Edinburgh Fringe launches largest fest ever

Broadway Asia Company production among those on slate

In spite of the worldwide recession and continued threats to arts funding, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe has opted to launch its biggest program ever.

The event, which runs Aug. 6-30, is already the largest of its kind in the world, and this year will present 2,453 shows, a 17% increase from last year.

It is expected that more than 21,000 performers will take to the stage this summer in an event that generates around £75 million ($110 million) for the Scottish economy. Fest topper Kath Mainland estimated that more than 1,000 arts buyers also head to the city, spreading the impact of the Fringe around the world.

One show hoping to use Edinburgh as a springboard for global touring is “Reel to Real,” created in China by Gotham-based Broadway Asia Company. With the cooperation of Hollywood studios including Warner Bros., MGM, Fox and Universal, the tuner uses footage from classic movies as a backdrop for a live troupe of dancers.

Other Gotham companies heading to Edinburgh include the Fifth Wall with “Suspicious Package,” an interactive iPod-based film noir-style promenade through the streets, and Absurdum Intl. with “Imperial Fizz,” from playwright Brian Parks.

In the comedy program, “Celebrity Autobiography” is making its U.K. debut after three years Off Broadway. L.A.-based actor Tony Tanner returns to the Fringe for the first time in 47 years with “Charlatan,” his one-man tribute to ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev.

Serious theatergoers make a beeline to the Traverse, the long-established bastion of new plays. Lineup this year includes Druid Theater’s “Penelope” by Enda Walsh, whose “Walworth Farce” and “New Electric Ballroom” toured the U.S. last year. There is also a preem of “While You Lie” by Sam Holcroft and an international co-production of “The Girl in the Yellow Dress,” by Craig Higginson, a three-way presentation of South Africa’s Market Theater, Scotland’s Citizens Theater and England’s Live Theater.

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