The success of venues putting on no-charge performances, including PBH’s Free Fringe and Laughing Horse’s Free Festival, has helped to fuel the growth of the Fringe in recent years; in 2011, 607 shows will be on offer to audiences at no cost, up from 558 last year.
The Fringe box office opens tomorrow (10 June) at 10.00am on 0131 226 0000 or online at www.edfringe.com. For the first time in 2011, the Fringe Society is also launching a Fringe app for smartphones, through which tickets can also be purchased in August.
Launching the 2011 programme today in Edinburgh, Kath Mainland, chief executive of festival organisers, the Fringe Society, commented: “The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is still the first choice for performers, producers, venues, artists and creators to come and tell their story; we are proud that at the Fringe is still THE place to bring your work, with opportunities to amaze, enthral and excite audiences from both far away and close to home.”
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 12 August to 4 September 2011), the Edinburgh Fringe, the Military Tattoo, the Film Festival and the Book Festival - of which the Fringe is, by far, the largest, representing more than 75 percent of the overall festival market share.
A recent impact study undertaken by the Edinburgh Festivals concluded that the Fringe annually generates some £142 million for the Edinburgh and Scottish economy.
Theatre makes up 30% of this year’s programme – up 1% on last year – and is second only to comedy, which comprises 37%. A new dedicated category has been introduced this year for cabaret, comprising 2.5%. Other categories are musicals and opera (down 0.5% to 3.5%), dance and physical theatre (3.5%), children’s shows (4%), music (14%), exhibitions (2%) and events (3.5%).
Big names on the theatrical Fringe this year include: John Malkovich who’s directing Julian Sands in a Celebration of Harold Pinter; Soft Cell singer Marc Almond, starring in a new play written and directed by Mark Ravenhill; Simon Callow, after Fringe success playing Shakespeare and Charles Dickens, appearing in drag in the British premiere of Tuesday at Tesco’s, an adaptation of the French hit Le Mardi a Monoprix; Art Malik performing alongside his daughter in Hywel John’s Rose; Steven Berkoff directing his own version of Sophocles’ Oedipus, in which he’ll play Creon opposite Anita Dobson as Jocasta and Simon Merrells in the title role; Diana Quick transferring with HighTide Festival’s Midnight Your Time; Clive Mantle as late comedian Tommy Cooper in a revival of Jus’ Like That; and award-winning comedian Phil Nichol once again proving his acting chops with the Comedians Theatre Company premiere of Dave Florez’s Somewhere Beneath It All, A Small Fire Burns.
The Traverse, Scotland’s main home of new writing, welcome two national companies to their season, with the National Theatre of Scotland presenting Zinnie Harris' The Wheel directed by Vicky Featherstone, and David Greig's The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart and National Theatre Wales make their first trip across the border with Told By An Idiot collaboration The Dark Philosophers. Other highlights of the Traverse festival programme include: Tim Crouch’s one-man reworking of Twelfth Night, I, Malvolio; Traverse artistic director Dominic Hill’s production of Lynda Radley's Futureproof in conjunction with Dundee Rep; the Royal Lyceum Theatre Company premiere of Wondrous Flitting, written and directed by its artistic director Mark Thompson; Cora Bissett’s reprisal back of last year's Traverse hit Roadkill; and, as mentioned above, Mark Ravenhill and Conor Mitchell's musical theatre piece Ten Plagues.
Beyond the Traverse, the tenth anniversary of 9/11 invites examination in the likes of: new musical 11, weaving stories of how people’s lives have been affected; dance pieces Falling Man/Decreasing Infinity, inspired by photographs of a man falling from the Twin Towers; War at Home, an ensemble piece created by students’ journal entries; and Generation 9/11: So Far/So Close, about the aftermath conveyed via TV, the internet and phone.
The Fringe maintains its reputation for innovative “anything, anywhere” work as well thanks to the likes of: renowned company Grid Iron, returning for its 10th year at the Fringe, with What Remains, staged in the University of Edinburgh Medical School’s Anatomy Department; Sailing On, performed in a toilet; Alma Mater, in a bedroom care of an iPad; Even in Edinburgh/Glasgow, held on a train running between the two cities; (g)Host City, with different downloadable performances listened to on MP3 players during city walks; The Tour Guide, touring the streets of Edinburgh on an open-topped bus; May I Have The Pleasure...?, in which an oft-employed best man recounts his exploits at a wedding breakfast at the Point Hotel; The Moment I Saw You I Knew I Could Love You, during which the audience is cocooned in the belly of a whale; and The Oh F**k Moment of workplace mishaps, unfolding in an office.
Other wide-ranging theatrical offerings include: the world premiere of The World According to Bertie, the first stage adaptation of Scotsman Alexander McCall Smith's groundbreaking 44 Scotland Street series of novels; Federer versus Murray, a new play by Scottish writer and actress Gerda Stevenson; solo specialist Guy Masterson’s return as Shylock; Dutch teenagers Ontroerend Goed’s latest, Audience, in which they turn their cameras on attendees; site-specific legend David Leddy’s new Untitled Love Story; You Once Said Yes, in which audience answers drive forward the drama; An Instinct for Kindness, written and performed by Chris Larner about his experience accompanying his terminally-ill ex-wife to Switzerland’s Dignitas clinic; Looser Women, dating stories performed by comediennes and co-written by Tim Fountain and Suzanne Portnoy; and a fresh stint for School of Night, the improv group founded by late theatre maverick Ken Campbell.
Venues changes, milestones
Geographically, the biggest change on the Fringe landscape this year is, as already reported, the closure of the Assembly Rooms’ long-serving home on George Street, with the venue now taking over George Square, with a variety of converted and pop-up performances spaces, in the Old Town. The move shifts the focus of the Fringe very firmly to the South side of Edinburgh, where the other three “Big Four” venues - the Pleasance, the Underbelly and Gilded Balloon - have resided for years.
Also new for 2011, the BBC will host its own venue, the BBC@Potterow, as a home for some of its festival favourites including Just a Minute, Radio One’s Scott Mills, David Mitchell’s The Unbelievable Truth and BBC Scotland’s MacAulay & Co and Off the Ball. From its Edinburgh tent base, it will also broadcast Nick Grimshaw’s late night show live on Radio One.
Meanwhile, Fringe institution Late ‘n’ Live celebrates its 25th year, and is being filmed during the festival for a BBC documentary to be broadcast this autumn. And C Venues marks its 20th birthday, with a programme of over 110 shows and the addition of a new venue at the Edinburgh College of Art.
Full countdown coverage begins mid-July…