Comedians Take Over Edinburgh Fringe Festival

The Edinburgh Fringe has long been known as the wackier little sib of the esteemed Edinburgh Summer Festivals. But has the Fringe become too funny? This year comedy acts make up a record 32 percent of the program—overtaking theater events for the first time ever. What's more, the comics are debuting their own festival-within-a-festival that's set to be a big earner. All this has critics anxious that the Fringe's reputation as a bastion for experimental theater is being taken over by jokers.

Perhaps this anxiety accounts for the particularly bleak lineup in straight theater performances this year. The plays are taking aim at some pretty somber themes: death, suicide and the end of the American Dream. One troupe is even staging its performances in a cellar to re-create the experience of a gas chamber. Still, one of the darkest offerings is also creating the most pre-show buzz: Matthew Bourne's ballet adaptation of Oscar Wilde's novella "The Picture of Dorian Gray." With all this doom and gloom, perhaps it's a good thing the comics have set up shop—audiences are going to need the psychic relief.