After last year's ticketing chaos and the resignation of director Jon Morgan, organisers claim this year's August spectacular will be the best yet
It boasts a one-man show performed over the internet, audiences touring hidden corners of Edinburgh on bikes, a miniature theatre show for one person only and an homage to the "liberating effects" of alcohol.
After surviving the worst season in its history last year, the Edinburgh Fringe is back, and its organisers promise that this year's event will be better than ever. The world's largest arts festival today unveiled its August programme, which will feature more than 34,000 performances and nearly 2,100 shows brought from more than 60 countries, ranging from Albania to Zimbabwe.
It will feature more than 30 new productions in the British Council's Edinburgh Showcase, including Black Box, a five-minute show in a miniaturised theatre for an audience of one, and Rider Spoke, a show in which the audience travels throughout the city on bikes to eavesdrop on other cyclists' thoughts and record their own.
The inaugural Made in Scotland season of works, sponsored with £1m from the Scottish government's Expo fund, will feature Charles Bukowski's alter ego Henry Chinaski, who will explore "the profound liberation" of alcohol in a production entitled Barflies by site-specific specialists Grid Iron. Among other highlights, the main Fringe programme includes Soul Photography, in which video artist Mikhail Tank will perform the festival's first online-only show, streamed live over the web; ticket holders just need broadband access. Tank says the production will "explore the human soul".
This year's festival is crucial to restoring the Fringe's reputation after last year's disastrous collapse of the box office on the opening day, the resignation of then director Jon Morgan, parallel inquiries into the festival's management and a £250,000 bail-out by its funders.
The Fringe's new chief executive, Kath Mainland, one of the most experienced festival administrators in the city, admitted that the financial crisis had already had an impact on this year's festival. The Fringe Sunday, a day of free, open-air performances, has been abandoned because of a lack of sponsors. Its famous comedy awards, known for 24 years as the Perriers, are now temporarily being funded by promoter Nica Burns and rebranded as the Edinburgh Comedy awards, or "Eddies", after Burns failed to replace the last sponsor, Intelligent Finance.
The number of free events is up to 465, from 300 last year, and there is a new "two for one" weekend of shows. After years of vigorous growth, this year's festival will be only slightly larger than 2008. Even so, Mainland insisted that the Fringe is still the world's most dynamic and significant arts festival. "Nowhere in the world will you see the convergence of such a variety of world-class talent and such a range of work and ideas in one place," she said. "It is this freedom, and the scale on which it is spontaneously expressed, that sets Edinburgh apart from many of its imitators, and which gives the Fringe its enduring success. Anyone who wants to take part in this brilliant, exhilarating experience, can."
Advance income from performers booking places suggested that the Fringe would break even. Its main sponsors, RBS and Magners, are still in place and it has a new sponsor, the St James shopping centre in Edinburgh.
Last year's ticketing fiasco would not be repeated, Mainland added. The new box-office system, from the firm Red 61, has been tested at the Brighton Fringe festival and the Southbank Centre in London. "There has been really rigorous testing," she said.
Copyright Speakers Corner 2017