More likely to yield theatre experiences in the bad to traumatic range than fine and heartening ones, every year the Edinburgh Festival Fringe has the largest and most irregular collection of work of any performing arts event in the world. There are many, many shows of disastrous conception and worse execution disguised by the brochure/directory's strict copy limitations (you have less than a hundred words to go on), and certainly in the first week you're more or less just spinning the wheel to see what comes up. But this is exactly the situation that has endeared the festival to its regular attendees, and it's generally held to be true that until you've been one of an audience of two in a show comprising 60 minutes of heavy audience participation you haven't, haven't really, experienced the Fringe.
For those who stay the month there's a cosseting sense of disconnection – the outside world can't be dealt with in the twenty-minute interstitial slivers that divide each day's itinerary of seven or eight shows. Running between venues you cross crowded walks, climb the dark streets lined close with high, stone buildings – it's a scenic city, but you don't have the time.
The Fringe isn't a friend of circus – probably it isn't a friend of anyone, though it's a good place if your interest is to catch devised theatre, solo shows, student drama, physical theatre. Most years there'll be a tented circus (NoFit State and Foostbarn recently pitched) and there's always a spread of burlesque/cabaret that goes from low trash up to the higher Spiegeltent fare – but it's also worth keeping an eye on the outlying venues (in recent years the Zoo and Zoo Southside have distinguished themselves) to see if any overseas companies materialise with a true circus-theatre piece. It's not Edinburgh's speciality, but it's a big enough festival; anything can happen.