Star ratings are a controversial subject. Some would rather they were done away with entirely and let the review explain the pros and cons of a show on its own. However, we realise especially in a festival like Edinburgh where you have to wade through literally thousands of listings, the star rating system provides a simple and universally understandable way of categorising performances so you can decide which shows are of interest. Of course, we still encourage you to read the review in order to make your own mind up. The tastes of our reviewer and yourself may be wildly different. Shows are rated on a scale from one (worst) to five (best). Three stars would represent an average show. Four-star ratings are for shows we really recommend, and five-star shows are pretty special. If you've spotted one in our listings, snap up a ticket before they're all gone. The text of our reviews will make clear why the critic gave a show its star rating. We may be a bit disappointed if a large-scale tour was done with black flats and a few blocks. Broadway Baby stars are awarded in context. A West-End musical is judged on different criterion from a Free Fringe stand-up comedy set. Our critics present their star ratings based on whether the production lived up to the ticket price and against similar shows. We wouldn't, for example, criticise a fringe production of Les Miserables for not having a revolving barricade; but we may be a bit disappointed if a large-scale tour of the show was done with black flats and a few blocks. The stars we award follow strict guidelines. The base level for a solid, value-for-money show is three stars. If we believe the show over-delivered or was disappointing, that's four and two-star territory. Only when we can find no fault do we award five stars. Equally, when we find no merit, that's when we award just one star. We ask all our reviewers to follow this model for consistency.