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Choosing from reviews - Reviews in print
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Choosing from reviews
Reviews in print
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Reviews in print

If you don't have Internet access in Edinburgh - or if you simply prefer the written word - there are lots of ways to get your hands on printed copies of reviews. The classic option, of course, is to buy the daily paper. But just as importantly these days, there are free sheets, you can look for posters, and you might even find a copy of a review being pushed into your hand.


Even in today's digital world, there's still something uniquely pleasing about settling down for a long breakfast with a fat daily paper. Though Scotland's independent press is unquestionably on the wane, local titles are still among the best for Festival reviews and information.

Newspaper reviews
"A five-star Scotsman write-up is the most coveted accolade for any show"
The gold standard of reviewing has historically been set by The Scotsman. This popular Edinburgh broadsheet proudly proclaims itself "Scotland's National Newspaper" (though Glasgow-based rival The Herald might have something to say about that); a five-star Scotsman write-up was formerly the most coveted accolade for any show, and the frequency with which its reviewers are quoted in programmes is testament to its ongoing influence at the Festival. Budgetary woes have scaled back its reviewing operation in recent years, but if you're buying a paper specifically for the reviews, The Scotsman is still the one to go for.

The Scotsman's tabloid sister paper, the Edinburgh Evening News, runs its own reviews too. It takes a rather less heavyweight tone, and it's not uncommon for Scotsman and Evening News reviewers to go to the same show and come away with different views.

In recent years The Scotsman's arch-rival, the aforementioned Herald, has also parked its tanks on the Edinburgh lawn with a growing range of Festival coverage.  Among the UK national press, The Guardian has a strong association with the Festival, and The Independent and The Times also both have substantial review sections.  Metro - available for free on buses in Edinburgh - is worth a look as well, though it too has seen a cut in its operations recently.

Festival free sheets

"It's free to pick up, fun to browse, and much-loved by the Festival crowd"
If you'd rather skim a paper while you're queuing than peruse it at leisure over morning coffee, one of the Festival's numerous free sheets may be just the ticket. New ones seem to spring up every year, but the best-known and longest-lived is ThreeWeeks, a not-for-profit publication which the ambitious aim of reviewing every single show at the Fringe, including those gems the mainstream media sometimes overlook. Oddly enough, there are four full editions of ThreeWeeks' weekly magazine-style tabloid - plus a separate one-sheet daily edition, dedicated to short, punchy reviews.

Objectively, we have to acknowledge that ThreeWeeks' student reviewers don't always write with the same depth and insight as their more experienced peers. All the same, it's fun to browse, free to pick up, and with its genuinely high-minded aims, is thorougly worthy of support.  You can pick up Three Weeks' daily edition at most major Fringe venues, and the weekly tabloid's all over the place; just keep your eyes open and you can't fail to find one.

Other well-known free publications include Fest, a weekly magazine with well-written, full-length reviews, and Broadway Baby, whose frequent black-and-white broadsheets offer a mix of professional and audience reviews.  Again, they're available to pick up at most major venues.

Around and about

Wall of reviews
Reading reviews at the Pleasance
As the Festival wears on, you'll find companies of performers walking the streets handing out photocopies of reviews of their show. This pro-active marketing can be very helpful, as long as what they're giving you is a copy of the whole review - if it's a couple of paragraphs and says nothing negative at all, you should assume you've just got the edited highlights. But remember that, due to printing deadlines, anything that's actually written on the flyer can't possibly be a review from this year's Festival; attach far more credence to a separate copy of a recent review, stapled onto the back.

Most Fringe venues also post up copies of newspaper reviews for the shows they're hosting, usually on boards near their box office. If you're in the mood for a mooch, head down to a major venue - the Pleasance Courtyard and Gilded Balloon are particularly good for this - and give the boards a scan. Obviously, only good reviews get stuck up here, but even a positive review will highlight the show's strengths and weaknesses. You can get a fair enough picture of what's doing well by looking at the venue boards - with the added benefit of being right next to the box office, ready to sort out tickets right away.

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