Comedy overtakes theatre in Edinburgh Festival Fringe first

Comedy will form the largest sector at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, overtaking theatre for the first time in the event’s 62-year history.

While the total number of productions is the highest ever at 2088, theatre dips to its lowest ever percentage.

The news that there will be 668 comedy shows (32% of the total) to 593 theatre productions (29% of the total), came at the Fringe launch in Edinburgh – while the new Edinburgh Comedy Festival on the Fringe was making its simultaneous launch in London.

Responding to the news, director of the Fringe Jon Morgan told the Stage: “I am not at all worried about theatre, it is still a massive percentage of the overall programme.

“The fringe is an open access festival,” he continued. “How big it is and also what kind of shows are in it is going to be defined by the artists, so if there are more comedians who want to bring shows than there are theatre practitioners, then there is going to be more comedy.”

While the absolute number of theatre shows is the lowest since 2004, when 587 theatre shows formed 34% of the programme, Morgan did reveal that over his first year in the post he has been working behind the scenes help bring new theatre productions to Edinburgh.

He added: “It is not my job to programme work, but where I can be a useful lever or influence on funding bodies to be more generous towards shows coming to the fringe then that is something I am prepared to do – and have been doing.

“On the whole it costs more to bring a theatre show than it does to bring a comedy show. Our job is to remove the barriers and maximise the benefits. If I can remove barriers by encouraging funders to invest in theatre work then I will. I feel that it is our role to level the playing field so where there is more need for assistance, then that is where we will direct our efforts. A level playing field is not about doing nothing or doing the same for everybody, it is about addressing where help is most useful and most beneficial.”

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