The official 2017 Edinburgh Festival Fringe Programme was launched today with shows catering for all ages and appetites, inviting performers and spectators from around the world to join the Alliance of Defiance and celebrate 70 years of defying the norm at the Fringe.
Over the last 70 years the Edinburgh Festival Fringe has gone from strength to strength, inspiring a global network of more than 200 fringes and establishing itself as the largest platform for creative freedom in the world. On the 11 July, fringes from around the world will come together for the inaugural World Fringe Day, supported by the Scottish Government and EventScotland, an international celebration to mark the 70th anniversary of the birth of the fringe movement.
The Fringe began in 1947 when eight theatre companies turned up uninvited to perform at the inaugural Edinburgh International Festival. The companies were refused entry to the programme but decided to perform on the fringe of the Festival anyway. The Fringe has remained true to the defiance expressed by the eight companies who performed here in 1947, upholding its open access principle that permits anyone with a story to tell and a venue willing to host them to participate. People travel from all over the word to take part in the Fringe, creating an international melting pot of culture and art in Scotland’s capital city every year. This year’s programme is as varied as ever, offering theatre, dance, circus, physical theatre, comedy, music, musicals, opera, cabaret and variety, children’s shows, free shows, exhibitions, events and spoken word.
Shona McCarthy, Chief Executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society said:
It’s an honour to be releasing the 2017 Edinburgh Festival Fringe Programme today. This is a very special year for the Fringe as we celebrate 70 years of defying the norm, of championing artistic freedom and providing a platform for artists around the world to come and present their work in a truly unique environment that is inclusive, inspiring, and often life-affirming.
The fringe movement has circled the globe and inspired a worldwide network of over 200 sister fringes, with fringes now taking place on every continent except Antarctica. In the current climate of global uncertainty, fringes are more crucial than ever, continuing to provide artists with a space to express themselves without fear of censorship.
The 2017 Fringe Programme reflects the principles that guide the fringe movement, it is diverse, topical, challenging and of course, exciting. I hope that as many people as possible will join us here in Edinburgh for the 70th anniversary edition of the Fringe, to witness and participate in this joyous international celebration of arts and culture.
In 2017 new venues are spread across the city and beyond. In Leith, Hibernian Football Club becomes a venue for the first time for Strange Town’s production of A Field of Our Own, while The Leith Volcano, formerly St James Church on Constitution Street, will be flooded for Volcano Theatre’s visceral production of Chekhov’s The Seagull. Army @ the Fringe in Association with Summerhall sees the Army Reserve Centre on East Claremont Street transformed into a venue, while Gilded Balloon at Rose Theatre will feature four performance spaces in the in the old Charlotte Chapel on Rose Street.
New free venues for 2017 include Black Market on Market Street which features six performance spaces in the former offices of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, while in the Grassmarket, tiki bar 52 canoes will host shows in its basement lounge. New Edinburgh comedy club Monkey Barrel becomes Heroes @ Monkey Barrel for the duration of the Fringe, while Laughing Horse brings a programme of free music to Newington’s Southpour bar with Laughing Horse @ Southpour and also presents shows at Laughing Horse @ The Cuckoo’s Nest on Home Street.
More unusual locations for Fringe shows this year include the Lochrin Belle boat which will host Scotch Egg Club Presents: Whisky on Water, a food and drink cruise along Edinburgh’s Union Canal. Novotel Swimming Pool becomes a venue for 274 Theatre’s water-based production Brodsky Station and Chamber Pot Opera brings toilet based opera to The Bathroom at Assembly Hall.
A feast of famous names return to Edinburgh for the 70th anniversary edition of the Fringe. Ruby Wax appears in Edinburgh for three nights only, with a show inspired by her best-selling book, A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled. Sue Perkins brings her sparkling wit and favourite stories to Pleasance, while Sean Hughes makes a welcome return to the Fringe with Blank Book, where a team of highly talented comedians will make up a story live on stage. Dead Ringers star Jan Ravens makes her Fringe debut with a show that takes on some of the key female figures in international politics, while comedian, writer and actor Robin Ince has two shows – Robin Ince’s Rorschach Test and Pragmatic Insanity.
