THE world-famous Edinburgh Fringe suffers from an “infestation” of stand-up comedians, according to a leading arts impresario.
Richard Demarco says the annual “epidemic” of more than 1,000 comedians “overwhelms the possibility of serious theatre”.
Mr Demarco, co-founder of the city’s Traverse Theatre, has attended every festival since the event started in 1947.
But he is disturbed that stand-up comedy accounted for a third of all 3,200 shows this summer. Big name performers included Jimmy Carr and Dara O’Briain.
Mr Demarco said: “There is an infestation of stand-up comics. It’s an epidemic for which there is no cure.
“We have completely lost the values of what the first festivals were all about. It came into being to use the legacy of art to heal the wounds of war, and now it is about the kind of entertainment which degrades it.”
“Next year will mark my 69th festival, so nobody beats me on experience. The festival has changed so much since it began.
“It is supposed to be an international festival, but stand up comedy completely cuts out those who can’t speak English.
“It’s made me very sad. The big venues are dominated by comics when they should be full of children, young students and ammateur actors performing theatre art.”
Mr Demarco spoke out at a meeting of experts discussing how the coastline of south-east Scotland could be used to attract more visitors.
He said: “The first festival was held in Dunfermline in Fife, but not it’s completely centered around the ‘old town’ in Edinburgh and the Royal Mile.
“I’m very worried that it doesn’t seem to bring the same energy to people who live more than five miles out of Edinburgh.”
Mr Demarco set up his own art gallery in 1966, and received the Edinburgh Award earlier this year for his contribution to Edinburgh’s art scene over the past 60 years.
His hands are imprinted in Edinburgh’s City Chambers quadrangle, alongside J.K.Rowling, Ian Rankin and Sir Chris Hoy.
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe was not available for comment.