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Here’s Your Definitive Guide To Edinburgh Fringe 2023 (You’re Welcome)

The finest shows at Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Allegedly.

Hello to you,

I’ve been very well thanks for asking.

Anyway, with over 1 million tickets issued so far and thousands of people watching street performances and free shows; the 2023 Fringe is proving as popular as ever. 

I have pulled together a list of very good shows– and others that should be good.

First up: Spooky-but-silly sketch show Party Ghost is hilarious, I hear.

Queue for returns for All Inside by fourth-wall breaking Adrian Bliss– I think he is a surreal superstar – don’t miss him at The Pleasance.

You are in safe hands with Jenny Sealey, artistic director of disabled-led theatre company Graeae, who makes her stage debut in Self-raising, a hilarious true-life story about growing up Deaf.

Cross genre Frankie Thompson and Liv Ello: Body Show is riding high after a slew of five star reviews – snap up a ticket. The Ice Hole: A Cardboard Comedy, at Pleasance Courtyard, is a physical comedy show performed using a thousand pieces of cardboard, of course.

Anyhow. Make sure you catch hilarious Xhloe Rice and Natasha Roland in And Then the Rodeo Burned DownIf you missed Tony! The Tony Blair Rock Opera in London, catch it at the EICC; hour of knockabout fun with a spirited young cast. 

Meanwhile, I hear Dark Noon also at EICC is an extraordinary show co-directed by Denmark’s Tue Biering and South Africa’s Nhlanhla Mahlangu for Fix & Foxy.  Go and see Funeral(Ontroerend Goed does grief) at Zoo Southside.

Over at Traverse, don’t miss Isobel McArthur’s jukebox romcom The Grand Old Opera House Hotel and poignant play Heaven – both come highly recommended.

If you like musicals, God Catcher created by Cassie Muise and Tyler McKinnon, is a re-imagining of the myth of Arachne and is running at Underbelly. 

Fresh from appearing on Broadway in Moulin Rouge! Declan Bennett performs autobiographical show Boy Out in the City at Cowgate.

Magic fans, keep your morning free and catch Mario the Maker Magician at Udderbelly – a feel-good fifty minutes for families.

Elsewhere, one woman/man/plumber character-comedy spectacular GUSH, first seen at Vault Festival, is at Assembly George Square.  Canadian duo Agathe and Adrien of N.Ormes Assembly Roxy have good word of mouth. Stinging bio-drama Lena unpacks the tragedy of Lena Zavaroni.  

And 10 speakers surround the audience in Tomorrow’s Child, an adaptation of a Ray Bradbury short story at Assembly Checkpoint is worth catching.

At enchanting Summerhall, Lung theatre’s Matt Woodhead’s five star verbatim drama Woodhill focuses on the deaths of three prisoners and their families’ battle for justice. Just go! 

Gunter is an atmospheric retelling of a famous witch trial with beautiful music, by Julia Grogan, Rachel Lemon, and Lydia Higman. Startling show, Concerned Others by Alex Bird examines Scotland’s drug deaths with flair.

Also, Lady Dealer, performed by Peckham trailblazer Alexa Davies, stars a rhyming drug dealer. And another show I am intrigued by is Gusla, performed entirely in untranslated Polish. Why not.

Finally, Paines Plough’s pop-up venue Roundabout is hosting Miriam Battye’s lively two-hander Strategic Love Play and fun 2022 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting winner Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz by Nathan Queeley-Dennis. Both sound promising.

My wildcard show is: Mad Ron: Crime School,think Phil Mitchell doing stand up with some excerpts from his “hard man” memoir. 

So, there you have it, that’s the end of my definitive Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2023 guide. (There’s always the Free Fringe, though, if you are feeling the pinch.)

I hope you have found some use in this guide to what the Fringe world has on offer. 

Bye for now,

Carl x

If you have tips, tweet me: @mrcarl_woodward *thumbs up emoji*.

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Edinburgh Fringe Shouldn’t Exist In A Civilised Society

The 76th Edinburgh Fringe festival has begun but there is concern some parts of the event may be under threat because of the financial climate.
Organisers of the Edinburgh Fringe have declared the situation has reached a “crisis point” and also admitted the event’s long-running financial model is “no longer viable for anyone”.

The boss of one of the Fringe’s biggest venue operators, Assembly Festival has warned the company may not survive another year due to a £1.5m debt and was surviving on a short-term loan.

The Stage Awards and The Total Theatre Awards, both key opportunities where talent is discovered, won’t go ahead this year. Indeed, ministers respond to growing hardship by telling the public to just work more hours.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh International Festival director Nicola Benedetti has cautioned that the city is facing an “identity crisis”

Does it matter? This year marks the second largest programming on record, with 3,535 shows registered in 248 venues, it is the Fringe that dominates the city each year and nothing seems to stand in its way. Furthermore, according to a report from The Scotsman, local business and hotels indicate demand for accommodation suggests that the attendance rates have returned to pre-pandemic levels. 

Business as usual. 

