Fringe fest offers mind-boggling program

Lineup includes 'Blondes,' 'Madonna,' 'Hilton'

EDINBURGH — The world’s largest arts festival, the Edinburgh Fringe, unveiled this year’s lineup June 10, offering another mind-boggling program spanning the mainstream to the esoteric, the innovative to the downright weird.

At the popular end of the market, Brit TV presenter Denise van Outen is doing a three-week run of “Blondes,” a one-woman music and talkshow about her favorite peroxide icons, from Dolly to Dusty.

Meanwhile, the influence of celebrity casts a shadow over several shows, among them “Mercy Madonna of Malawi,” which gives an African perspective on Madonna’s bid to adopt a baby; and “The Assassination of Paris Hilton,” a site-specific comedy about three women who love to hate the Los Angeles socialite.

Cirque du Soleil star Cal McCrystal will direct Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s “The School for Scandal” starring Lionel Blair and a cast of comedians, among them Phil Nichol, who is also appearing in a revival of 2001 political play “Gagarin Way,” by “Black Watch” author Gregory Burke.

Setting its sights on the West End is an adaptation of “The Wicker Man” (the 1973 British cult film, not the poorly received Neil LaBute remake). Writers Andrew Steggal and Robin Hardy have added songs to the horror fave.

Also expecting a life beyond the Fringe is U.K. drum-and-bass star Goldie, staging his 1996 album “Mother” with a “manga-esque/graffiti/anime live show” directed by Darren Johnston. Prominent in the comedy lineup is Ricky Gervais, doing a one-off gig at the large-scale Edinburgh Playhouse.

Peggy Shaw, of Gotham’s queer feminist company Split Britches, is collaborating with the U.K.’s Clod Ensemble on “Must: The Inside Story,” an autobiographical exploration of the body. On a similar cross-dressing theme, Bette Bourne — who played Quentin Crisp in the Obie-winning “Resident Alien” — will star in the interview-style “A Life in Three Acts” with playwright Mark Ravenhill.

The 17-show lineup at the Traverse, home of new writing, includes “Orphans” by Dennis Kelly, “Palace of the End” by Canada’s Judith Thompson and “Sea Wall” by Olivier Award-winner Simon Stephens.

Running Aug. 7-31 with 34,265 perfs of 2,098 shows in 265 venues, the Fringe is an event for all comers, however, and alongside the high-brow, there’s room for the Chippendales offering “the ultimate girls’ night out.” The lineup offers everything from a puppet “Faust” to an encounter with a stranger with whom you can share your darkest secrets in “I Confess.”

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