About This Festival
If you love the arts, Edinburgh offers a virtual ticket every summer when the Edinburgh Festival Fringe happens. With a programme of over 40,000 performances, 3,000 distinct shows and artists from nearly 50 countries, it’s no wonder that nearly 2 million people come out for the festival every year. Whether you’re into concerts, plays, and ballet; or opera, synchronized pyrotechnics, and improv comedy, there’s something on the schedule for you.
Rebel Roots at Edinburgh Festival Fringe
We know what you’re thinking: this doesn’t sound very “fringe” at all. Well, as with most successful festivals, there were some extraordinarily humble beginnings that led to this point. In 1947, eight small theater companies went rogue on the outskirts (or fringe, if you will) of the Edinburgh International Festival, a massive arts festival that still goes strong today. They held performances in the vicinity of the parent festival, highlighting an alternative to the established companies. These rogue performances got grouped together and became an annual occurrence, earning their name the following year from playwright/critic Robert Kemp, who observed, “Round the fringe of official Festival drama, there seems to be more private enterprise than before . . . I am afraid some of us are not going to be at home during the evenings!”
As you can probably tell, Fringe has a certain high-brow element, although it’s gotten broader and more all-encompassing over the years. There’s a fairly high bar for the production aesthetic of shows at Fringe, and any comedy-based stuff usually has a performative aspect and is likely of the drier, U.K. variety. Past comedic performers have included legends Dudley Moore and Peter Cook, with more recent appearances by Steve Coogan and Ricky Gervais.
On the Bill
Of course, “the play’s the thing” when you’re talking Fringe, and this festival has hosted some of the best. Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, his famous “slash fic” about two minor characters from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, debuted here in 1966. Moscow Stations by Tom Courtenay also enjoyed a successful run at the 1994 iteration. In addition to auspicious premieres, notable productions of established stories include Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple and a stage adaptation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest starring Christian Slater.
"Burst with enjoyment, enjoy every second" is the theme for 2013, with highlights including the science/magic/comedy of performer Oliver Meech, productions of Shakespeare’s tragic Romeo and Juliet and gory Titus Andronicus, and The Bespoke Overcoat, a humorous yet touching theater piece by Wolf Mankowitz.
Fringe is also, of course, still about the fringe. While there’s frequently a number of high-profile performances to attract big numbers, there are always up-and-coming young performers and companies that you can catch before they break big. Although the festival has been smacked with charges of rampant commercialism due to a high registration fee and the increasing costs of the average performance ticket, there are still a number of cheap and free shows worth checking out every year.
Although, you’ll be rubbing elbows with a cultured crowd inside venues, you’ll be sweating it out with the huddled masses in between, as Edinburgh turns into a massive outdoor party for most of the month. Stay as long as you can and soak it up. If the show you’re trying to see sells out of tickets, you can always grab a pint and watch one of the many street performers; you’ll see bands, jugglers, clowns, magic and practically anything wandering the streets.
You can’t go wrong seeking entertainment at Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It’s a festival chock full of creativity, color, sights and sounds, and has achieved the goal set more than 60 years ago of “providing a platform for the flowering of the human spirit.”