The 2005 Edinburgh Fringe programme, published today, features myriad productions inspired by the ongoing ‘War on Terror’. The 59th annual Festival Fringe, running this year from 7 to 29 August, involves an estimated 16,191 performers presenting 26,995 performances of 1,799 shows, more than a third of which are world premieres.

Theatre, once again, proves the festival’s most popular art form, comprising 37% of the programme (653 shows). Amongst the War on Terror productions are: Guardians, Mahwaff Theatre’s imagining of the truth behind the shocking images of at Abu Ghraib and Volcano’s My Pyramids, the story of Private Lynndie England, court-martialled for her involvement in abuse at the prison. In Our Diaries, from Stars of Bethelehem, Palestinian girls recall life during the Second Intifada, while Arches Theatre Company’s Snuff brings the War on Terror to Scotland.

Amongst the festival’s musicals, which comprise 5% of the overall schedule, there’s the tongue-in-cheek tale Terrorist the Musical from Bad Penny Theatre, while Daniel X Opera’s Manifest Destiny follows an Al-Qaeda love story which ends in Camp X-Ray. Other solo shows tackling similar subject matter include War, Terror and Other Fun Stuff by European Muslim Omar Marzouk, American Andrew J Lederer’s examination of the Bush administration Me and Hitler and Briton David Benson’s Conspiracy Cabaret.

Elsewhere in the theatre programme, other – albeit dark - highlights announced today include: the New York hit about innocent prisoners on Death Row, The Exonerated; domestic violence play Cage, in which a carcass is cut up in front of the audience; Murder in the Heart, a musical retelling of the Yorkshire Ripper killings; and Lorelei, recounting a mother’s campaign to save her daughter’s murderer from execution.

Commenting on this year’s programme, Fringe director Paul Gudgin said: “The widespread use of current, political and war-related themes demonstrates that while spectacular, fun and energetic, the Fringe never ignores the real world but tackles it head on, in many diverse and creative ways.”

More than half a million people plan their August holidays each year around a trip to Edinburgh. Though commonly seen as one single festival, the event is in reality several different festivals - the main ones being the original Edinburgh International Festival (running this year from 14 August to 4 September 2005), the Edinburgh Fringe, the Military Tattoo, the Jazz Festival, the Film Festival and the Book Festival - of which the Fringe is, by far, the largest.

Last year, for the second year in a row, the Fringe broke the million ticket barrier. Tickets for 2004 go on sale Monday 13 June and can be booked on 0131 226 0000. To access the full 2005 Edinburgh Fringe programme - as well as online booking - visit the festival website.

- by Terri Paddock