Taken together, the Edinburgh Festivals amount to the biggest showcase of the arts on the planet. The Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe, the book and film festivals take place over Scotland’s capital every August.
Even the theatre offering alone is enough to make you giddy. So, what to see?
There is, surely, no dramatist in history who has been so successful in combining Marxist politics with innovative aesthetics than Bertolt Brecht.
It’s very exciting to see that, in her first programme as director of the International Festival, violinist Nicola Benedetti has booked the Berliner Ensemble’s production of The Threepenny Opera (Festival Theatre, 18-20 August).
This “play with music” is the work of Brecht and his long-time collaborator, composer Kurt Weill. A brilliant satire of the criminality and moral hypocrisy of capitalism, the piece is set among gangsters in Victorian London.
The music, which includes the famous song Mack the Knife, reflects brilliantly the jazz-infused, cosmopolitan culture of interwar Germany. Directed by the outstanding Australian stage director Barrie Kosky, it promises to be a highlight of this year’s Festival.
At the Fringe, Britain’s premiere of the puppet theatre adaptation the Life and Times of Michael K is a tantalising prospect (Assembly Hall, 4-27 August).
A co-production between the Baxter Theatre (South Africa) and the Dusseldorfer Schauspielhaus (Germany), the play uses remarkable puppets to tell the story of Michael K. He was a South African man who is designated “coloured” by the apartheid regime and has a cleft lip.
To my mind, the Summerhall venue always has the most interesting programme on the Fringe. I would recommend any festival-goer to peruse its offering and dive in.
One of many fascinating prospects in the venue’s programme is the intriguingly titled, What You See When Your Eyes Are Closed/What You Don’t See When Your Eyes Are Open. Summerhal (2-27 August).
Created by the imaginative, Scotland-based Japanese theatre-maker Mamoru Iriguchi, the piece considers the theme of seeing and being seen in a performance space.
Featuring Iriguchi and Cyclops—a furry monster who sees the world two-dimensionally through his single eye—the piece invites audience members to participate—should they wish.
The show has a warning of “brief nudity” in a “non-sexual context”. Audience members are also encouraged to bring sunglasses, as a projector may shine directly onto their faces.
The Fringe programme of the famous Traverse Theatre includes After the Act (Traverse, 3-27 August). The show is a largely verbatim musical about Margaret Thatcher’s hated homophobic legislation, Section 28.
The piece is described by its co-producers as “a new musical about pride, protest… and abseiling lesbians”.
The show promises to reflect the arguments over the legislation in parliament. But it will place its main focus on the law’s impact on gay people themselves and on the resistance to the Tories’ bigotry on the streets.
Finally, there’s another enticing piece of musical theatre with a gay liberation theme in Fabulett 1933 (Underbelly, 2-27 August).
Like the famous stage musical and film Cabaret, the piece reflects on the nightclub scene in interwar Germany. Fabulett is set at the point where the Hitler regime moves against “venues which promote immorality.”