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EDINBURGH (Reuters Life!) - The Edinburgh Fringe festival, the world's biggest annual artistic jamboree, officially swung into action in its 64th season on Friday with shows ranging from Shakespearean drama to sassy rap by a 77-year-old comedienne from California.
A record 2,453 shows from 50 countries offer a huge medley of comedy, music, theater and dance in 259 venues across the Scottish capital.
The Fringe, which runs to August 30 in parallel with the city's International and Book festivals, has given their first break to stars of comedy, film and stage over the years and is a must for impresarios and agents seeking new talent.
Neil Mackinnon, the Fringe's head of external affairs, said that despite global recession fears, the festival had opened "with more shows by more companies and performers than ever before."
"We are absolutely convinced that this August Edinburgh can genuinely offer something for everyone with as diverse a range of shows as you will find anywhere in the world," he said.
Lynn Ruth Miller, billed as the world's oldest cougar at 77, wowed a preview audience at the Scottish Arts Club in Edinburgh, "outrageous proof that when body parts drop to your ankles they can still swing."
Venues range from the grand to the tiny, where raw troupes seeking a break can still rock teensy audiences perched on titchy seats.
The Times newspaper suggested that an early contender for the strangest concept for a Fringe show was "Soap," a cabaret on bathtubs "featuring acrobatics and a very wet front row of the audience."
But the big names of stage and comedy are also here, including actor Simon Callow in "Shakespeare the Man from Stratford"; actor, impresario and director Guy Masterson, a Fringe perennial, is presenting among other offerings two one-off solo gems in person, George Orwell's "Animal Farm" and Dylan Thomas's "Under Milk Wood."
Edinburgh's Royal Military Tattoo also started its three-week run on Friday on the esplanade below the battlements of the ancient castle towering over the city center.
Celebrating its 60th anniversary, the Tattoo this year includes bands from around the world from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and the United States to Poland and a unique military pipe band from Switzerland.
The Tattoo with its military bands and displays is also paying special tribute to British troops serving in Afghanistan, with a number of the musicians having served there.
The International Festival of music dance, opera and theater runs from August 13 to September 5 and the Book Festival from August 14 to 30.
The International Festival and the anarchic Fringe started in 1947 as a cultural antidote to the austere days following World War Two.
Editing by Paul Casciato