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5 things you didn’t know about the Edinburgh Fringe

Kitty Underwood

By Kitty Underwood First Published 15 August 2022, Last Updated 22 August 2022

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is in full swing, the sun is shining and the city is ringing with laughter! Whether you’re planning on heading up and seeing some comedy and theatre or not, the Fringe is undeniably an incredible festival that grows and showcases incredible talent from around the UK and beyond.

But did you know these facts about the Fringe??

1. There are actually several festivals at the same time!

Did you know that throughout august there are actually four festivals going on at once? Though they used to be more separate, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, The Art Festival, The International Festival and The International Book Festival all go on at the same time, so the city is bursting with culture of every kind.

2. It’s the biggest arts festival in Europe

In 2019 – the last full-scale, in-person Edinburgh Fringe there were over 3000 shows to see and nearly 3 million tickets sold. The only events that sell more tickets are the football World Cup and the Olympics!

The Play That Goes Wrong, photo Robert Day

3. Many plays you’d recognise started life as Fringe shows!

Mischief Theatre went up to the Fringe in 2010 and after winning TNC best improv award went from strength to strength! Countless plays, (that mostly Go Wrong), TV shows, a Royal Variety performance and an Olivier Award later and they’re one of the most recognisable names in British comedy theatre!

Pride And Prejudice* (*sort of) – winner of Best Entertainment or Comedy Play at the 2022 Olivier Awardswas first seen at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2018, in a co-production with the Tron in Glasgow, before its run at the Criterion last winter.

Even modern classic Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead was first seen at the Fringe. In 1966, Tom Stoppard was a 29-year-old playwright putting on the first version of what would become one of the most famous plays of the 20th Century. But opening night only one of the the seven people in the audience was a paying customer!  Months later, following a good review, it was on at the National Theatre and soon became the National’s first transfer to Broadway.

4. Some huge names got their start at the Fringe

Robin Williams was in a Best of the Fringe award-winning production of The Taming Of The Shrew (done in the style of a Western!) when he was just 20. The very first of the Fringe’s Comedy Awards in 1981 went the Cambridge Footlights theatre troupe who, that year, comprised of Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, and Hugh Laurie.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge performed Fleabag for the first time, winning a Fringe First award in 2013 just under a decade later, she’s the 2022 president of the Fringe Society.

But it’s not just comedy – countless Fringe alumni actors have gone on to become Olivier Award-winning performers. Only two years after her professional stage debut, Judi Dench performed The Double Dealer with Maggie Smith at the Fringe, which catapulted their careers in the late 50s when it transferred to The Old Vic, especially as Laurence Olivier himself was in the audience!

5. You can now use Theatre Tokens to book for loads of Fringe shows!

As the Edinburgh International Festival celebrates it’s 75th year, you can now use Theatre Tokens to book for any show in the International Festival – see the full programme here. You can also use Theatre Tokens at the Fringe Festival when booking at the Underbelly Box Office or with any other member venue in Edinburgh!

And to celebrate that fact, the International Festival are running a Theatre Tokens competition. Anyone who uses a Theatre Token to purchase an Edinburgh International Festival ticket during the month of August will be automatically entered into a prize draw and the winning account will have the total cost of their August ticket purchases reimbursed in Theatre Tokens, up to £100.

So get booking, and see some unique theatre at this year’s Fringe. Who knows, it might be the next big thing!


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