The Edinburgh Fringe will continue its seemingly remorseless expansion this summer as organisers revealed the biggest line-up of artists in its 64-year history yesterday. With details of 2,453 shows and more than 40,000 performances contained within a 344-page programme, the world's largest arts festival has officially doubled in size over the last decade.
In addition to a 17 per cent increase compared to last year, there are new venues and even more of the traditional blend of the high-brow, the ironic and the plain wacky this August. Among the big names announced are Mercury-winning grime star Dizzee Rascal, who will be playing at the Corn Exchange as part of the Edge music festival, and Flawless, Britain's Got Talent finalists, who will appear at the Underbelly.
Launching the programme, Kath Mainland, chief executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, insisted that growth would not dilute the quality of the entertainment on offer. "As you'll see from this year's programme, Edinburgh in August will be bursting with the most talented artists from every area of the arts world. Nowhere else can you see such a variety of world class talent and range of shows that are guaranteed to engage, enthral, excite and delight," she said.
Comedy will once again dominate in terms of sheer numbers of performances. Paul Merton, Eddie Izzard, Josie Lawrence and Greg Proops will perform together in The Sweeney at the Gilded Balloon to chart the life of Fringe veteran Jim Sweeney, while The Mighty Boosh's Noel Fielding will direct comic Paul Foot, also at the Underbelly.
This year the emphasis on theatre is fractionally increased. The immediate highlight promises to be Beautiful Burnout from the National Theatre of Scotland, which explores the hard-hitting world of club boxing.
Some big names from American television will be appearing, among them Clarke Peters, who plays Detective Lester Freamon in The Wire. He will be performing in Five Guys Named Moe at the Underbelly.
Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson lends her name and money to fund the play Fair Trade which tells the real life stories of two women trafficked into Britain.
Highlights: Three must-see shows
Lockerbie: Unfinished Business
The events of 1988 are still fresh in the minds of many in Scotland, not least after the controversial release of the only man convicted of Britain's worst terrorist atrocity last year on compassionate grounds. It stars David Benson, whose previous roles include Kenneth Williams and Noel Coward, in the dramatisation of an unpublished work by Dr Jim Swire, who lost his daughter in the Pan Am disaster, and Lockerbie researcher Peter Biddulph.
At the Gilded Balloon
This new show to the UK was originally performed by Washington-based Capitol Steps (comprising former Senate workers) and the album of the same name spoofs the media's love affair with the first black US Commander in Chief – setting the countdown to his historic election to the sing-a-long sounds of Abba and others. Highlights are said to include a wistful John McCain singing "The Winner Takes It All" while Obama and Hillary Clinton duet on "Ebony and Ovaries".
At Just the Tonic at the Caves
En Route – One Step at a Time Like This
The city becomes the setting, the people and festival goers the stars as participants in this innovative new theatrical experience are invited to explore the 'Athens of the North' by mobile phone and iPod. Audiences take to the streets while listening to a selection of audio clips curated and performed by the artists. It has already won a slew of awards and rave reviews in its native Australia.
At the Traverse in EdinburghReuse content