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The waiting's over for the Edinburgh Fringe
Published on Thursday, 10 June 2010

Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 6 - 30 August (previews from 4 August) 

Today was a red-letter day for Festival enthusiasts - as, amidst much online excitement, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe unveiled its 2010 programme.  It's the moment we've all been waiting for: with less than two months to go until the annual extravaganza begins, the release of the printed programme offers our first true insight into what's on offer this year.

Queue at the box officeWith all due deference to the International Festival - which opened up ticket sales way back in March - it's the much larger Fringe launch which really heralds the start of the Festival run-in.  FringeGuru joined the small crowd at the Fringe's High Street office, where staff opened the doors as the church clocks chimed noon and handed out copies of the programme to the expectant queue.

Confounding fears of a post-recession slump, the Fringe has smashed all previous records this year.  With an extraordinary 2,453 shows spread across its 25-day run, there'll be 17% more acts vying for your attention come August.  As befits an open-access arts festival, there's no theme linking these disparate events - and equally, no trammel to the visiting performers' boundless creativity.

What's on this year?

The sheer scale of the programme makes it futile to summarize, but a flick through the weighty tome throws up some eye-catching highlights.  Big names among the galaxy of stars in the comedy section include Paul Merton, Chris Addison and Gyles Brandreth (remember him?), while unknown stand-ups and enthusiastic improv troupes will also be taking to the stage across the city.

The Fringe's theatre section is the usual mix of the traditional and the up-to-date - ranging from a Byron retrospective in the equally venerable Surgeon's Hall, to a prophecy of catastrophe ten years from now in the cleverly-named 2020 Vision.  In musicals and opera there's no less variety, as The Mikado rubs shoulders with The Singalong Glee Club.

In dance, much excitement surrounds Britain's Got Talent stars Flawless, but there's plenty more to choose from flamenco to the avant garde.  And don't overlook visual arts: a major exhibition at the National Galleries focuses on Impressionist gardens, while Surrealist masters including Dali and Magritte are also on display.  Art lovers will have still more to celebrate shortly, when the Edinburgh Art Festival reveals its full programme.

And of course, the Fringe wouldn't be the Fringe without a few bursts of madness.  So three cheers for: the Fawlty Towers reconstruction in a genuine restaurant, the cabaret troupe which visits your own home, and the three-cornered football pitch we're assured will appear on the Meadows.

Getting the programme

You can download the programme as a huge PDF file (broadband users only, we suggest).  But that's quite hard work; for browsing, there's really no beating a printed copy.

In Edinburgh, good places to grab a programme include the tourist information centre at Waverley Steps, the Hub up by the Castle, and of course the Festival Fringe shop on the Royal Mile.  According to the Fringe website, you'll also find them in branches of Waterstone's, HMV and Fopp, as well as the Festival Theatre, Traverse, Usher Hall and Playhouse.

If you're in Glasgow or London, you have many local options too: check out the list of outlets on the Fringe's website.

Elsewhere in the UK and Ireland, you can get a programme from selected branches of HMV and Fopp - though be warned, you'll need to make your way to your nearest major city.  Again, check the Fringe website for advice on where to go.

Or to have the programme posted to you, sign up on the Fringe's website (currently suspended - we'll update this article when it's back).  Unsurprisingly, considering it weighs in at a hefty 344 pages, they charge a postage fee.

Getting the tickets

The Fringe's box office opens at 8am tomorrow morning - Friday 11 June.  We have a lot of information on the arcane world of Fringe ticketing, but at this stage it's pretty simple - call the central box office on 0131 226 0000, or get onto the Fringe's website.  You can also book directly with some major venues, though if you're seeing a lot of shows, getting all your tickets through the central box office will save on booking fees.

If you're not sure what you want to see, don't panic: there's no great rush to book tickets for the vast majority of Fringe shows.  That said, a handful will sell out quickly - tickets for Radio 4's free recording sessions are particularly sought-after, as are the (cheaper) previews for well-known acts.  Generally speaking, if you're limited to specific dates and want to see someone famous, it's worth booking now... while if you're flexible or your tastes lean towards the more obscure, you can afford to leave it a while.

Friends of the Fringe

If you'll be bringing a friend or partner to a lot of Fringe shows, it's worth considering the Friends of the Fringe scheme.  For a fee of £25 (or £22 if you pay by direct debit), you'll get 2-for-1 tickets on a broad range of shows - though it's worth knowing that there's a limit on the number you can purchase, and that big-name acts are usually excluded from the deal.  Controversially, there's no priority booking period for Friends this year, though you do get a dedicated phone line.  It's worth considering if you're part of a twosome; you can get details and sign up here.

From next week, and throughout June, we'll be choosing a daily Preview Pick from the 2009 Fringe programme.  To find out what FringeGuru's experts are pencilling into their diaries, check back on FringeGuru.com.  Or get ready for our daily choices by following us on Twitter.

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