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A Guide to Venues at the Edinburgh Fringe

By Sam Wightman


It’s that time again! Every pub, church and cave in Scotland's capital transforms into a temporary theatre as artists from all over the world, and a lot of exhausted flyerers flock for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Once again, we have a 2016 programme even thicker than the previous year, and unless you get a kick out of paper cuts, it's a mighty task to get through the thing... 

If you hate the agony of choice, we’ve got you. Whilst there's far too much worth seeing to cram into one article, we'll narrow down your vast amount of options by giving an overview of the venues you should visit, and where to spend you precious time and money this year.


Have a wonderful festival, and tweet us your picks of the Fringe!





Summerhall


The University of Edinburgh's old vetinary school is fast becoming one of the most fashionable locations for festival-goers. The all-year-round arts venue prides itself on its ecclectic mix of international and experimental performances during August. Though sadly the animals have all gone, you can practically feel the history as you take your seat in the Dissection Room or walk through the Small Animal Hospital in truly unique performance spaces that you won't forget easily.


Be warned - if you're looking for stand up, you're barking up the wrong tree at Summerhall, with a dedication to curating the creme de la creme of theatre and performance from all over the globe. If that's not your jam, you can always lounge the days away in the venue's lively courtyard with a cocktail or two...


Summerhall Place, Edinburgh, EH9 1PL


Picks: Letters to Windsor House // Adler & Gibb // Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons 







C Venues


There's definitely something for everybody at C Venues. With over 200 shows taking place across their buildings dotted around the capital each year, it's a trustworthy name, and a guarantee for entertainment. Championing every art form, but a favourite among young emerging companies, they are a hive of activity that seems to be able to get the entire population of Edinburgh into carefully-coordinated queues outside its many studio doors.


With the majority of C Venues being only a stumble away from the Royal Mile (a.k.a the Mecca of the Fringe), it's the perfect choice for when you're on a tight schedule. For something further away, the organisation is debuting a theatre in Stockbridge's St Stephen's Church for the very first time in 2016.



C Scala: St Stephen's Church: St Stephen St, Edinburgh EH3 5AB 

  

Picks: Ockham's Razor: Tipping Point // Shakespeare for Breakfast // The Improv Musical    





Pleasance


A giant of the Fringe, you don't need much memory to recall the location of this thriving venue's home - on the winding and deceivingly steep Pleasance road. A staple location for Fringe-goers since 1985, the main Pleasance courtyard operates as a part-beer festival, part-celebrity spotting enclosure. You'll be swamped by flyerers, but you won't mind when you realise you are in great company and that they are promoting some of the very best talent in the country.


The Pleasance stages have been graced by the biggest names in comedy over the years, boasting an impressive line-up annually without fail. It's a bit off the beaten track but an essential pit-stop to make, especially after dark.



Pleasance Courtyard, 60 Pleasance, Edinburgh, EH8 9TJ


Picks: Tank // Helen Duff: Come With Me // Figs in Wigs








ZOO

ZOO is growing year upon year to become a real titan of the Fringe. If your taste is weird and wonderful dance and physical theatre, you might as well set up camp inside their gorgeous Southside home for the entire month. Boasting performance spaces of all sizes across two locations, experimentation certainly breeds inside its walls.


A favourite for Lecoq graduate companies over the years, test the waters here with some new talent or seasoned pros - all promising to deliver truly memorable festival experiences, that push the limits of theatrical convention.



ZOO Southside, 117 Nicolson St, Edinburgh EH8 9ER


Picks: Petrol // Macbeth: Without Words // The Murderer








Underbelly


Underbelly is less like a Fringe venue, and more like a Fringe metropolis. The giant upside-down cow is the purple beacon for those hungry for comedy, theatre and everything in between. It’s difficult to sum up the character of its shows based on its sheer variety, but generally it has a fine taste for stuff that is both edgy and up-and-coming.


From the main compound above ground to the caves in Cowgate, Underbelly spots are full of laughter, tears and a fair bit of booze right through to the wee hours, as it acts as a perfect grazing area if you (god forbid) have a couple of hours to kill.



Cowgate: Edinburgh Central Library, 56 Cowgate, Edinburgh EH1 1EG


Picks: Christeene: Trigger // Spencer Jones // Closer by Circa








Edinburgh Playhouse


Believe it or not, our very own Playhouse doesn’t migrate to sunnier lands in August like most regular Auld Reekie dwellers. ATG’s 3,000 seat venue certainly has the upper hand on most theatrical locations when it comes to size, and it has a plethora of show-stopping events to get stuck into when you need a breather from collecting bits of paper on the Royal Mile.


Take a trip down to Scotland’s Broadway for one-off festival events and a look at one of the rocks of the city’s cultural landscape.



18-22 Greenside Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3AA


Picks: Louis CK // Forth on the Fringe // Waverly Comedy Gala








Forest Fringe


The Out of the Blue Drill Hall is admittedly not one of the most easy to reach buildings in Edinburgh, but those who brave the journey to its door reap the rewards. With a niche in live art and avant-garde performance, Forest Fringe is a micro-festival that packs a punch with integrity and exploration at its heart.


Though perhaps giving something of the Marmite effect for visitors to the city, it’s a buzzing hub of creativity, housing non-ticked interactive installations and happenings throughout the day. We don’t know what you might see/hear/touch/smell, but there’s a high probability that it will be unlike anything you’ve experienced.



Out of the Blue Drill Hall, 36 Dalmeny St, Edinburgh EH6 8RG


Picks: Dan Canham // Richard DeDominici // Search Party






PBH’s Free Fringe Locations


The ultimate tombola. It’s no secret that you will see some of the worst shows as well as some of the best shows of your life in Edinburgh without paying a single penny. It’s up to you how you play it – wait long enough and word of mouth will point out some hidden gems in the free festival, or take the bull by the horns and dip into anything and everything you come across.


The free shows of Edinburgh epitomise the spirit of the festival, and from experience can say with confidence that they are no means a marker of the quality of the work being produced. A Fringe visit is incomplete without a tap-dancing magic show in the basement of a nightclub after all…



We can, of course, only scratch the surface of the temporary establishments that the city has to offer during this most amazing month of the year. We’ve endeavoured to point you down some possible avenues for where to spend your Fringe, but at the end of the day it is entirely in your hands to uncover your own hangouts this year. Whether it’s your first or thirty-first Edinburgh Festival, it’s sure to be another fantastic year and we wish you luck in all your show-selecting duties! 


If you're planning a Fringe getaway be sure to also check out our guide to planning your trip as well as our Top Tips blog to get the most out of your time there.