EDINBURGH FESTIVAL HOT TICKETS

The countdown to the Edinburgh Festival has begun in earnest. There are less than two weeks to go and some of the most popular shows are already close to selling out. Below is a guide to what you should be booking now to make sure you see this year's most exciting performances.

FILM

SURPRISE MOVIE

ABC 1 (0131 623 8030) 25 Aug

Only the Film Festival's director knows the name of the movie that will be shown, but if past offerings - which have included British premieres for Pulp Fiction and LA Confidential - are anything to go by, the audience will not be disappointed.

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT

Cameo 1 (0131 228 4141) 21 Aug

If it's horror you're after, look no further. Three students disappear while making a documentary. A year later their cameras are found abandoned; the surprise American hit of the year.

ELECTION

ABC 1 (0131 623 8030) 17 Aug

This political satire, directed by Alexander Payne, is set in an American high school where a manipulative student (Reese Witherspoon) has her student presidency campaign sabotaged by a teacher (Matthew Broderick).

CONCERTS

JUGENDORCHESTER

Usher Hall (0131 473 2000) 17 Aug

Claudio Abbado conducts and inspires this young-players' orchestra in a performance of Mahler's Symphony no 7.

ROSSINI'S STABAT MATER

Usher Hall (0131 473 2000) 27 Aug

Rossini's religious masterpiece features American mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt, joined by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the Edinburgh Festival Chorus.

OPERA

MACBETH

Festival Theatre (0131 473 2000) 29 Aug, 1 & 4 Sept

Luc Bondy and Scottish Opera return to the festival with Verdi's version of the Scottish play.

TURANDOT

Playhouse (0131 473 2000)

16-22 Aug

The Tokyo Opera singers perform Puccini's classic love story.

THEATRE

THE SPECULATOR

Royal Lyceum (0131 473 2000) 16-21 Aug

Philip Howard directs the Traverse Theatre Company's production of an exuberant costume drama by Scottish playwright David Grieg.

FEUERGESICHT

Royal Lyceum Theatre (0131 473 2000) 2-4 Sept

Marius von Mayenburg's chilling play about incest and pyrotechnics has been praised as the most exciting piece of writing in recent German theatre. It is performed in German with English surtitles.

THE JUJU GIRL

Traverse (0131 228 1404) previews from Fri, opens 15 Aug to 4 Sept

In Aileen Ritchie's startling new play, a woman travels to Africa to shed light on the mystery of the Juju.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MISTER DEKA D

Traverse (0131 228 1404) previews 10 Aug, opens 11 Aug to 4 Sept

The Told by an Idiot theatre company perform Biyi Bandele's poetic love story

COMEDY

THE BEST OF SO YOU THINK YOU'RE FUNNY

Backstage I, Gilded Balloon (0131 226 2151) Fri to 30 Aug

Winners and runners-up from the past 12 years of this annual competition (now in its 24th year) return to the Edinburgh festival. Some, now at the top of their trade, began their comedy careers here.

PHIL KAY

Main Theatre, Gilded Balloon (0131 226 2151) 13-28 Aug

Spontaneity and audience interaction are guaranteed in a show which changes every night. What else would you expect from a man who was born to improvise?

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