THE Edinburgh Festival Fringe will feature shows inspired by John Lennon, Tony Benn, Game of Thrones, Tony and Cherie Blair, Boris Johnson and Star Trek’s Spock as the event gears up for its busiest ever season.
The music of Annie Lennox, Nina Simone, Dolly Parton and Doris Day will be lighting up stages across the city, while the genius of comedians Bob Monkhouse, Bill Hicks and Charles Hawtrey will all be recalled this August.
A record 2,300 productions have gone on sale early ahead of the official brochure launch next month, more than ever before at this time of year.
The “big four” venues have all entered the fray this week with the release of their own joint programmes and high-profile launches in London and Edinburgh.
Highlights include Lennon: Through A Glass Onion, a hit New York show celebrating the life and legacy of the Beatles legend, which will be performed by actor and singer John Waters at the Assembly Hall.
Tony and Cherie Blair will be the subject of a new play at the Pleasance imagining them holidaying in Barbados with George Bush, Alastair Campbell, Silvio Berlusconi and the late Michael Winner.
The Pleasance will stage Tony’s Last Tape, a one-man show based on the diaries of the late Tony Benn, along with Boris: World King, a satire on the London mayor, which will see him try to win the Fringe’s top comedy award.
Impressionist Simon Cartwright will take the stage in a one-man play looking back at the life of the English comic Bob Monkhouse, 12 years after his death from cancer, at the Assembly Hall, where the 100th anniversary of the birth of Carry On star Charles Hawtrey will also be marked with a play charting his increasingly erratic behaviour and alcoholism as his career went into decline.
Stand-up highlights this year include the return of Frankie Boyle and Jo Brand to the Fringe, at the Assembly Rooms and Gilded Balloon respectively. Glasgow comic Hardeep Singh Kohli will be appearing in an hour-long show at his new restaurant in Leith.
The Gilded Balloon, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary, has lined up appearances from Johnny Vegas, Gary Tank Commander star Greg McHugh, Ross Noble and Alan Davies for a star-studded gala at the Playhouse.
Rab C Nesbitt’s creator Ian Pattison will join forces at the Gilded Balloon with Grant Stott and Andy Gray, best known for their long-time panto partnership, for a play exploring the relationship between maverick theatre impresario Willie Donaldson and Sebastian Horsley, the writer, artist and “Soho dandy”.
The show with perhaps the toughest premise promises to present a defence of the former Apprentice contender and tabloid newspaper columnist Katie Hopkins, in a one-woman show which is part of Sweet’s programme.
Others shows include a musical version of HBO’s fantasy series Game of Thrones, which will be performed in George Square and What Would Spock Do?, a Gilded Balloon show about a Star Trek diehard who falls for a new girl at work with a haircut like his hero and a picture of the late Leonard Nimoy on her desk.
Australian singer Michael Griffiths will be bringing his Adelaide Fringe-winning tribute show to Annie Lennox to George Square Gardens, while a clutch of classic songs will be revived at the Assembly Hall in new cabaret show Doris, Dolly and the Dressing Room Divas.