There’s nothing quite like getting up close and personal with your favourite TV stars, and nowhere is the atmosphere more electric than at the Edinburgh Fringe.
The month-long performance-frenzy is the largest arts festival in the world, where fresh-faced newcomers tread the boards with the biggest names in entertainment. With over 3,500 shows to choose from at 317 venues, the hardest task is not deciding what to see, but how many flyers you can fit into your backpack, how many steps you can walk before being press-ganged into a pub cellar, and how many shows you can cram into 24 hours (whilst still finding time to eat, sleep and breathe).
Here are some familiar faces to whet your appetite.
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1. Katherine Parkinson
She may have been in a synth love-triangle in Humans and a receptionist in Doc Martin, but to many Bafta-winning actress Katherine Parkinson will always be Jen Barber, Relationship Manager. The star of the IT Crowd makes her debut at the Fringe with her play Sitting, the tale of three models who sit weekly for portraits and end up sharing stories of love, longing and loss.
2. Ruby Wax
The US comedian returns with her one-woman sell-out show Frazzled. A poster girl for mental illness; once crazy, now less so, Ruby Wax gives a tour of the mind – how to use it and not lose it, based on her bestselling book, A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled.
3. Robert Bathurst
Downton and Cold Feet actor Robert Bathurst teams up with Rebecca Johnson of The Trip in bittersweet tragicomedy The Song of Lunch. Set in a Soho Italian restaurant, the tale of a disastrous attempt to rekindle lost love is written by Costa Award-winning poet Christopher Reid.
4. Sue Pollard
Hi-de-Hi! star Su Pollard goes solo in Harpy, a play commissioned especially for her. In her Edinburgh debut, Su portrays Birdie, a woman with an extreme disorder. Her neighbours call her a harpy and a harridan; they accuse her of lowering the value of their houses, but to Birdie hoarding is something she has to do. Find out why…
5. Jason Donovan
From Neighbours heartthrob to actor and DJ, the Aussie export will share his highs and lows in the show Jason Donovan and His Amazing Midlife Crisis. Don’t worry – there’ll be a few songs thrown in, too… especially for you.
6. Esther Rantzen
Dame Esther Rantzen teams up with daughter, journalist Rebecca Wilcox, to talk careers and family ties. Having spent over 50 years in broadcasting, the star of That’s Life, Strictly Come Dancing and I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! has plenty of anecdotes to share in Esther Rantzen: That’s Life.
7. Julie Hesmondhalgh
As Hayley Cropper in Coronation Street, Julie Hesmondhalgh had more than her fair share of drama, not only playing the first transgender character in a British serial, but bowing out after 15 years in a traumatic ‘right-to-die’ storyline. See her in a whole new getup (an oversized Bowie t-shirt to be precise) in the love story The Greatest Play in the History of the World…
8. Lee Ridley
Britain’s Got Talent winner Lee Ridley might not be able to talk, but with the help of a speech synthesiser, he certainly has something to say. In his show Lost Voice Guy: Inspiration Porn, the star and writer of BBC Radio 4’s new comedy series Ability reveals how he’s become an unintentional porn star because of the inspirational memes that are everywhere these days.
9. Helen Lederer
Naked Video and Absolutely Fabulous star Helen Lederer fesses up to what went on in the Big Brother house, as well as spilling the beans on being fat, wheezy and other secrets. But is she being honest? You’ll have to figure that one out for yourself in her solo stand-up show Helen Lederer: I might as well say it.
10. Thrones – a Musical Parody
Ok, so the real Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) and Ygrette (Rose Leslie) might be busy planning their wedding, but GOT fans need not despair. A sell-out for three years running, Thrones – a Musical Parody, is updated with new deaths and sexcapades from series 7. With GOT season 8 not scheduled to air until 2019, this might be just the antidote to keep you going.
And that’s not all folks…
Don’t miss big names in comedy such as Rory Bremner, Paul Merton, Maureen Lipman, Reginald D. Hunter and Dylan Moran, who will all be performing at the Fringe.
From the world of children’s entertainment, Once Seen on Blue Peter is a theatrical tribute to the world’s longest-running children’s TV show, starring former Blue Peter presenters Peter Purves, Janet Ellis, Peter Duncan, Mark Curry, Tim Vincent and surprise celebrity guests.
Comedy double act Dick and Dom make their Fringe debut with an interactive show featuring games, song and mess, and the UK’s bestselling children’s author Julia Donaldson brings some of her favourite characters to life through songs and puppetry at Underbelly, George Square.
Also announced this month was the line-up for the Edinburgh Film Festival, which runs from 20 June to 01 July. In attendance will be Welsh comedian Rob Brydon, English director and writer David Hare and actress Anna Paquin, amongst others.
This year the festival will screen 121 new features, including 21 world premieres, from 48 countries across the globe, including the Disney Pixar animation Incredibles 2.
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For more information about Edinburgh’s festivals, go to edinburghfestivalcity.com