Lucy Porter returns this year (pic: Terry Murden)
Talk of a less vibrant Edinburgh Festival this year is overdone, says arts correspondent ANDY MOSELEY
Anyone taking a walk through Edinburgh can the see the unmistakeable signs of something familiar coming our way. The pop-up bars, box offices and promotional hoardings wrapped around railings and lamp-posts remind us that the most famous arts festival in the world is back.
We’re still unsure whether this year’s Festival will be bigger and better than what’s gone before, with performers relishing the chance to debut shows that have been written and re-written over the last three years. Or if the post-pandemic hangover mean it’s a far smaller affair.
Normal service is definitely on the itinerary and two years after the pandemic brought the festival season to an abrupt halt there’s nothing to suggest that the Fringe will look substantially different from how it was in 2019.
There have been tales of fall-outs between performers and the Fringe Society, and slower ticket sales – due in part to Covid caution, concern at last minute cancellations and the rising cost of living, but organisers still expect a late rush for tickets, particularly if the weather holds. So, three years on from the last full-scale event, the Festival is in rude health.
At Pleasance, there’s no sign of Paul Merton and his improv chums, but Fringe stalwarts such as Marcus Brigstocke, Lucy Porter, Nina Conti, Mark Watson and Hal Cruttenden are all back – with Watson and Cruttenden returning with versions of the shows they debuted at the more intimate Fringe Festival last year.
Elsewhere Frank Skinner returns with ‘30 years of Dirt’ at Assembly Roxy, Henning Wehn takes up residency at The Queens Hall with ‘It’ll All Come Out in the Wash’, and Rich Hall makes a welcome return to the Assembly Rooms with ‘Sold out: Tickets still available’. Add in to this the likes of Reginald D Hunter, Stewart Lee and Omid Djalili and it’s mostly all present and correct for comedy.
For drama, the biggest draws are likely to include Tim Walker’s production of ‘Bloody Difficult Women’, inspired by the court case Gina Miller brought against Theresa May in 2016 (Assembly Rooms), and ‘Psychodrama’, set against the backdrop of a stage production of Psycho where an actress in her 40s is under investigation for the murder of her director (Traverse). Also, Saltire Theatre Company’s ‘1902’, which follows fans of Hibernian FC in their quest to get tickets for the 2016 Scottish Cup final but is about far more than football.
The now regular sprinkling of biopic productions throws up two plays that dive back to the 70s but give interesting takes on their stories. Jon Culshaw stars in Les Dawson: Flying High (Assembly George Square), a play that offers a more philosophical version of the late comedian than may be expected, while Eh Up, Me Old Flowers! The Charlie Williams Story (Pleasance Courtyard), sees the first black comedian to become a household name being visited by a stranger who demands that he justifies material that would now be considered questionable at best.
There is also a large music selection – dominated by tribute acts, but with a wider range of musical styles for people looking for songs they don’t already know the words to – and cabaret, children shows, exhibitions and spoken word performances that also offer alternatives for people looking for something other than comedy and drama.
You could easily lose a day or two browsing through the programme, and the delights or disasters that random choices can unearth are still likely to be found in abundance.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe runs from 5 August to 29 August 2022. Full details of all shows and online ticket sales are available at https://www.edfringe.com/