From the world of film and TV, Clive Anderson hosts the live incarnation of the legendary improvisational comedy TV show Whose Line Is It Anyway? – Live at the Fringe featuring a rotating cast of familiar faces. Dave Johns, star of I Daniel Blake, returns to his comedy roots with a show about his unexpected turn as a film star at Pleasance, and BAFTA TV award-winning actress Monica Dolan has written and will perform in The B*easts, a solo show that explores how far one mum will go to give her child what she wants. Dr Who legend Sylvester McCoy performs in A Joke, a new comedy by Dan Freeman, while Sam Underwood brings Losing Days, a story about losing his mind – and finding it again, to New Town Theatre.
In Brexit the Musical, protagonists Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are tasked with saving the nation in a musical penned by Brexit lawyer Chris Bryant. Aria Entertainment and Flying Music present The Toxic Avenger, based on the 1984 cult film of the same name with a score penned by Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan, while Sasquatch the Opera is the world premiere of an experimental opera written and composed by Faith No More’s Roddy Bottum. Andrew Kyle and Laurence T-Stannard’s One Good Soul is a lively musical inspired by Brecht’s The Good Person of Szechwan, and King’s Head Theatre and Swipe Right present girl band musical 2 Become 1 at Gilded Balloon.
The Fringe continues to attract new and upcoming talent keen to develop their skills and reach new audiences. Ed Night follows in the footsteps of his father, comedian Kevin Day, with his debut Edinburgh show Anthem for Doomed Youth. In Mindy Raf: Keeping My Kidneys, author and comedian Mindy Raf brings her razor-sharp storytelling style to Edinburgh for the first time, while Kwame Asante: Open Arms and Sean Patton: Number One make their Fringe debuts at The Pleasance.
Dance, Physical Theatre and Circus
Dance companies of all shapes and sizes are bringing their work to the Fringe this year. At Dance Base, contemporary dance master and choreographer Bill Coleman portrays a figure whose whole world is literally falling in around him in Dollhouse and Chordelia Company collaborate with inclusive theatre company Solar Bear for Lady Macbeth: Unsex Me Here, a piece which explores the ambition, power and remorse of one of Shakespeare’s most complex female characters.
A host of international circus companies will be wowing audiences at this year’s Fringe. Underbelly and Bibi and Bachu present Circus Abyssinia: Ethiopian Dreams, an unashamedly joyful mix of astonishing stunts, astounding circus skills and enchanting adventure, featuring the inimitable Konjowoch Troupe. Acéléré by Circolombia combines mind-boggling skill and a willingness to take terrifying risks to deliver world-class, gravity-defying performances direct form Bogota, Columbia. Quebec’s Cirque Éloize transform classic film Metropolis into a virtuosic spectacle for the whole family in Cirkopolis and in Paris De Nuit, Recirquel Company Budapest bring the decadent and lovable Paris of the 1930s to life, inspired by the voluptuous images of Hungarian photographer Brassaï.
Oskars Amazing Adventure is a heart-warming, humorous play that uses storytelling, physical theatre, puppetry, music and song to tell the tale of a puppy’s search for friendship. Arr We There Yet is a swashbuckling pirate circus adventure for all the family, and BambinO is an operatic adventure for six to 18-month-olds and their carers, co-produced by Scottish Opera, Manchester Festival and Improbable co-production. The Tales of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-Duck sees Beatrix Potter’s wonderful world brought to life by an orchestra and award-winning soprano and actress Michelle Todd. In Snigel and Friends, infants and their carers are invited to join Snigel the inquisitive snail in his cosy home underneath a leafy canopy, and David Walliams’ The First Hippo on the Moon offers an explosively funny space adventure for children of three and up, adapted for the stage by Les Petits Theatre Company.
British Council Showcase
The British Council Showcase returns for 2017 featuring some of the UK’s most exciting theatre and dance companies. The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk is a visually rich theatre piece from Kneehigh with Bristol Old Vic, directed by Emma Rice and inspired by the Russian artist Marc Chagall. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag returns to the stage following its successful conversion to a hot BBC TV series, and Nocturnes is Imitating the Dog’s multimedia twist on a 50s spy thriller that asks questions about truth, control and free will. In the dance programme Julie Cunningham combines precise dance and incendiary spoken word in To Be Me, a show about gender and identity, sound tracked by the music of hip-hop and spoken word artist Kate Tempest, while in Sexbox, Impermanence Dance Theatre examines sex through the eyes and ears of electronic dance music pioneer Ursula Bogner.
