Liam Pape

Has the Edinburgh Fringe lost its edge?

  • From Spectator Life

Every August, thousands of comedians make the pilgrimage to Scotland for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. By the end of the month, those who manage to stand out in this crowded field (and it is a very crowded field) might have Live at the Apollo or Netflix calling, or maybe even a sitcom commission. But this year, with performers facing hefty registration fees, rent more expensive than a luxury foreign holiday and exorbitant marketing campaigns, all in the midst of a cost of living crisis, more and more are asking: has the Fringe lost its edge?

As the festival kicks off for its 75th year, comedian Vittorio Angelone says its culture seems to have changed. ‘It feels like the letting agents, journalists, PR companies, venues and TV industry have doubled down on all the ugliest parts of the ever more corporate “Fringe”,’ he says. ‘Rents are colossal, venue costs are insane, and performers are told the only way to get noticed is to get nominated and the only way to get nominated is to get good reviews and the only way to get good reviews is to pay through the nose for PR.’

Last month, Succession star Brian Cox warned that the festival risks ‘cutting off the lifeblood’ of talent if it doesn’t address soaring accommodation costs. Scottish actor Brian Maitland also claimed the Fringe was ‘dying’ after finding hotels charging as much as £526 for two nights during the event. But it’s not just the price of room and board that’s biting. The registration fee for performers for a ‘full run’ of six or more shows and inclusion in the official programme stands at £393.60 – which some have questioned the value of after it was announced that the Fringe’s ticketing app, designed to help audiences discover shows they want to see, has been scrapped.

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