Edinburgh Fringe hopes for Olympian success

St Petersburg's Hand Made Theatre troupe launched their Edinburgh Fringe run with a special tribute to Scotland

The Edinburgh Fringe is beginning its three-week run confident the Olympics will not dampen tickets sales.

The world's biggest arts festival will see 2,695 shows performed in 279 venues across the city.

Kath Mainland, the chief executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, said they were hoping to take advantage of London 2012 to attract visitors.

The Olympics run until 12 August, overlapping the first nine days of the Fringe's three-week stint.

The Fringe is the largest of the festivals which run in the city during August.

The Edinburgh Art Festival began on Thursday, while the Edinburgh International Festival and the Book Festival begin at the end of next week.

Edinburgh Fringe: in numbers

  • 2,695 shows
  • 279 venues
  • 42,096 performances
  • 22,457 performers
  • 36% of shows are comedy
  • 814 free shows

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is also beginning later.

Ms Mainland said Fringe venue managers seemed happy with sales so far - but the Fringe Society does not give out ticket sales information until after the festival.

She said: "The atmosphere in the city is really exciting. People are here ready for the Fringe to start.

Appointment with the Wickerman is one of the shows at the Assembly Rooms Appointment with the Wickerman is one of the shows at the Assembly Rooms

"It is really exciting the Olympics are in London and it is exciting they are happening at the same time as the world's greatest cultural event.

"We have done some specific London marketing to try to convince people to make the journey, either when the Olympics is on or when it has finished."

Fringe veteran William Burdett Coutts, who runs the Assembly venues, said: "None of us know what impact the games are going to have on Edinburgh.

"We know that newspaper editors will be pushed for space and television coverage will be diminished.

Kath Mainland Kath Mainland said the Fringe was the world's greatest cultural event

"Edinburgh is an Olympic-scale cultural event every year and it is easy to let familiarity weaken its impact."

Among the 22,457 performers at the Fringe will be top comedy talent such as Stewart Lee, Daniel Kitson, Sean Hughes, Mark Watson, Rhod Gilbert, Russell Kane, Shappi Khorsandi and Phill Jupitus.

Jupitus also stars in Tom Salinsky's political satire Coalition, about a Lib Dem leader's battle for the survival of his party in the final few months of an imagined government alliance with the Conservatives.

Other comedians in dramatic roles include Les Dennis as Jigsy, an ageing club comedian reliving the glamour of his younger days and brooding on why he was not more successful.

It appears at the newly-reopened Assembly Rooms on George Street in the city's new town.

As does Chewin' the Fat star Greg Hemphill, who appears in the National Theatre of Scotland's production Appointment with the Wickerman.

Tommy Shepherd has taken over the Assembly Rooms venue Tommy Shepherd has taken over the Assembly Rooms venue

The Assembly Rooms, which has undergone a £9m refurbishment, is under new management for the Fringe.

Tommy Shepherd, who also runs the Stand comedy club, said he was attempting to create a "green oasis" in contrast to the "ugly aluminium building sites" around Edinburgh University's main campus.

Traffic will be diverted from the area and the Famous Spiegeltent is moving from its usual university site to be closer to the Assembly Rooms.

Meanwhile, the Assembly Festival, which was based at the Assembly Rooms for 30 years, has complained there could be confusion about two separate operations with very similar names.

Assembly Festival operates a number of venues, now mainly based around George Square gardens, south of the Old Town.

Among Assembly's attractions are Matthew Kelly and Claire Sweeney in Willy Russell's Educating Rita, and Mother Africa - an ensemble of acrobats, dancers and musicians from across Africa.

Among the plays at the Gilded Balloon is The Agony And The Ecstasy Of Steve Jobs, Mike Daisey's monologue about working conditions in Apple's Chinese factories.

At the Traverse, Monkey Bars sees adults voice the thoughts of children.

Comedy accounts for 36% of the Fringe shows, with theatre making up 28%, music 13% and children's shows, dance, opera, cabaret and spoken word completing the programme.

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