Work from 58 countries will appear at the Fringe this summer. Canada Hub @ King’s Hall in association with Summerhall promises a programme of ground breaking theatre and music from Canada including the UK premiere of multi-award winning theatre piece Mouthpiece and two shows featuring international Klezmer sensation Ben Caplan. Summerhall hosts the Arab Arts Focus Showcase, featuring eight performances by artists from Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Palestine and Morocco, a late-night cabaret and a host of discussions. Start to Finnish showcases the best theatre from Finland and includes I Am Faransis W., a new play by award-winning Finnish playwright/director Jari Juutinen, and Ramy: In the Frontline, a political performance piece featuring Ramy Essam, an activist involved in the Egyptian revolution of 2011.
India @ Edinburgh, part of the India @ UK 2017 Year of Culture, will showcase some of the best music, dance and theatre from across India on the Fringe, including The Offering, a storytelling piece from artist Aditya Roy that incorporates martial arts, theatre and music, and Elephant in the Room, an unconventional take on the legend of the beloved Hindu elephant-god, Ganesha, in a show for children and families.
From Australasia, the Made in Adelaide showcase returns with 13 shows, including award-winning, femme fatale Anya Anastasia in Anya Anastasia: Rogue Romantic, Ukulele Death Squad bring their high-energy Ukulele show to Leith Depot and Berlin inspired cabaret comes to Underbelly’s Med Quad in Hans: Mein Camp. New Zealand at Edinburgh 2017 presents nine shows, including Break Up (We Need to Talk), which sees five performers create and destroy an entire relationship from scratch, while in the Modern Māori Quartet: That’s Us!, a multi-talented Māori foursome put their spin on modern and classic numbers in the style of the Māori ‘Rat Pack’.
Asian countries are also well represented at the Fringe this year. From Korea, Ensemble SU: The Party crosses international boundaries with its blend of traditional Korean and western instruments, Snap return with their ingenious mix of magic, mime, comedy and more, and Kokdu: The Soul Mate offers Korean storytelling at its very best as part of the Korean Season. Chinese shows for 2017 include China Goes Pop!, a world class cast perform acrobatics, martial arts, physical comedy, to an all pop soundtrack and Macbeth: Fringe of Cantonese Opera, Zhuo Peili Cantonese Opera Studio’s interpretation of Macbeth in the style of a traditional Cantonese opera.
Free shows this year include Aatif Nawaz: The Last Laugh at Laughing Horse @ Newsroom and Aaah Sure, It’s the Irish Comedian of the Year! from Steve Bennett, Irish Comedian of the Year 2016. Alex Morris: Apologies is a one-man sketch show from the winner of the Best Writer and Best Director awards at the 2016 London Student Drama Festival. Anna Morris presents Anna Morris: Bitchelors, character comedy that sees four women compete for the Woman of the Year Award, while Alex Smith explores modern notions of masculinity in Alex Smith: Real Man. Korean children’s classical music club Arisol, present Arisol: Samulnori, a free show for all the family, while at Voodoo Rooms, Chris Cook: Control offers devilish trickery and cheeky audience interaction and The Singing Psychic Game Show promises audience readings, songs, 70s-themed team games and prizes.
Fringe Facts 2017:
- Total shows: 3,398 (up 3.9%)
- Total venues: 300 (up 2%)
- Performances: 53,232 (up 5.9%)
- Countries represented: 62 (up 29%)
- International countries: 58 (up 32%)
- Cabaret and Variety makes up 4% (compared to 4% last year)
- Children’s Shows make up 4% (compared to 5% last year)
- Comedy makes up 35% (compared to 34% last year)
- Dance, Circus and Physical Theatre makes up 4% (compared to 3% last year)
- Events make up 3% (compared to 4% last year)
- Exhibitions make up 1% (compared to 1% last year)
- Music makes up 14% (compared to 15% last year)
- Musicals and Opera makes up 3% (compared to 4% last year)
- Spoken Word makes up 3% (compared to 3% last year)
- Theatre makes up 28% (compared to 27% last year)
There are 686 (up 6.7%) free shows, 215 (up 31%) pay what you want shows, 1,683 (down 2.8%) premieres and 62 (up 29%) different countries represented.