It’s that time of year again when my news feeds are ram, jammed, chocabloca full of must-see theatre. Which can only mean one thing: Edinburgh Fringe Festival is upon us.

If you’ve never been, I thoroughly recommend a trip to beautiful Edinburgh in August, as it heaves with high-octane randomness and creativity by the cart-load. With 2,695 shows, and 4.4 million visitors to the city every August, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival has seemingly limitless appeal, with shows being offered in every conceivable nook and cranny, and some fairly inconceivable ones too.

For first timers, Edinburgh is a city of steep hills (footwear note), have a decent coffee budget, book for a few shows in advance and play the rest by ear from the word on the street/Twitter once you’re there. Be sure to see at least one wild card show that you know nothing about, go with the flow, make friends, make friends, never ever break friends AND don’t plan on getting too much sleep…

Festival staple, the Traverse Theatre is a good place to start to seek out those theatre gems and this year is no exception. Following in the footsteps of Ravenhill for Breakfast, the Traverse’s new artistic directors Orla O’Loughlin and David Greig curate and direct Dream Plays (Scenes from a Play I’ll Never Write). A new piece from a different writer is performed script-in-hand at 9am daily; the ticket price includes coffee and a roll, essential at that hour. Also at the Traverse is the inventive and honest Chris Goode, with his new show Monkey Bars – based on recorded conversations with children that are transposed on to the grown-up world. Goode’s show in spring this year God/Head has been a 2012 highlight and I cannot wait to see his latest offering. Similarly, due to the stellar reputation of her previous award-winning show, I’ll be booking in to see Caroline Horton’s Mess, a play with songs, about anorexia, obsession, addiction and not wanting to get out of bed. If I can stomach it after last year’s polarising Audience, I’ll also see provocateurs Ontroerend Goed with the last part of their trilogy about being a teenager, All That is Wrong.

In contrast to the stalwart Traverse, I’m also wee-myself-excited about brand spanking new venture Northern Stage at St Stephens. Highlights here include Jane Packman Company’s A Thousand Shards of Glass, (pictured) billed as a theatrical thriller that mostly happens in your head; the ingenious and brilliant Third Angel’s What I Heard About the World; and Will Eno’s Oh The Humanity, directed by Erica Whyman.

When it all gets too much, head over to the Hunt & Darton Café for a roast dinner sandwich, or the mind-boggling Ruffage Plate (Venue 301, St Mary’s Street). Billed as a café and a place of engagement, they have guest waiters, like Bryony Kimmings, Scottee and Chris Thorpe, working there throughout the festival. Open noon to midnight every day.

Early reports seem to be rating I Heart Peterborough highly from Eastern Angles at The Pleasance Two. It contains strong language and bills itself as “not for the faint- hearted”. Or something less controversial perhaps, also getting great reviews is the Ruby Dolls’ Rubies in the Attic (Assembly Roxy), a story-telling cabaret with a twist. I’ve not seen the show, but I know those ladies can SING, so I’m looking forward to catching this.

Last year’s new venue The Summerhall threw up some interesting options and 2012 looks to be no different. Check out White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, set in Iran and performed by a different actor each night, this piece has been playing to rave reviews at London’s Gate Theatre. Or for the hardcore, there is 24h, which – you guessed it – runs from 6am to 6am daily. Although you only book for an hour slot you could hypothetically book for all 24.

Looking for something more uplifting? Figs in Wigs show Food for Thought (The Space, at Venue 45) looks like a diverting place to spend an hour. Intelligent, irreverent, food-based fun – what’s not to like? Maybe this just reveals my odd fetishes, but both Sophie Steel’s solo show Thirty Dancing (The Hudson Hotel, unticketed and also FREE) and Rachael Halliwell’s Deirdre and Me (C Nova, at Venue 145) about one woman’s passion for Deidre Barlow, look appealing. These gifted performers promise some good belly laughs and, I suspect, some haunting afterthoughts.

And you, what will you be pounding up and down the Royal Mile to see?

Image of Lucy Ellinson in A Thousand Shards of Glass by Jane Packman Company.

Written by Sara Kewly Hyde // Follow Sara on  Twitter //  Sara\'s Website

Sara Kewly Hyde is a theatre maker, thinker, blogger and activist who works with women in the Criminal Justice System and tries to live a life of love in the ghetto. Passionate and extreme, she likes dancing til sunrise and cooking for those she loves.

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