Digital era examined at Edinburgh Fringe festival

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - The bright and dark sides of the digital era will be explored at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, the anarchic sideshow to the world’s largest annual celebration of the arts in the Scottish capital.

An actress from the Nottingham New Theatre blows bubbles as she promotes the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in this August 9, 2007 file image. REUTERS/David Moir

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown does not get a comic makeover in 2008, but his predecessor Tony Blair has two shows devoted to him.

Nearly 19,000 performers, over 3,000 from abroad, signed up to take part in a record 2,088 shows at the Fringe from August 3 to 25 in parallel with the formal international arts festival, both founded in 1947 in the aftermath of World War Two.

“There’s a strand of work about digital media, the Web, the Internet and social networking sites, both the positive and funny elements of those sites, and some of the negative things as well,” Fringe director Jon Morgan said on Thursday.

Justin Moorhouse’s “Ever Decreasing Social Circle” tracks the comedian’s diminishing contacts as he purges his electronic address books, while Dan Marsh relates his MySpace love affair and subsequent offspring.

London’s Royal Court Theatre explores relationships in “Free Outgoing”, in which a mobile phone video clip of a girl having sex in her classroom is spread across the nation.

There are also shows about Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and the 20-year struggle for democracy in Myanmar, “so people are really interested in those kind of key political issues,” Morgan told Reuters.

Comedy also has a sharp edge.

In “Eco-Friendly Jihad”, an environmentalist joins al Qaeda in a battle to reduce U.S. carbon emissions, while “The Arab the Jew and the Chicken”, written and performed by Arab, Israeli, Jewish and Muslim actors explores conflict, identity and everyday life in the Middle East.

Forty-seven countries are represented, and Morgan said visas for the many performers from outside the European Union were a key issue.

He was also hopeful that the credit crunch would not keep audiences away.

“The number of artists appearing is our first indication of what the feeling is in terms of whether people want to come or not, and I’m pleased to say that the festival is as big as ever.”

The Fringe program and bookings will be available online from June 9 at

Editing by Paul Casciato