EDINBURGH Despite the credit crunch and the ever-spiraling costs of production, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe shows no signs of relinquishing its position as the world’s largest arts festival. This year’s edition features artists from 46 countries, giving 31,320 perfs of 2,088 shows — 40% of them world premieres.
“For the vast majority of artists, the Fringe is a unique cultural experience and an incredible opportunity to present their work on the world stage,” says helmer Jon Morgan, speaking June 5 at the announcement of this year’s fest, which runs Aug. 3-25.
Among those who will be making the journey to Scotland are Gotham’s the Team in a transatlantic collaboration with National Theater of Scotland on a new work called “Architecting,” described as a “multimedia, time-bending epic.” Other Stateside shows include “Charlie Victor Romeo,” the verbatim play based on airplane black-box recorder transcripts; and “In Conflict,” based on the testimonies of Iraq veterans and produced by Philadelphia’s Temple Theaters.
There is a strong showing of work from Poland with companies such as Teatr Provisorium, which won international acclaim for “Ferdydurke,” returning with the antiwar “Bite the Dust”; and Torun’s Teatr Wiczy with “Emigrants,” an updated version of the Slawomir Mrozek play performed, in classic Fringe style, in a camper van to an audience of 11.
Among notable faces being drawn to the city are Brit multihyphenate Steven Berkoff, whose staging of the Marlon Brando classic “On the Waterfront” has already proved a hit for the Nottingham Playhouse; Joan Rivers, with “Work in Progress by a Life in Progress”; and thesp Britt Ekland, whose “Britt on Britt” promises to reveal the woman behind the ’70s sex symbol.
Controversy is brewing because of the decision of the city’s four biggest venues to market their concurrent comedy lineup as a distinct Edinburgh Comedy Festival, much to the chagrin of many comedians performing elsewhere at the Fringe. Despite the commercial domination of standup, however, 39% of the program consists of theater, musicals and dance, amounting to more than 800 shows.
First port of call for theater lovers is the Traverse, the city’s year-round home of new writing, where productions include “Fall,” by Zinnie Harris; “Terminus,” by Mark O’Rowe; “Pornography,” by Simon Stephens; “New Electric Ballroom,” by Enda Walsh; “Nocturne,” by Adam Rapp; and “Free Outgoing,” by Anupama Chandrasekhar.