a highlight in the performing arts industry’s calendar, a Must Do experience for every performer, and every performance lover.

Some people come to be discovered, hoping to follow in the footsteps of such famous names as Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Rowan Atkinson, Monty Python, and more recently, Tim Minchin and Flight of the Conchords. Every year, new people shoot to stardom, and as an audience member you have the chance to help find the Next Big Thing just by going to shows and raving about the ones that really shine.

Others come to workshop new ideas or explore different mediums, with famous faces a regular sight as they play rare, intimate shows and re-connect with their own beginnings. Simon Callow, star of stage and screen (including such movies as Four Weddings and a Funeral), had his first stage performance in the Assembly Hall in 1973, and he's there again this year with solo comedy show Juvenalia.

Other celebrity performers include Glen Matlock, a founding member of the Sex Pistols, telling tales from the world of punk, and Jack Gleeson, best known as Joffrey in Game of Thrones, who will be reborn in puppet, music and comedy show Bears in Space. At the Fringe, everyone is equal, and artists at all stages in their careers come to revel in this industry melting pot.

Still others come because the Edinburgh Fringe offers a unique platform for performances that challenge mainstream traditions, allowing for true artistic experimentation. Take All Back to Bowie's, an interactive performance in ‘David Bowie's Yurt of Thought’, where audiences will pull up a futon to discuss the Scottish independence referendum with local artists. Or Horizontal Collaboration, a piece of challenging new writing that will be performed by different actors every night, reading blind. When you hear people talk about the ‘real Fringe experience’, this sort of theatre is what they mean – challenging, innovative, and maybe even a little dangerous.

The vastness and diversity of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival can be daunting, especially when you first pick up the hefty programme. But Fringe veterans will tell you this is all part of the excitement. The rule of thumb is to pick out a few Must See shows and then let the festival fever take you where it will, picking up free tickets from performers sprucing their show on the Royal Mile, asking the people having a between-performances-pint for their pick(s) of the festival, or just sticking a random pin into the programme and letting fate decide.

Comedy, theatre, opera, dance, spoken word, cabaret, and everything else – it’s all here at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2014. Dive in.

Image and words thanks to Edinburgh Festivals.