Edinburgh’s biggest Festival Fringe ever kicks off this week with 2,542 shows planned over the coming month.

Part of this year’s new programme is a new caberet section featuring feminist burlesque, ukeleles, acrobats and mind-reading psychics.

Other highlights will include John Malkovich directing Julian Sands in a play celebrating renowned British dramatist Harold Pinter and the Soft Cell singer Marc Almond (pictured), who will appear at the Traverse theatre.

There’s also a bumper crop of comedy with established comedians Sarah Millican, Al Murray, Mark Thomas and Phill Jupitus bringing shows to the festival.

Speaking at the Edinburgh Fringe launch in June, chief executive Kath Mainland said: "The 2011 Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme is bigger than ever. What makes it exciting every year, but particularly this year, is the combination of all these wonderful, creative and talented people who choose to bring their work here.

"The Fringe is whatever those people want it to be and so many of them are still seduced by the idea of it and want to bring their work here from all round the world.

"The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is still the first choice for performers, producers, venues, artists and creators to come and tell their story."

In all there will be 41,689 performances of 2,542 shows across 258 venues from August 5 to August 29.