IT'S Festival time, but don't panic! We've done all the hard work for you: from checking out the coolest bars to the shows you'll want to be first in line for. Sit back, take note and enjoy…
THE BEST ALTERNATIVE
West Port Book Festival, August 14-17
This charming alternative book festival has an altogether more poetic appeal than its more corporate counterpart. All the events are free, and many of them will take place in one of the six independent second-hand bookshops in the area, which means members of the audience are likely to be perched on The Complete Works Of Shakespeare or sat cross-legged on cushions. This inspired approach has lured some big names too. AL Kennedy, Ali Smith and Ian Rankin, who will chat about his first comic book, have all opted for this off-the-beaten-track find.
The young Venezuelan pianist gave her first public performance at the age of five and has played all five Beethoven concertos several times with Gustavo Dudamel's brilliant Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra. She is a protg of Martha Argerich, one of the world's leading pianists, who described her as "a unique artist", adding: "I have rarely come across a talent like Gabriela's." Renowned for her outstanding improvisation, charismatic style and diversity, Montero will play an improvised concert at the Edinburgh International Festival, where you can expect anything from blues to Bach. She will also perform in recital in a programme that includes Bach, Chopin, Debussy and Schumann.
Queen's Hall, August 12, 11am, and later that day at The Hub, 10.30pm
THE MOST IMAGINATIVE PROGRAMME
As ticket prices for the Fringe continue to rise, it's great to find a venue that has a 'doing-it-for-the-love-of-the-game' feel to it. The Forest Caf on Bristo Place operates on a pay-what-you-can basis, and has a programme packed with experimental performances. Shows to watch out for include The Night Flyer by Paper Cinema and Kora, which has visited Glastonbury and uses a mix of drawing, puppetry, cinema and music, and the One O'Clock Scratch, in which artists try out different ideas and encourage audience feedback.
THE HOTTEST HANGOUTS
With Michelin-starred chefs, award-winning mixologists and designer hotels cropping up all over Edinburgh in recent years, it can be hard for social butterflies to know where to rest their wings during the social jamboree that is the Festival city. Fear not, as we consider it a matter of pride and duty here at Festival Review to sample all the goods in life, in order to tell you what's what. Contender for most glamorous venue this year? While there may not be any performances taking place on a stage at The Rutland, this recently refurbished boutique hotel, bar and restaurant (it literally launched last Wednesday, folks) will be full of people attempting to put on a show. Urban glamour is the order of the day, with iPod docks at your table in the venue's One Below bar, and by your bedside in the plush rooms. Right next door to the Caledonian Hilton, where most of the stars who hit this town bed down at night, and just down the road from the Usher Hall, Traverse and Royal Lyceum festival venues, this is definitely a rival for the lips and tips of the season's most aspiring socialites.
THE SHOW WORTH TRAVELLING FOR
Enclosure 44 – Humans
This intriguing site-specific project by Janice Claxton Dance asks if humans are really different to animals, and involves seven dancers performing inside an enclosure in Edinburgh Zoo for eight hours each day. They will be tended to by 'zoo keepers' while awestruck visitors observe their movement and behaviour.
Edinburgh Zoo, August 5-16
THE GUARANTEED GIGGLE
This is John Pinette's first visit to the UK and we reckon it's long overdue, considering he recently ended a stint starring as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray on Broadway. And if that's not enough – and really, that he has played everyone's favourite cross-dressing big momma should be – here are some other reasons. Pinette has toured with Frank Sinatra, appeared on The Tonight Show, been voted best stand-up by American critics and his show was the fastest-selling in the history of Montreal's Just for Laughs festival. Called I Say, Nay Nay, it's about his battle with, and submission to, food. Go on, gorge yourselves.
Udderbelly's Pasture (0844 545 8252), Thursdays until August 25, 9.15pm
THE PARTY OF THE MONTH
A train carriage has been booked for the entourage, George Michael, Elton John and David Furnish are on the guest list, under-16s are only allowed into the show itself if accompanied by an adult, and the whole arts community in Edinburgh waits with bated breath to see whether Tracey Emin's grand arrival in the city for her first retrospective, at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, will really be the fur coat and used knickers occasion we've been promised. With new work specially created for the Festival show, the exhibition will include her most infamous work, My Bed, alongside creations from the past 20 years of her career. The woman herself arrives later this week and the art goes on show from Saturday.
THE BEST EXPERIMENTAL SHOW
I Went To The House But Did Not Enter
The cream of experimental European theatre combines in Heiner Goebbels' collaboration with medieval specialists the Hilliard Ensemble. The result is a romp through TS Eliot's 'The Love Song Of J Alfred Prufrock', Maurice Blanchot's The Madness Of The Day and Samuel Beckett's 'Worstward Ho'.
