With Nearly 3,500 Shows, the 2023 Edinburgh Festival Fringe Is the Second-Largest Ever | Playbill

Playbill Goes Fringe With Nearly 3,500 Shows, the 2023 Edinburgh Festival Fringe Is the Second-Largest Ever

Local businesses are also reporting a rise to pre-pandemic economic activity.

This year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival will host the second largest programming on record, with nearly 3,500 shows performing as part of the annual theatre festival. Considering that the Fringe suffered a setback due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this is an optimistic sign for the return of theatre in Scotland's capital city.

The largest Fringe program ever was in 2019. Said an Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society spokesperson to Playbill: "As Edinburgh comes alive with artists preparing for the 2023 Fringe, there is certainly a sense of positivity in audience engagement, buzz about shows, bookings and downloads of the new Fringe app. While the scale of the Fringe is not in our gift, our focus is always on supporting the thousands of artists arriving who choose to bring their work to Edinburgh, helping audiences navigate the incredible programme and choice of live performance work, supporting our Fringe venues, and ensuring everyone who participates can have a great experience." 

The Fringe Society supports the artists performing at the festival—providing them with guidance on how to find venues, housing, and other resources while they're in Scotland—and helps audiences navigate buying tickets and seeing theatre during the Fringe. The Fringe Society also confirmed the number of shows registered for the Fringe with Playbill, noting that it is slightly higher than 2019 numbers.

Taking place every August, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is an abundant cornucopia of theatre. The festival welcomes artists and productions both big and small, ranging from theatrical legends such as Ian McKellan to (at the time) newcomers like Phoebe Waller-Bridge. It’s launched smash hit international shows (Toby Marlow and Lucy MossSIX: The Musical was staged at Fringe in 2017) and is a hotbed of up-and-coming artists from around the world. New talent can be found on every corner, transforming the beautiful Scottish city into a modern Bohemia.

This year's Fringe Festival was preceded by concerns that attendance could be lower due to costs of accommodation and travel within Edinburgh. But the Fringe aimed to increase financial accessibility this year by offering rooms in student housing. 

It's important to note that a high number of shows being presented does not definitively indicate high attendance. But the numbers are looking promising so far. According to a report from The Scotsman, local business and hotels indicate that the demand for accommodation and other services suggests that the attendance rates have returned to pre-pandemic levels. The Fringe Festival's first ever mobile app, which became available on July 11, already has over 20,000 downloads (the app is co-sponsored by Playbill). Notably, most attendees, tourists, and visitors haven't even arrived in Edinburgh yet.

With an astounding number of shows being presented, check out the recommendations of two Fringe experts on what to see at this year's festival. Want to check out some more recommendations? Check out Playbill Goes Fringe to keep up with our coverage before, during, and after the festival!

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