Making the Most of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

News   Making the Most of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival always has a bewildering array of shows to choose from, and this year's is no exception.

The first place to start is the Festival's official brochure, which divides the available shows into a variety of categories, alphabetically arranged: Children's shows, Comedy, Dance and Physical Theatre, Events, Exhibitions, Music, Musicals and Opera and Theatre.

The brochure will give you an excellent overall picture of the activities on offer, but, as with any such publication, there will be one or two shows that have slipped through the net between theatre and printers — one is Chris Kirby's LIPS, a black comedy about a deeply disturbed ventriloquist (shades of Michael Redgrave's Dead of Night and Anthony Hopkins' Magic) that, after it opened in Hampstead last year, was described in the press as "the most original play on the Fringe" and as having a similarly surreal take as "Being John Malkovich."

Shows like LIPS that have been accidentally left out of the brochure can be caught thanks to the daily Edinburgh Festivals Guide, published daily in association with The Guardian. This contains a chronological listing of every show being performed that day, and there will be a number of last-minute additions to the line-up that are not in the official brochure, but then it's the sense of spontaneity that gives the Fringe so much of its energy. The Scotsman publishes daily reviews of plays in a special supplement, while a number of other publications, including the Edinburgh Evening News, also carry extensive coverage of events.

The Fringe web site announces awards and five-star ratings, while Fringe Firsts (awarded to outstanding new plays) are published in The Scotsman every week and online in Theatrenow.

As you would expect, Theatrenow will cover the most interesting and exciting plays, especially if they are likely to transfer to London. Other places to learn about the best of what's on are radio and television, with BBC Radio Scotland (94.3FM and 810MW), giving a lot of attention to the Fringe. Channel 4 concentrates on comedy, with the Perrier Award Live, while BBC2 broadcasts Ralf Little's Edinburgh.

There are a huge range of venues as well as of acts: one of the biggest and most consistently successful is the Pleasance Theatre, whose shows can be seen in greater details on its website at www.pleasance.co.uk.

As with the London Fringe, and indeed the West End, word of mouth is a very important method of finding out what's worth seeing, though with so many plays within such a short period, no one is going to be able to see absolutely everything worth going to.

—By Theatrenow