The 2013 Edinburgh Fringe programme has been published, with highlights including a musical about next year's Scottish independence referendum, a show from controversial MP George Galloway and a new play by David Greig part inspired by the Anders Breivik massacre.
A total of 2,871 shows and events make up this year's programme for the world's largest arts festival, up 176 from last year and an increase of 329 on 2011. An estimated 24,107 performers will take part over the course of the festival, which runs this year from 2 to 26 August.
I'm With The Band, an 'indie-rock musical' that centres on next year's Scottish independence referendum, is written by Welshman Tim Price and will premiere at the Traverse.
Price said: "I'm With The Band explores the Independence question, through a rock
band losing their guitarist. It asks, could the Union survive without
Scotland? And could Scotland survive without the Union? Theatre is in a unique position to respond rapidly to national
questions, and it is a privilege to contribute to this debate at the
home of new writing in Scotland."
The Traverse will also stage David Greig's new play The Events, which is partly based on the Anders Breivik massacre in Norway and "explores the impact of a horrific politically motivated crime in a small community".
Meanwhile, this year's Spoken Word section of the programme features a diverse range of personalities ranging from Ben Fogle to George Galloway MP, who both appear at the Assembly Rooms.
The Fringe features a host of new venues this year including Topside, a new 200-capacity theatre studio built on to the back of the Festival Theatre that expands Underbelly's programme.
Paterson's Land, a University of Edinburgh building normally used for training teachers, will host work by companies inlucding Scottish Opera, National Threatre of Scotland and Oxygen, a collaboration between the University of Edinburgh and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
The site of the former Fountain Brewery will play home to NoFit State Circus' show Bianco in a custom built, "spaceship-shaped" tent. And the Arthur Conan Doyle Centre, a prestigious Victorian townhouse on the corner of Chester Street and Palmerston Place, will present shows in its "elegant drawing room".
Assembly Checkpoint is also a new venue this year based in the building formerly occupied by Forest Fringe, which has moved to Out of the Blue Drill Hall, off Leith Walk.
'The most wonderful event'
Launching the programme today, Kath Mainland, chief executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society said: "The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is not just important for being the largest arts festival in the world, or for being completely open access - although those things are profoundly important, but more important for being the most wonderful event, created by the spontaneous freedom of expression of tens of thousands of creative souls, from all over the world, from all walks of life, at all stages of their careers, and representing all artforms."
Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, added: "The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest, most vibrant festival of its kind in the world – bringing visitors from far and wide to Scotland's capital to see the incredibly diverse array of creative activity it has to offer, and promoting Scotland's rich culture and distinct heritage on the world stage.
"It makes strong economic sense to ensure Scotland's own exceptionally creative talent is placed at the heart of the Fringe and is able to benefit from the global exposure the Festival can bring. That is why, through the Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund, the Scottish Government has awarded £450,000 to support our home-grown talent to showcase their dance, drama and music at this year's Fringe through the Made in Scotland programme."
This year's festival will see the return of the British Council's biennial Edinburgh showcase, as well as the fifth year of the Made in Scotland showcase, which "celebrates the wealth and diversity of work that is currently being made and produced in Scotland".
Ian Lavender will make his Fringe debut alongside Omid Djalili and Paul Nicholls in The Shawshank Redemption at the Assembly Rooms, and Steven Berkoff will star in An Actor's Lament, a comedy about the "bizarre" lives of actors.
Comedy makes up 33% of this year's Fringe, and sees the return of household names including Russell Kane, Reginald D Hunter, Jason Manford, David Baddiel and Ardal O'Hanlon. Alexei Sayle performs his first full-length stand-up show in 17 years, and US comic Tig Notaro will make her UK debut with Tig Notaro - Boyish Girl Interrupted.
A new Facebook ticketing app has also been launched, which will allow audiences to browse the programme, buy tickets and share their Fringe plans all through Facebook. The official Fringe app will also return this year, giving iPhone and Android users features to help plan their time at the Fringe.
See box below for Twitter reaction to today's launch...