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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Edinburgh Fringe 2016: 10 top tips for survival

10. Go off-piste

The “big four” Fringe comedy and theatre venues are: the still-relocated Assembly, the Pleasance, the Gilded Balloon and that dank, multi-tiered cavern, the Underbelly. (The upside-down cow that is the Udderbelly, now in George Square, is an outpost of the latter.) While you probably do stand a better-than-average chance of finding high-quality shows at this quartet, it’s a mistake to limit your attention to them alone.

For one thing, they have between them only two of the four finest actual rooms for live stand-up (the Pleasance Cabaret Bar and Queen Dome: the other two are the Tron, just off the Royal Mile, and the identically subterranean Stand One).

Moreover, although the venerable and fiercely independent Stand seems – with the exception of a handful of faithful first-rate names such as Stewart Lee and Bridget Christie – slightly to have slipped into the shadows this year, the Free Fringe continues to grow like a hungry caterpillar: Kieran Hodgson, Richard Gadd and ever-super Edinburgh veteran Glenn Wool are just three of the first-rate talents to be found on it this year. For theatre only, by the way, the Traverse (near the Usher Hall) is still in a league of its own, and it has a fine bar, too.

There are, of course, scores of other Fringe venues scattered across town at which to catch some of this year’s 3,269 productions (and that, by the way, is 2016’s actual figure – there will be a total of 50,266 performances in 294 venues). Planning is of course essential if you’re to catch the shows you’ve got your eyes on. But, faced with such a bewildering choice, taking pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey punts can sometimes be the most rewarding approach of all to the wonderful, maddening, exhilarating Edinburgh Fringe.

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival runs from August 5-29

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