The Free Fringe has grown at a phenomenal rate in recent years – and is worth exploring.
Late night cabaret is its forte, but it also celebrates the spoken word and magic, and it truly has something for everyone.
Just because the shows are free, nominally, doesn’t mean they aren’t worth seeing – in fact some of them would sit just as easily within the main Fringe schedule.
The Free Fringe is staged in venues across the city centre, and its ethos is simple.
The organisers get the venues free, they pass them on to the performers free of charge ... so anything you then offer afterwards helps them to eat.
Phil Jupitus is a huge supporter of the free Fringe.
An absentee this year because of touring commitments, his hour long poetry show was fabulous; one of the real treats of the festival every year.
Afterwards he stood at the door and thanked you whether you chucked in a few quid or a tenner.
Many acts will suggest what they think the show is worth. It’s up to you – but custom dictates you give something, so don’t be stingy.
The Free Fringe brochure is widely available, and, this year there is an app to help guide you around.
If you go to the Fringe then step away from the headline acts and spend an afternoon in somewhere like the Voodoo Rooms, right behind the Apple store on Prince Street, which has shows in every room – the food’s fab too! – or the Free Sisters in the heart of the Cowgate.
As for recommendations, here’s a few shows we’ve seen, enjoyed and are happy to pass on:
1. Laurence Owen’s Cinemusical High – Voodoo Rooms (Venue 68), 1:45 p.m.
A one-man musical genius who creates his own musicals with flair, wit and style. This year he sets about asking the question - do we ever grow out of high school roles, and the end result is another slick and hugely entertaining hour of music and comedy.
2 Dave Alnwick’s Cult of Dave – Voodoo Rooms (Venue 68)
Went down a storm in 2015, so the affable Dave is back again to impress with his mind reading show. He’s a young lad and hugely engaging – a show definitely worth taking in and supporting.
3 Chris Henry in Chris’ World – Laughing Horse, Free Sisters (Venue 272)
As recommended by Colin Cloud - so blame him!
Chris comes to Edinburgh on the back of a great Perth Fringe Comedy Festival Down Under, and he’s also a Scottish comedian of the year finalist, so give him your support as he joins the Free Fringe. And if you like him, he’s also got a kids show called Balloonatics.
4 The Cabaret At The End Of The Universe, Voodoo Rooms (Venue 68), Midnight
Hugely popular, chaotic, superb late night revue - the best way to end a day at the Fringe.
The line-up changes every night, but the hosts remain constant - the superb Legion of Doom and Lola Rogue.
Get there early to beat the queues, and enjoy!
5 Paul Dabek: Look At Me – La Belle Angele (Venue 301), 9.00 p.m.
A favourite on the Free Fringe,m he mixes magic and sleight of hand with some great comedy.
Dabek also does a Lion King mash-up with just the shadows created by his hands which is, frankly, superb.