Royal Lyceum (0131-473 2000), August 28-30
THE SOUND TO SEEK OUT
He's smooth, this Sparro. We don't say this often but the boy has got the funk. He wears day-glo specs and was a child actor who appeared in a McDonald's ad in his native Australia, but no matter – after all, how many cute gay popsters can count Chaka Khan among their early fans? Okay, maybe a few. His brilliant first major-label single 'Black And Gold' (described as the Gnarls Barkley's 'Crazy' of 2008) climbed to number four and was used in a commercial for TV show Skins. Remember what happened to Beth Ditto after The Gossip's 'Standing In The Way Of Control' was used to advertise that same series? Say no more.
The Liquid Room,
August 18, 7.30pm
THE GUARANTEED MONSTER SMASH
This theatre show/party has the potential to be the naughtiest, most raucous hyper-real Fringe experience this year. Upon entry, the audience/participants will be split into different departments and proceed to enjoy some nibbles and booze, as you would at a typical office party. It may start off civilised, but descent into chaos is inevitable and people have been known to get naked by the end. Office Party has already enjoyed a run at the Barbican in London, and is directed by Cal McCrystal, who has worked with The Mighty Boosh – no stranger to the surreal then. Comedian Glenn Wool will be joining in with the fun.
Underbelly's Pasture, Bristo Square, August 2-25
Compiled by Fiona Leith, Chitra Ramaswamy and Rosanna Chianta
The Liquid Room (0844 499 9990), August 21, 7pm
Topping the charts with his Calvin Harris collaboration, 'Dance Wiv Me'.
Festival Theatre (0131-473 2000), Aug 25 and 27, 7.15pm
Valery Gergiev conducts the Marinsky Opera Company through Szymanowski's operatic masterpiece, the religiously political story of a shepherd who is really the hedonistic Greek God Dionysus.
The Liquid Room (0844 499 9990), August 19, 7pm
Compared to M.I.A, now hear Santi White, who released her eponymous debut album earlier this year, herself.
The International Festival hosts two concerts this year to celebrate the centenary of Olivier Messiaen's birth.
First up is organist Naji Hakim at St Giles' Cathedral on August 9 and 11 at 10.30pm. The BBC SSO, led by Ilan Volkov, will then perform clairs Sur L'au-Del, the composer's grand, final work, at the Usher Hall on August 10 at 8pm (0131-473 2000)
ScottishPower Studio Theatre, August 9, 8.30pm
The US author hailed for his non-fiction book, Standard Operating Procedure, which described the inhumanity of Abu Ghraib, will talk about the interpretation of his shocking discoveries.
ScottishPower Studio Theatre, August 22, 3.30pm
Kagan is the foreign adviser to Senator McCain, who, for better or worse, could soon become a very powerful man. Here, he will talk about the questions facing the democratic world.
AGNES OWENS AND JAMES KELMAN
ScottishPower Studio Theatre, Aug 14, 3.30pm
Owens, whose stories are infused with a dark humour, will celebrate the publication of a complete collection of her works with one of her many fans, James Kelman, left
KATE MOSSE WITH RITA MONALDI & FRANCESCO SORTI
RBS Main Theatre, August 19, 4.30pm
The bestselling author of Labyrinth will talk about her latest book, Sepulchre.
(0845 373 5888)
FINISHED WITH ENGINES
Traverse (0131-228 1404), Thursday, until August 10, times vary
Written by Alan McKendrick, who won the Arches Award For Stage Directors in 2006 and was final-shortlisted for the 2007 Meyer-Whitworth Award for Best UK play by a new writer for this piece. Co-artistic directed by members of New York's acclaimed Riot Group, the satirical piece plays out on a ship as civil unrest breaks out in the bay it sits in.
Royal Lyceum Theatre (0131-473 2000), August 20-23, 8pm
Based on Nigel Williams' play set in south London in 1978, for this International Festival show Haris Pašovic transports us to Sarajevo in 2007. It is after the war, and a group of teenagers sit together in a classroom waiting for teachers who never come. Their passions and politics soon take over.
CHARLIE VICTOR ROMEO
Underbelly's Pasture, Edinburgh (0844 545 8252), Thursday until August 25 (not 12), 7.40pm
Affecting verbatim theatre taken from the black box recordings of airplane emergencies (pictured right).
King's Theatre (0131-4732000), August 15-17, 8pm
The final work by the late, acclaimed British playwright Sarah Kane. Performed in Polish by theatre group TR Warszawa, it looks at mental illness and the blurred lines between reality and imagination.
FOR ART'S SAKE
Eskmills Gallery, Musselburgh (0131-273 4339), until October
In its second year, this ambitious project at Eskmills Gallery is far more than the sum of its parts. Work from Graham Fagen and Ian Hamilton Finlay will be shown, among others.
JANET CARDIFF AND GEORGE BURES MILLER
Fruitmarket (0131-225 2383), Thursday until August 31
Six major works made between 1995 and 2008 from the partnership who create installations of images, objects, sound and music to transport the viewer to a fictional place. Previous responses to these involving works suggest you'll be moved.
