Edinburgh International Festival 2014 lineup

Festival time already? Today the Edinburgh International Festival (the slightly posher older sibling of the Fringe) published its 2014 programme and while it would be hard to argue there’s something for everyone, there do seem to be a few nods towards more accessible programming.
After the ritual disembowelment on the Castle ramparts of whoever designed this year’s website, the big theatre centrepiece is a series of three plays by the National Theatre of Scotland and the National Theatre (the Lunnun one). Under the collective title The James Plays, the programme says “This vividly imagined trilogy brings to life three generations of Stewart Kings who ruled Scotland in the tumultuous 15th century.”

Note the spelling is Stewart, not Stuart. This isn’t the James I England would know. He was the sixth one Scotland had. They’ve been specially commissioned from Scots playwright Rona Munro, and the headline-grabbing casting is that in James III Queen Margaret of Denmark will be played by Sofie Gråbøl, aka Sarah Lund of The Killing fame. Noticing this, I tweeted her superfan Emma Kennedy, alerting her to this fact. Her response?

I should have guessed. We seem to have neither Sofie nor Emma in our archives. We’ll have to rectify that this year, as Emma has written some great books, for both adults and kids, including The Killing Handbook.

Thalia Theater are bringing “a polyphonic performance”, Front, based on Erich Remia Remarque’s classic novel All Quiet on the Western Front as part of a theme commemorating the centenary of the start of the First World War. It’s to be performed in the native languages of the combatant nations (with surtitles) and “combines Remarque’s moving depiction of German soldiers’ extreme mental and physical stress with Flemish contemporary sources to explore the horror from both sides of the trenches”. I think we can rule Michael Gove out for a ticket.

And as a reminder that Writer Pictures isn’t just for contemporary writers, here’s a postcard of Anton Chekhov from our archive. OK, there aren’t any Chekhov plays as such at the festival, but the Chekhov International Theatre Festival’s production The War will be getting a world premiere, again focusing on the First World War.

Another partnership, with RADA and the Juilliard, brings us a rarely performed play, newly translated for the EIF, by the late Thomas Bernhard, Minetti, with Peter Eyre taking the lead role. “Minetti, a long-forgotten actor, arrives in great spirits to discuss his comeback as King Lear with a theatre director.
“While he waits patiently in the hotel lobby, Minetti’s obsessive personality reveals itself in a series of strange encounters with other guests.” Sounds interesting.

It wouldn’t be August in Edinburgh without someone doing a version of Alfred Jarry’s absurdist Ubu Roi , this year it’s a revival/update of Ubu and the Truth Commission by Handspring Puppet Company (who brought is War Horse). Good to see traditions being observed. Originally written as a response to South Africa’s truth and Reconciliation Commission, it’s being revived for the 20th anniversary of the start of the dismantling of apartheid there. Also this year there will be a double serving of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, in their own concert and providing music for the world premiere of Inala.

I won’t pretend I know much about dance, but even I’ve heard of dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch, who died in 2009. One of her final works, Sweet Mambo, is being brought to the Edinburgh PLayhouse by the group she founded and that bears her name, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch.

I could go on, and there are the usual concert series too numerous to mention, but  one highlight tucked away on page 38 of the programme is The Scottish Chamber Orchestra doing a one-off show with Ute Lemper. Blimey. I’d get that booked at soon as you can.

It’s a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Marlene Dietrich’s visit to the festival (which was, incredibly, accompanied by Burt Bacharach).

Last but not least, there are a whole series of talks and discussions on Culture and Conflict with high-profile academics and writers on all sorts of fascinating topics that will give the EIBF a run for its money this year. Sir Hew Strachan, who we’ve featured before, will give his view of High Command in War: “He aims to expand the accepted polarities of view – the generals as able men struggling to cope, or callous butchers – in order to give an accurate account of command.”

He’ll also be chairing a talk by General The Lord Richards of Herstmonceux (who was on Desert island Discs recently) titled Contemporary Military Operations – Risks and Responsibilities.

To offer a woman’s perspective, Professor Joanna Burke presents Women and the Killing Fields: Femininity and War, challenging the idea that women were bystanders in the killing fields of the 20th century.

I’ve lived in Edinburgh for going on 15 years now this is the first time more than a couple of EIF events have caught my eye enough to want to book instantly. A big thumbs-up for new director Fergus Linehan Jonathan Mills from me.

[Edit: my mistake, Linehan hasn’t started yet. So props due, at last, to Jonathan Mills]

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