70th Fringe plans to offer audiences an ‘Alliance of Defiance’

The National / Kirsteen Paterson

A FORMER church will be flooded with 20 tonnes of water as it becomes a Fringe venue for the first time.

Now the Leith Volcano, the ex-St James Church will host a “visceral” production of Chekhov’s The Seagull.

The show is amongst almost 3400 events to be staged across Edinburgh this August as the Fringe turns 70.

Launching the programme yesterday, organisers urged audiences and performers to “join the Alliance of Defiance” and celebrate seven decades of “defying the norm”.

Shona McCarthy, chief executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, said: “This is a very special year for the Fringe as we celebrate 70 years of defying the norm, of championing artistic freedom and providing a platform for artists around the world to come and present their work in a truly unique environment that is inclusive, inspiring, and often life-affirming.

“The fringe movement has circled the globe and inspired a worldwide network. In the current climate of global uncertainty, fringes are more crucial than ever, continuing to provide artists with a space to express themselves without fear of censorship.”

As many as 300 venues will play host to 53,230 performances this year, with acts travelling from more than 60 countries to take part, making this year’s event the most international ever.

Australian drag queen Courtney Act is among them, as is Finnish stand-up comic Harri Soinila and Czech contemporary circus Cirk La Putyka.

Veteran performer Nicholas Parsons will narrate Peter and the Wolf in a charity event and Performers, a play by Irvine Welsh, will have its world premiere as the writer’s other new show Creatives is also staged.

Fans of his older work can also take in Trainspotting in a tunnel beneath the EICC.

Tech hub Codebase will open its doors for Frogman, a thriller which will see viewers don virtual reality headsets, and Alice Through The Looking Glass will be staged in the idyllic surrounds of Inveresk Lodge Garden.

Comedy makes up 35 per cent of the bill – more than any other art form – and will see a number of big names including Ruby Wax, Sean Hughes and Sue Perkins take the stage Themes running through the programme include the Syrian conflict, activism, global politics, gender, fertility, disability and identity.

Meanwhile, Charlotte Church will bring her Late Night Pop Dungeon to Summerhall and Glasgow-based composer MJ McCarthy will invite audiences to investigate his aunt’s vinyl collection while reflecting on the importance of music in their lives.

The first ever World Fringe Day will be held on July 11, around four weeks before the annual showcase begins, to celebrate the birth of the movement, which started when eight theatre companies turned up to the Edinburgh International Festival uninvited in 1947.

McCarthy said: “The 2017 Fringe programme reflects the principles that guide the fringe movement. It is diverse, topical, challenging and of course, exciting.

“ I hope that as many people as possible will join us here in Edinburgh for the 70th anniversary edition of the Fringe, to witness and participate in this joyous international celebration of arts and culture.”

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop commented: “The 70th anniversary edition of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Programme is as varied as ever and features artists from all over the world.

“Edinburgh’s festivals are now world renowned and it is remarkable to think the fringe movement that began here in 1947 has developed into a worldwide network of fringes.

“ I am proud Scotland is the home of fringe and has joined with others across the globe to celebrate the 70th anniversary and the ongoing success of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.”