Inverleith House (0131-248 2971), Thursday until October 12
The Pop Artist brings his personally selected protest pictures to the city's Botanic Garden.
WHAT A SONG AND DANCE
THE BRITISH AMBASSADOR'S BELLY DANCER
Gilded Balloon Teviot (0131-668 1633), Friday until 25, 11.15pm
Nadira Murray performs her incredible story, from mistress of the British Ambassador in Uzbekistan to penniless on the streets of London.
George Square (0131-662 8740), Thursday until August 25, alternate days, 4pm
Finalist in the BBC MacMusical quest, this tale of two collectors in search of the fabled malt Glenigma is among the RSAMD shows this year.
THE GREASE LIGHTNIN' DRAG SHOW
Gilded Balloon (0131-668 1633), Thursday until August 25, 10.15pm
Australia's best drags turn beauty school drop-outs.
ARE YOU EXPERIENCED?
FAWLTY TOWERS, THE DINING EXPERIENCE
B'est Restaurant (0131-556 6040), August 4-24 (not Saturdays)
Expect hair in your soup, insults and farcical misdemeanours as incompetent hotel staff make you the centre of a bizarre recreation of the legendary British comedy. A three-course meal is included in the price – Waldorf salad, anyone?
Assembly @ George Street (0131-623 3030), Thursday until August 24 (not Mondays or Tuesdays)
Part art installation, part theatre and part eavesdropping, this offering from The Puppet Lab asks audience members to take the lead roles and have a chat over fondue and wine.
Playhouse (0131-473 2000), August 17-19, 8pm
This innovative new dance show from the Australian company Chunky Move is a multimedia spectacular, where the dancers interact with lasers, strobe lights and video projections to create an unpredictable spectacle.
Cow Barn (0844 545 8252), August 7-26, 3.45pm
Thwarting claims that her scathing wit is a distancing mechanism, Joan Rivers promises to get up close and personal with her new show, Work In Progress By A Life In Progress. Rivers will also perform a four-night stand-up show at the White Belly (August 12, 13, 19 & 20, 11.45pm).
The Scottish Parliament, Main Chamber (0131-473 2000), Aug 20, 1pm
The headliner of this year's Festival of Politics will talk about her SING project and her work with Nelson Mandela's Foundation, which are both geared towards fighting HIV/Aids in South Africa.
Britt On Britt, Assembly@George Street (0131-623 3030), July 31-August 25, 6.30pm
Ekland makes her Fringe debut at the age of 65, with Britt On Britt, a one-woman show that tells her life story in her own words.
SIR SEAN CONNERY
Book Festival, RBS Main Theatre, Aug 25, 11.30am
The Bond legend will spend his 78th birthday with filmmaker Murray Grigor to launch their new book, Being A Scot. Tickets sold out in less than an hour, so your only hope of seeing the icon is by plotting a 007-esque gatecrash. Either that, or keep your eyes peeled on the streets – he likes a wander round his old patch, does our Sean.
TV Festival, August 22, 4.45pm
Osbourne will be at the TV Festival to share her expert knowledge on why celebrities are so attracted to reality TV, but as you would have to pay 500 for a three-day pass to attend the event mere mortals may have to rely on bumping into her in Harvey Nic's.
MAKE EM LAUGH
The Stand (0131-558 7272), August 1-25, 9pm
A low-fi comedian, with a fine line in musical ditties. Yet beneath the geek-chic vibe to O'Doherty's onstage persona, his observations about the pitfalls of the big bad world cut through life's nonsense with a knowing charm.
Assembly (0131-623 3030), Aug 11-23, 9.15pm
Best known as stalker Mel from Flight of the Conchords, Schaal appears this year with comedy partner Kurt Braunohler. Expect New York stories with a dry, cute and sometimes manic wit.
Assembly (0131-623 3030), George St, August 21 and 22, 10.15pm
The comedienne has gone off, trained herself as a psychotherapist, and is keen to share her wit and wisdom on the subject area of mental health, in conjunction with her role as agony aunt for the BBC's Headroom project.
Mystery venue (0131-226 0000), August 23, 11am
There's always one, isn't there? Well, in this case there really will be – you, as the sole audience member, if you're willing to stump up the 7,349 Stanhope thinks should be paid out for the pleasure. Rather than lose this amount at the Fringe, he's decided to cover his expenses by playing one gig to one lucky/brave punter.
Cats Under Mats, Having Chats with Bats, Assembly Hall (0131-623 3030), July 31-August 25 (not 11 & 18)
Last year this Irish madcap comic was one of the Fringe comedy highlights, and now he returns with a new show full of more fast-paced, bizarre ramblings that might just make you forgive him for the slagging you'll get if you're one of the audience members he chooses to pick on.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: West