EIF 2017 Theatre Programme Looks to its Roots for 70th Anniversary
When the 2017 programme marking the event’s 70th anniversary was unveiled by Director Fergus Linehan on 15th March, the audience at the Assembly Hall on the Mound was reminded of its founding principles of shared humanity; of the values of decency, kindness and co-operation.
Established in 1947 in the aftermath of the Second World War, the Festival’s aim to was to ‘provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit’ through a shared celebration of artistic excellence and cultural exchange. 70 years on, it aims to explore how these founding ideals still resonate in today’s uncertain world by echoing the Festival’s post war founding principles of cross border collaborations and bringing the “best of Scotland and the world” to the stage.
Among the exciting programme that spans dance, opera and music both classical and contemporary, all with a strong European focus, is an exciting theatrical programme that includes three leading Scottish theatre companies. Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre and Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre and Traverse Theatre Company will present works that consider the origins of European drama from a contemporary perspective, examining the fragility of human relationships, society and civilisation.
The Old Vic that performed at the first Festival in 1947 and often over the first decade brings a world première from one of the country’s best-loved playwrights, Alan Ayckbourn. In a departure from his usual style The Divide is a new dark satire that’s set in a future England in which a dystopian society of forbidden love and insurrection has emerged in the aftermath of a devastating plague. The show is directed by The Old Vic’s Associate Director Annabel Bolton and is presented in two parts over a two-week run at the King’s Theatre, before opening at The Old Vic in its autumn season. Full casting details will be announced this summer.
The Divide follows recent EIF co-productions that enjoyed great success in Edinburgh before being seen extensively including The Encounter on Broadway and at festivals around the world and The Glass Menagerie that was recently nominated for 7 Olivier Awards and is now on stage in London’s West End.
Edinburgh-based playwright Zinnie Harris’ landmark adaptation of Aeschylus’The Oresteia , renamed This Restless House, tells the bloody saga of a family torn apart by a succession of murders and betrayals. First performed in 485 BC, today’s audience will find that Dominic Hill’s production brings the universal themes of justice, revenge, loyalty up to date in this drama exposing the fragility of a family’s bonds.
Originally presented as a trilogy of plays and now presented as one epic theatrical event, Harris’s trailblazing new work was nominated for Best New Play at the UK Theatre Awards in 2016 and was awarded Best New Play the 2016 Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland when Pauline Knowles also won Best Actress for her role as the vengeful Clytemnestra and Dominic Hill won Best Director.
And what could be more European than the inclusion of work by the great absurdist playwright Eugène Ionesco, a French Romanian who has been adopted by the Irish? In a collaboration between the Royal Lyceum Theatre and DOT Theatre of Istanbul, Turkey, we will see a new adaptation of his 1930s play Rhinoceros that tells the tale of a town whose inhabitants, all except one, turn in to rhinoceroses. This concept is an exposé of human behaviour, conformity and communication viewed through the prism of absurdity and was a comment on the rise of Fascism.
There are two world premières, one from the Traverse Theatre Company and another from Glasgow based company Vox Motus. Written by Zinnie Harris and directed by Traverse Artistic Director Orla O’Loughlin, Meet me at Dawn redefines the Orpheus and Eurydice myth as a modern love story through an exploration of grief and madness.
Using a mix of graphic novel with exquisite diorama and aimed at age 16 plus, Flight is an adaptation of the novel Hinterland by Caroline Brothers that follows two young brothers as they journey across Europe from their home in Afghanistan in search of freedom and safety. These productions are supported by the Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund.
2017 sees two new venues being used for theatre by EIF - Churchill Theatre and the Studio at the Festival Theatre. Performed there will be Samuel Beckett’s one man play Krapp’s Last Tape performed by veteran Beckett Irish actor Barry McGovern in a new production directed by outgoing Artistic Director of Dublin’s Gate Theatre, Michael Colgan.
Real Magic from acclaimed Sheffield-based company Forced Entertainment and a late-night residency from Turner Prize-winning artist and performer Glaswegian Martin Creed, whose nightly cabaret Words & Music will be at The Studio at the Festival Theatre over the three weeks of the Festival.
The home of the International Festival, The Hub, will for the second year host a nightly house show running throughout August. Australian chanteuse Meow Meow returns to the International Festival with Meow Meow’s Little Mermaid, a theatrical re-telling of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, featuring original songs from collaborators including Amanda Palmer.
There is a blurring between theatre and music in the last two pieces so it is fitting to include the special event to be held at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery that brings together a diverse group of artists to explore themes of colonialism and repression in Robert Burns: Chains and Slavery, featuring poet and Makar Jackie Kay and singer-songwriter Ghetto Priest, with the Scottish Ensemble.
In 1947, the serving Provost of the Edinburgh Sir Andrew Murray said the Capital should “surrender itself to visitors” in the period of the Festival. Edinburgh now does that pretty much all year round though crowds are at their height in August when it is expected that audiences to travel from around 70 nations this year to be part of the global cultural celebration. The eyes of the world will again be on Scotland’s Capital so congratulations to the EIF on being 70 years young, alive and very much kicking!
This year’s Edinburgh International Festival runs from Friday 4 to Monday 28 August with 2,020 artists from 40 nations arriving to perform in the Capital.
Tickets for International Festival performances go on sale in a priority period to Festival Friends and Patrons on Saturday 18 March, with public sales going live at 10am on Saturday 25 March. A range of prices are available across the programme, with tickets starting from just £6.