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Fringe 2023

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With this year’s Fringe just around the corner, the city is alive with the annual buzz of marquees being erected, venues transformed and bar prices doubled. Over four gruelling weeks, thousands of landlords and up to two performers will see their lifetime dreams fulfilled, while every other comedian sobs into piles of their untouched flyers next to snaking queues of people waiting to see anyone who was on the last series of Taskmaster.

With a bewildering array of shows to choose from, it can be tricky to spot the best ones before they sell out. Fortunately for you, I’ve taken the time to pick out a few hidden gems, so all you need to do is weigh up my suggestions against another 500 near-identical Fringe preview articles before shrugging your shoulders and selecting a show almost entirely at random.

And with the modern Fringe embracing every genre from multimedia to individual media, I’ve done my best to steer this guide away from the familiar faces and venues, focussing instead on the innovative, the improbable, and most of all the fictitious. So if one of these shows should end up defying the odds and romping home with the top prize, remember that you heard it here first, and almost certainly only.

You Can’t Say THAT Any More!?!

A once-revered comedian, now marginalised to the extent that his shows are repeated no more than eight to ten times a day on British TV, stands on stage with a dictionary solemnly reading out all the words you can’t say any more. He then proceeds to rip out the offending pages, crumple them up and hurl them to the ground while shaking his head sorrowfully.

To emphasise the unsayability of those words any more, each show will be broadcast nightly on GB News and YouTube. Additionally, the unsayable words will be displayed over the city skyline in the forms of firework displays and exhaust trails from the Red Arrows flying past, replacing the traditional climax to the Tattoo.

Castle Esplanade, 9pm nightly, £80

The Service 16 Experience

For those wanting the authentic Festival cross-city transit experience without the inconvenience of (eventually) ending up on the other side of town, this immersive show replicates an August bus journey from Elm Row to Tollcross in real time. Authentic features include:

■ onboard temperatures of up to 55°C

■ someone in the seat behind you playing music through their phone too loudly to ignore but a fraction too quietly to make out

■ sixty people getting on at the Scott Monument, only for the last one to engage the driver in a five minute conversation about which bus goes to the Zoo

■ the person standing alongside your seat failing to brace when approaching the hard left turn on to Lothian Road, losing their balance and sending their sweaty rump thundering into the side of your face

Princes Street Gardens, hourly from 7am-midnight, £2 (day ticket £5)

Fringing from Home

In an innovative solution to prohibitive accommodation costs for visiting performers, this pioneering venture enables London-based comics to be part of the magic of the Fringe without having to shell out a fortune on an Airbnb. Minibuses leave St Andrew Square at 10am, returning at 7am the following day. Foil-wrapped sandwiches and lukewarm pouches of Capri-Sun are available en route for a hefty additional fee.

Leicester Square Theatre, 7.30pm nightly, £16 plus share of petrol

Hell’s Kitchen Porter

Inspired by the success of the Fawlty Towers dining experience, this is a new interactive theatre concept backed enthusiastically by several of Edinburgh’s restaurateurs. Ticket holders are invited into the back kitchen of an actual working restaurant, where they can try their hands at tasks as varied as potato peeling, floor mopping and toilet unblocking, while being yelled at constantly by a Gordon Ramsay impersonator. Shows begin at 5pm sharp and finish when the last pot has been scrubbed and the kitchen is spotless.

Various restaurants, 5pm nightly, £10.42 per hour

Beckett on Drugs

Fans of Shit-Faced Shakespeare may wish to check out this intriguing variation on a theme, featuring a performance of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot in which each actor is dosed up on a randomly selected illegal drug. Running time may vary between two and seventeen hours depending on how the narcotics are allocated. Early previews indicate that the combination of Lucky on LSD and an amphetamine-fuelled Estragon makes for a particularly lengthy and disquieting evening.

Venue, time and price TBC

Borlands: Darts or Television?

Last but not least, the legendary Leith Walk institution hosts its annual game show extravaganza, in which one lucky customer is handed a cardboard box containing either a set of darts or a 97-inch Ultra HD 4K television set. Should the customer correctly guess the contents of the box, it’s theirs to keep. Details of the frequency of the giveaway, and of the proportion of darts to televisions in the prize pool, were unavailable at the time of going to press. ■

Croall Place, times vary, prizes vary

Borlands Darts and Television hosts its annual game show extravaganza

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Comedians sob into piles of untouched flyers next to snaking queues of people waiting to see anyone who was on Taskmaster

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