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LONDON – The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is scheduled to kick off on Friday with a lineup that includes a record 2,871 shows and such big names as Rupert Everett, Salman Rushdie and U.S. comedy stars Rob Delaney and Bo Burnham.
The program of this year’s edition of the world’s largest arts festival also includes Making News, a play about last fall’s BBC crisis, and a stage adaptation of The Shawshank Redemption, starring British comic Omid Djalili.
The Fringe, whose lineup once again features comedy shows, plays, musical performances, dance and other stage shows, runs through Aug. 26.
Everett will come to the Scottish capital to present his second volume of memoirs, “Vanished Years,” which follows his first volume, “Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins.” The Edinburgh program lists the book reading and conversation under the title “Rupert Everett: Tales from the Darkly Funny Side of Showbusiness” and promises stories about such things as “stalking Ian McKellen and partying with Madonna.”
Rushdie, the author of “The Satanic Verses,” will appear at the Fringe to discuss his career and memoir.
Meanwhile, Making News comes from Labour Party politician and writer Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky and tackles the crisis at the BBC. Premiering in Edinburgh, it takes place “over 24 hours in a BBC news room on a day when the top story might be a scandal involving the BBC itself,” the show website says. “Phill Jupitus plays the director general, trying and failing to keep his journalists — including stand-ups Sara Pascoe and Liam Williams — out of the headlines,” the festival’s description says. “Any resemblance to actual events or persons, alive or dead, is entirely intentional.”
Among other stage shows, Shawshank Redemption sees Djalili star as Red, and Three Lions will poke fun at England’s failed bid to host the 2018 World Cup and the roles played in the bid by three famous supporters — star player David Beckham, British prime minister David Cameron and Prince William.
Among U.S. comics performing in Edinburgh this year are Rob Delaney, who will appear for two nights, 22-year-old YouTube/stand-up wunderkind Bo Burnham, whose 2010 Edinburgh debut drew much buzz and who, this year, is returning with his new show “What,” New Yorker Michael Che, who is a writer on Saturday Night Live and is making his Fringe and U.K. debut, and political stand-up Lee Camp, who will perform his program “Destruction! Distraction! Evolution?”
Other U.S. comics set to hit the Fringe circuit are a first-ever U.K. performance by Tig Notaro with her show “Boyish-Girl Interrupted” and Al Lubel, who will perform his program, “Mentally Al,” in his Edinburgh debut.
Other well-known performers and material this year include Australian comic Adam Hills, who has been on U.K. TV and is a veteran of the Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal, who will present his new show “Happyism,” and “Dustpan Odyssey,” an adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey from puppet master Philippe Genty.
Also, the Royal Conservatoire will perform its version of “Avenue Q,” and Game of Thrones actress Gemma Whelan will star in the premiere of Philip Ridley‘s new play Dark Vanilla Jungle, which is about a girl’s craving for family and home. Plus, writer and producer John Lloyd, the man behind cult TV puppet comedy Spitting Image, will bring his first solo comedy show to the Fringe. It is entitled “Liff of Qi,” a reference to two previous projects and Life of Pi.
Overall, Fringe organizers promise a festival that is “bigger, better and brighter than ever before.” This year’s number of shows marks a 6.5 percent increase from last year’s program, which saw attendance hurt temporarily by the London 2012 Summer Olympics.
One of the biggest venues at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, McEwan Hall, is back after a two-year hiatus for repairs, plus organizers added new venues.
Said Kath Mainland, CEO of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society: “The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is not just important for being the largest arts festival in the world, or for being completely open access — although those things are profoundly important — but more important for being the most wonderful event, created by the spontaneous freedom of expression of tens of thousands of creative souls from all over the world, from all walks of life, at all stages of their careers and representing all art forms.”
Comedy makes up 33 percent of the lineup this year, theater 29 percent and music 14 percent, according to organizers.
A recent impact study found that the Fringe, which was founded in 1947, annually generates around $218 million (£142 million) for the Edinburgh and Scottish economy.
Last year’s Fringe featured David Hasselhoff, Eddie Izzard, Jimmy Carr and a one-man show from a former U.K. tabloid reporter who had given testimony at the Leveson Inquiry following the phone-hacking scandal.
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