But I would say it does matter for several reasons. My real concern, in viewing the ecology of the Fringe are for performers and audiences from low-income backgrounds – incurring debt and making huge sacrifices to be there – accessing the festival. 

What record breaking tourism ignores is that, in the complex ecology of British theatre, everything is interconnected.

In some ways, the “crisis point’ feels most emblematic of all the current systemic failings and their knock-on costs to ordinary people who simply cannot afford them.

Since right now, civilised long weekend accommodation would set you back £1,300-2,000 for four nights – flats are being listed at around £10,000 for the month – that is before travel, food, and theatre tickets.

In a sobering read, The Guardian ran a piece recently that featured performers considering the financial risks. 

As one act puts it: “If you break even that’s a bonus… It’s not just about bums on seats, the more important thing is using the fringe to generate relationships with people interested in the work. We should end up with tour dates for 2024. That’s why you go. It’s an investment.”

Anyhow. Times critic Clive Davis, meanwhile, summed it up in his column: “For the past couple of days I’ve been staying in a run-down student block near Holyrood. My room is cell-like and the soundproofing so flimsy that I can hear the woman in the next room clearing her throat. Four of us are sharing a shower and toilets; on the first day I was here there was no hot water.”

Oh dear.

If all this wasn’t implausible enough, I can only congratulate a group of performers who travelled from the US staying in a disused Cold War bunker after being quoted £30,000 for accommodation in the city centre of Edinburgh for the month of August.

For that you can blame the greed of Edinburgh City Council who, by disobeying the simple rules of supply and demand, have reduced the market value of the Fringe to the point that, sooner or later, it will inevitably collapse.

Too little too late. Sigh.

Anyway, I will be in Edinburgh for 4 nights (17-21 Aug). If you have show tips, email – I’ll be updating this blog daily. 

Celebrating amazing moments during the 75th anniversary of the Edinburgh Fringe

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

From nervous beginnings, and the rewarding elation of performing at the Fringe for the first time, to the butterflies of finding new or everlasting love.  Today the Fringe Society is delighted to share amazing moments gathered from artists and audiences, from the past 75 years of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Anecdotes have been gathered over the last few months and include memories such as the excitement of bumping into a favourite celebrity, to taking inspiration from a performance and setting out on a new career journey.

“I first discovered street performing at the Edinburgh Fringe. I was there for the first Fringe Sunday in 1981 and that’s where I first saw a street band called Pookiesnackenburger (from whom Steve McNicholas and Luke Cresswell later became STOMP) who played huge gigs on the street. That got me interested in street performing.” Eddie Izzard

“Whilst here I met a guy who was working at the same venue, we hit it off… 19 years later we are married, have two girls, two cats and we both work in the arts and cultural sector in Edinburgh.  I would just like to say thank you to the Fringe for positively changing my life.”  Sharon May

“I love the unexpected, the chaos, the anarchy of the Fringe. Trying to find your way through the programme knowing that while you’ll see excellent shows, you’ll always miss other great ones; talking to strangers while queuing up about their favourite performances so far and sharing yours; watching the audience and actors mix … All of this with the dramatic and incredibly beautiful backdrop that is Edinburgh, a perfect place for the festival.”  Uta Bretsch

“We have attended the Fringe every year since 1998 and it is something of an obsession for us. So much so that we decided to get married there… in secret.” Richard Brownsecret

  “Edinburgh Fringe has been a highlight of our summer since we moved to Edinburgh in 2013, an opportunity for our whole family to indulge in culture and the arts together, to dip our toes into new experiences and deep dive into some familiar favourites.  Come rain or shine, we pack our rucksacks and disappear into the crowd and into another world of magic and endless possibilities.”   Julia Whitaker

“It’s just great being part of it; it’s the biggest arts event in the world. It’s the only place to be in August – the two years I didn’t go at all, I just felt like my friends were having a big party and I decided not to go. I would feel like I was in the wrong place, not being in Edinburgh.”  Arthur Smith

“This year will be our 20th visit since first coming up to see our son in a college production. Every time is magical, trying to take in as many diverse shows as we can.”  Merlyn Anne Goudie

“There is no place in the world like Edinburgh Fringe in August. The energy is fantastic and you feel alive doing what you love, during the height of summer.” Clare Harrison Mccartney

“To this day I have met lifelong friends and some of the most inspirational people at the Edinburgh Fringe having participated in more than 10 Fringes. The Fringe tests your resolve, your patience, your abilities and your energy. Yet it also rewards you with an amazing experience that will forever leave a mark on your soul.”  Paul Perez

Shona McCarthy, CEO of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Societysaid:

“It has been an absolute joy to read memories from audiences and artists from across the years, and it is testament to the resilience of this great festival, and all those who have played a part in building it, that it is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.  The stories that have been shared with our team highlight the impact the Fringe can have on inspiring young people, captivating audiences, and being the place to be every August.

From childhood memories, to the transformational affect the festival has had on artist careers, we thank each person for taking the time to share their favourite Fringe memory.”

We encourage the public, and those performing at this year’s Fringe to share their own memory on social media and tag it #FringeMoments.