Edinburgh Guide
Edinburgh international festival and fringe
Edinburgh Festival

Top Fringe Venues
Updated by Thelma Good, 27 July 2002.

With 619 companies performing 1,491 shows during the month of August there's going to be plenty of variety where performance spaces are concerned. The Fringe brochure lists a total of 183 Fringe venues, from the oldest Concert Hall in Scotland dating from 1763, St Cecila's Hall (Venue 31) , to the one of the newest (one of three Rocket Venues) from Festival Impresario Ricky Demarco and his Rocket buddies at the Apex Hotel, Grassmarket (venue 16).

Some of these venues can also be quickly found on the streaming map of Edinburgh festival venues (see Maps). The streaming map allows you to see the whole of Edinburgh both in map and in aerial photograph form, or both side-by-side and you can quickly go to the Assembly Rooms, Pleasance or other venue using the drop-down menu.

Here's my starting ten based on the venue and the acts that will be appearing at the venue.

I've noted access / hearing systems availability, I saw too many wheelchairs users having tricky times last year, see Fringe programme in venue section for more info, if they say phone they will try to get you in there if forewarned.

Assembly Rooms (venue 3), George Street 
The flagship venue of the Fringe. Quality of the shows is high with a good mix of international and UK companies - comedy and theatre mainly, with well-knowns and ones getting on their way. Has a good buzz about it, quite often where you'll see the unforgettable productions. Most of spaces accessible, check programme or phone. Photo>>

Augustine's (venue 152) George IV Bridge
This venue is well worth checking out for theatre/musicals/dance and children's theatre. Good shows from UK and elsewhere, also check out nearby Greyfriars Kirk House which is under the same management. Simple snacks at cafe, also veggie meals at Greyfriars. Disabled? Phone venues first.

C Venues (venue 34), Chamber Street
The big C has 4 venues "C", "C too" (venue 4), "CO2" ( venue 202) and "C3" (venue 50). Between these four venues is a comprehensive programme of theatre, children's shows, dance, comedy, musicals and music. This is a place you find newcomers before they become big. All have licensed bar/cafes. At C too, CO2 and C3 because of difficult access/wcs wheelchair users need to phone first.

Dance Base (Venue 22) Grassmarket
Scotland's National Centre for Dance has a concentrated programme each day containing five dance pieces 2 – 11 August and will be the place for the Fringe Society arranged workshops later in Fringe. It's a wonderful new space, active for dance all year round, fully accessible. No cafe but there's plenty in the area.

Gilded Balloon (venue 38), Cowgate
Situated down in the Cowgate, the underbelly of the city, this is particularly popular with Fringe nocturnes. Comedy is the watchword, comedy of the riotous, lager-fuelled kind. The gladiatorial spirit - even the most hardened stand-ups have trembled at the prospect of doing its late night stints - gives it a real edge. There's also a good mix of alternative, live bands. Great for partying into the wee, wee hours. Disabled? Phone venue first. Photo>>

Hill Street Theatre (venue 41), Hill Street
This really is a great example of a small Fringe venue that does well. Long-established, it manages to maintain a high standard. Situated in the West End, in one of the back streets, its small and intimate theatre spaces are well suited to Fringe fare. The venue has a bar with Polish charm and great decor. Disabled? phone venue first. The same company also runs the Gateway Theatre during the fringe (venue 7).

Pleasance (venue 33), The Pleasance
One of the "Big Three" venues (Gilded Balloon and Assembly Rooms being the other two) set up in the Edinburgh university student union and building near by. High comedy, cabaret and revue content is intermingled with more serious theatrical fare. Like the other two biggies comprises of multiple performances spaces, most of a high standard and efficiently run. Disabled? phone venue first. When the weather is good, it has the best beer garden in town in its cobbled courtyard, great place to hang out and catch the Fringe ambiance.

Also, Pleasance Dome (venue 23) Bristo Square
Even larger than last year, this venue rocks with music, comedy and theatre till late, With a waitress service 5am closing bar in the permanently glazed courtyard it may be you, not just the courtyard by the end of the night! Good variety with quality shows. Good access. Photo>>

Aurora Nova St Stephens (venue 8) St Stephens St and
Aurora Nova Theatre Workshop (venue 20), Hamilton Place, Stockbridge
No website
Last year St Stephens was the Dance and Physical Theatre find of the Fringe - this year Kommedia are running it and Theatre Workshop just a hop skip and a jump away. And they each have an ethical sponsor Cafe Direct and fairtrade cafes, so all the omens are good. 40 steps to theatre at St Stephens, Theatre Workshop fully accessible, induction loop and infra red hearing system. Highly recommended, large number of international companies. Try to catch at least one of their shows.

Traverse Theatre (venue 15), Cambridge Street, off Lothian Rd
The centre for new playwriting all the year round is housed underground in an impressive purpose-built theatre with 2 auditoriums. Its Fringe drama programme includes two of its own company productions, both world premieres from David Greig and Rona Munro, a musical from Indian Paines Plough and several from Canada. Also comedy in late evening. Always popular with Fringe theatre critics but look out for the ticket prices - full price is £14, higher than many but unemployed can get a good deal. Its busy bar is the obvious place to mingle with the thespian crowd. Fully accessible and infra red hearing system.

The Underbelly (venue 61) Entrances on Cowgate and Victoria St.
Five spaces over four floors with three bars, only draw back it's
difficult for wheelchairs (ring first, help can be arranged) but it has
a great fringe feel. This venue is definitely where you can find
exciting new performers and creators. Strong theatre programme.

There are many other venues which specialise, such as The Church Hill
(Venue 137) which will home the American High School Theatre
Festival and St Andrew's and St. Georges Church (venue111), on George
Street which have one of the most eagerly anticipated music programmes on
the Fringe. Diverse Attractions (venue 11) is where you'll find
Edinburgh's community theatre and some professionals too. Gilded
Teviot (Venue 14) and Cowgate Caves (venue 88) and Peppermint
(venue 139) continue original venue's mix of comedy and theatre.
The Rocket Venues (venues 16, 123 and 126) have mix of Demarco shows and
others. And there are even more - have fun!

Do you agree with our assessment of the best venues? Is there another venue that you think should be included? Post details on our bulletin boards. We will read and respond.