Nearly 3000 shows have now been confirmed for this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe – with Sir Cliff Richard, Dame Judi Dench, Bobby Davro, Gail Porter, Judy Murray, Stephanie Beacham and Janey Godley among the stars set to appear alongside unknown acts.
The Fringe Society has unveiled 1596 new shows - more than doubling the number already on sale on its website.
It has now registered 248 venues for this year’s programme, an increase of 100 in the space of a month, since the last batch of tickets went on sale.
The surge in interest has emerged despite widespread concerns over the impact of the price of staying in the city and the cost of living crisis.
The figures have emerged in the wake of warnings from the Fringe Society that the event was facing a “perfect storm” due to growing problems with the availability and affordability of festival accommodation.
Last month chief executive Shona McCarthy warned that the event was facing an “existential threat” due to the impact of rising costs on companies, performers and venue operators.
However the latest running tally of 2935 productions being staged in August ensures that this year's festival is already certain to be one of the biggest in the 76-year history of the event in terms of registered shows.
Sir Cliff, who performed at the Usher Hall in 1962 and appeared most recently in an Edinburgh Castle concert, will be part of a line-up of new in-conversation events at luxury hotel Prestonfield and will appear on 26 and 27 August. A comedy-play about a group of fans of the chart-topping singer has already been confirmed in the Assembly Rooms line-up.
Stephanie Beacham, star of Dynasty, Coronation Street and Bad Girls, and Scottish stand-up star Janey Godley will also be appearing in Prestonfield’s line-up.
Unusual Fringe venues include the Port O' Leith Boxing Club, Murrayfield Ice Rink, the Royal Lyceum Theatre’s costume-making and set-building workshop at Roseburn, the Edinburgh poppy-making factory, the Biscuit Factory in Leith, the Old Town headquarters of the Saltire Society, the Salvation Army headquarters in Newington, the Royal Scots Club in the New Town and the Edinburgh Central Library on George IV Bridge.
Other newly-announced shows will be inspired by the Scottish Olympic icon Eric Liddell, singer-songwriters Nina Simone and George Michael, the sinking of the Titanic, the “forgotten heroes” of the Star Wars films, Scotland’s witchcraft trials and the Dachau concentration camp in Germany.
Also being staged are a new stage version of classic Hebridean adventure Whisky Galore, an adaptation of the CS Lewis novel The Screwtape Letters, a show billed as a “musical manifesto of Asian feminism,” a new Robert Burns-inspired musical and a play about a hunt for a serial killer stalking the streets of 1980s London.
Former Edinburgh Comedy Award winners Jordan Brookes and Rose Matafeo will return with new shows, RuPaul’s Drag Race favourites Lawrence Chaney, Trinity K. Bonet and VictoriaScone will stage a stand-up show together, Scot Squad star Jack Docherty’s play will be based on his chat show encounter with David Bowie, broadcaster Gail Porter will turn her hand to comedy and Bobby Davro will be making his Fringe debut at the Frankenstein theme bar.
Other comics in the line-up include Frank Skinner, Jon Culshaw, Catherine Cohen, Mark Thomas, Megan Stalter, Daniel Kitson, Nick Mohammed and Reuben Kaye.
Musical acts lined up include Fay Fife, Adam Holmes, Dean Owens, Kirsten Adamson, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Tom Robinson, Pictish Trail, Kathryn Joseph, the Tinderbox Orchestra, Christine Bovill and Emily Scott.
This year's Fringe is already the eighth biggest on record, according to the latest programme data.
However hundreds more shows are expected to be confirmed when the official programme is launched in June, with registration also expected to be kept open until the end of the Fringe.
Last year's printed programme featured 3,171 shows staged across 276 venues, although the number of productions registered online had risen to 3586 by the end of August.
More shows have already been registered this year than in the 2013 programme, which boasted 2871 shows staged across 273 venues.
The 3000-show barrier was broken in 2014 when 3193 shows were staged across 299 venues. Those numbers gradually increased until 2019, the year before the pandemic, when 3,841 shows were staged across 323 venues.
More than 2.2 million tickets were sold for Fringe shows last year, around 800,000 down on the larger-scale 2019 festival.
As last year’s festival drew to a close, leading venues joined forces to warn that the soaring cost of accommodation was the “biggest risk" to the future of the event.
Nearly 90 per cent of the 10,000 Fringe participants who took part in a survey following last year’s event cited the affordability of accommodation as a barrier to future involvement, however 70 per cent of those surveyed said they still expected to bring a show to the Fringe in future.
The Scottish Government agreed to delay the introduction of a new licensing regime intended to bring more control over home-sharing and home-letting amid complaints that the city council was making it too difficult to secure promised exemptions during peak periods of demand.
However, in February the Fringe Society called on the Scottish Government and the city council to come up with an “Olympic-style” response to help deal with the “perfect storm” facing artists, performers and companies trying to stay in the city.
It has been trying to persuade landlords, land-owners, business organisations and the city’s universities to help source new festival accommodation, as well as calling for public transport in and out of the city to be improved and extended.
Ms McCarthy said: “Today’s announcement reflects the wealth and variety of performance awaiting audiences this August, yet it also highlights the need to support artists and venues more than ever.
"Thousands of artists are coming to Edinburgh this summer to reach new audiences, and benefit from the many industry opportunities available to them, which is testament to the platform that the Fringe offers them.
"It continues to be a very challenging time for those working across the cultural sector, and I urge people to browse shows, book tickets, and champion these passionate and resilient performers.
"As we move at pace towards this year’s festival, it has never been more important than now to support those at the very heart of the Fringe – the artists.”