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Monday, 5 August, 2002, 07:38 GMT 08:38 UK
Fringe festival kicks off
Parade
More than 150,000 people are thought to have crowded the route
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival has officially begun with a colourful two-hour parade through the city centre.

Organisers filled the main street with floats on Sunday afternoon to mark the start of the annual arts extravaganza from 4 to 26 August.

The cavalcade was watched by an estimated 150,000 people, made up of Edinburgh residents, Fringe performers and visitors.

The Fringe festival, which began in the late 1940s, is now the world's largest showcase of performance art, including theatre, comedy, music and dance.

Fringe director Paul Gudgin - in charge since 1999 - hailed the start to this year's event as the best he had seen.

Tina C is one of a number of acts to focus on 11 September

"I can't remember a more vibrant start to the show. It's fantastic. There's so much life and energy," Mr Gudgin said.

He also said he expected 2002 to set a record for ticket sales. Many of the previews he had attended had, unusually, been either sold out, or three-quarters full.

Many productions are world premières by up and coming talent, and this year is no exception, with more than 1,500 productions registered to take part.

The popular theme to emerge for productions this year is 11 September and its repercussions.

Shows on this topic include Tina C, played by UK comedian Chris Green, singing songs with titles like Stranger on the Stairwell from a fictitious tribute album, 9/11: 24/7.

Acclaimed UK actor Steven Berkoff will première Requiem for Ground Zero, which he calls a memorial to the many unknown victims.

Hollywood couple Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins will stage a reading of The Guys about New York firefighters involved in the World Trade Center salvage operation.

The other major global event to inspire shows is the World Cup, which is the basis for five productions, including The World Cup Is Not Enough and The Boy with the Magic Feet.

Award

There will be more than 20,000 performances over the three-week festival, which plays host to productions from all over the world.

Comedy is one of the Fringe's key areas of focus with the coveted Perrier award handed out on Saturday 24 August.

The Assembly Rooms
The Assembly Rooms are one of the main Fringe venues

Winning the award can turn a comic into a household name, as well as attracting lucrative book deals and television shows.

There is also the much sought after Perrier trophy for best newcomer, awarded on the same day.

Other highlights of this year's Fringe include performances from impressionist Rory Bremner, US political comic Will Durst, and veteran Labour politician Tony Benn.

Broadcaster Gyles Brandreth will take audiences through 100 of the best and worst musicals in 90 minutes in his show, Zipp!

Geoffrey Hayes and Bungle from Rainbow
Geoffrey Hayes promises to reveal the truth behind Rainbow

Meanwhile, Geoffrey Hayes, former star of children's TV favourite Rainbow, will put on Over the Rainbow, in which he claims to tell the real story of what went on behind the scenes.

The start of the Fringe precedes that of the more highbrow international festival, and individual festivals covering books, films and TV.

They cover the entire month of August and cause the population of Edinburgh to double during this time each year.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Rosie Millard
"There are over 20,000 performances in Edinburgh this summer"
Coverage of the 2002 Edinburgh Festival from BBC News Online

The buzz

In focus

Fringe diarists

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See also:

01 Aug 02 | Entertainment
01 Aug 02 | Entertainment
01 Aug 02 | Entertainment
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