Edinburgh International Festival: preview
Stephen Fry, Sir Ian McKellen and Jarvis Cocker add a household name flavour to the eclectic range of performances at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival but that’s only part of the story as the event sees new adaptations of classic books, musicals and plays.
Fry, first winner in 1981 (jointly with Hugh Laurie and Emma Thompson) of the Fringe Comedy Award (now renamed the Daves after a sponsorship deal last week) brings three shows to the Festival Theatre over six nights from 19 August. Mythos: A Trilogy, Gods, Heroes, Men features tales of love and war, debauchery and revenge, based on material from his best-selling book. Fry’s tremendous intellect combined with his excellent story-telling skills should make the two and a half hour performances fly by.
Sir Ian McKellen decided to celebrate his 80th birthday with an 80-date tour combining reflections on his career with extracts from his best-known roles. He brings the show to Assembly Hall, where he made his first international festival appearance 50 years ago.
A sign of McKellen’s enduring appeal is that the number of shows he is playing on the tour now exceeds the number of years he’s celebrating, but sadly it also means that his four nights in Edinburgh are sold out, making it one to check on the day in case of returns.
After bringing his 2017 show Room 29 to the International Festival, former Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker heads up a strong music line-up at Leith Theatre with his new project JARV IS. The legendary Scottish alternative rock band Teenage Fan Club, and the highly-acclaimed Anna Calvi are other highlights at the venue.
Within the Opera, Theatre, Dance and Visual Arts section of the programme, Scottish Ballet’s new adaptation of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible gets its world premiere at Edinburgh Playhouse, where it enjoys a three-night run from 3 August. Miller used the 17th century witch trials in Salem as an allegory for political repression during the McCarthyite era. The modern-day relevance of the play is often overplayed, but with a political environment characterised by hostility, fear and accusations on all sides, it has possibly never had a more timely revival.
Adaptations continue with the European premiere of Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Kate Grenville’s novel The Secret River at King’s Theatre from 2 August. The novel tells the story of William Thornhill, a London convict transported to Australia for theft. Once there he lays claim to a piece of land lived on and farmed for centuries by the Dharug people. Exploring Australia’s uneasy history the play promises to be every bit as thought provoking as the internationally acclaimed novel.
There is also a new adaptation of West Side Story at Usher Hall on 5 and 6 August. A timeless love story and a defining moment in musical theatre, Jerome Robbins new production sees a young cast from Scotland America backed by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra with Sir John Eliot Gardner conducting what should be an excellent showcase of classic music and movement.
This year’s programme features 93 events, with 293 performances across 17 venues and 2,600 artists from 40 nations. The opening event is staged by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, led by conductor Gustavo Dudamel at Tynecastle Stadium, the first time it has been held outside the city centre. It is a free ticket event for 15,000 people celebrating Hollywood’s greatest movie music with a programme featuring soundtracks from cinema’s golden age and a selection from the world’s best-loved film composer, John Williams. This is part of a special residency at the 2019 Festival.
The classical music line-up includes Gustavo Dudamel, Yuja Wang, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Sir Simon Rattle and Sir James MacMillan whose career is celebrated in a special series of five concerts, culminating in the world premiere of his Symphony No.5 Le grand inconnu.
There is a new version of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring by Chinese choreographer Yang Liping and Oscar-winning designer Tim Yip (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).
Two of Berlin’s opera houses visit Edinburgh: Komische Oper Berlin returns with the much-loved Tchaikovsky opera Eugene Onegin, created by the company’s director Barrie Kosky and featuring soprano Asmik Grigorian; and Scottish conductor Donald Runnicles leads his Deutsche Oper Berlin in a concert version of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, starring American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky.
Edinburgh International Festival runs from 2 to 26 August. Full details of all shows and venues and online ticket sales are available at www.eif.co.uk
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