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See the world in new, exciting ways

This article is over 17 years, 9 months old
Journalist and arts critic Mark Brown looks at the highlights of this year’s Edinburgh Festival
Issue 1913

THE EDINBURGH Festival is the biggest arts event in the world.

As well as the huge Fringe festival, there is the Edinburgh International Festival of performing arts, and international film and book festivals.

If the great Marxist playwright Bertolt Brecht was right, and the arts enable human beings to see their world in new and exciting ways, then Edinburgh is the place to be in August.

The festival is perhaps best known as a place to experience theatre.

The theatre is the most liberated space for the expression of politics within our culture, and live drama at the Edinburgh Festival always addresses global political events.

As Scotland’s home of new writing, the Traverse Theatre is particularly well placed to tap into contemporary politics.

When the Bulbul Stopped Singing (Traverse, 3-28 August) by David Greig looks set to be one of the most fascinating dramas in Edinburgh this summer.

Based upon the diaries of Palestinian lawyer Raja Shehadeh, it tells the day to day story of the Israeli army’s occupation of the West Bank city of Ramallah in 2002.

Jonathan Lichtenstein’s The Pull of Negative Gravity (Traverse, 5-28 August) explores the personal consequences of political power as it charts the homecoming of a British soldier wounded in the war in Iraq.

Beyond the Traverse, new American dramas How to Act Around Cops (Pleasance, 4-30 August) and Fatboy, an adaptation of Alfred Jarry’s satirical masterpiece Ubu Roi, starring Mike McShane (Assembly Rooms, 6-30 August) also look promising.

There is, of course, more to the Fringe than overtly political theatre.

The acclaimed visual theatre programme Aurora Nova (St Stephen’s, 6-30 August) boasts ten shows from around the world, and should not be missed.

Theatre Babel’s new production of Macbeth (Gateway, 7-29 August) is led by award-winning actor John Kazek, and is another must-see.

If you are a fan of the theatre of Samuel Beckett, Tord Akerbaek’s darkly comic Bima and Bramati (Traverse, 5-26 August) could prove to be a Fringe hit.

Finally, in terms of theatre, at the very end of the festival is The Wonderful World of Dissocia (Royal Lyceum, 1-4 September), by challenging playwright Anthony Neilson.

This is one of the enticing prospects from the International Festival programme.

As ever, the Film Festival programme, which runs between 18 and 29 August, overflows with potentially fascinating new movies.

Its opening night premiere, Walter Salles’s movie based on Che Guevara’s The Motorcyle Diaries, is a gift for socialists.

Another exciting possibility is Kenny Glenaan’s film Yasmin.

Based on extensive research and workshops within Muslim communities across the north of England, it tells the story of a Muslim woman’s post-9/11 nightmare, after her husband is wrongly imprisoned as a terrorist suspect.

Socialist film-maker Ken Loach also brings his latest movie, Ae Fond Kiss, to the festival.

Set in Glasgow, it is a modern Romeo and Juliet style drama in which a young Asian Muslim man and a white Catholic girl fall in love.

Other film highlights include Eleanor Yule’s emotive drama Blinded, starring the excellent actor Peter Mullan, and Quebecois playwright and film director Robert Lepage’s screen version of his wonderful play The Far Side of the Moon.

The huge Book Festival programme offers an incredible range of writers, including the superb African-American novelist Toni Morrison (28-29 August), and socialist poet and children’s writer Michael Rosen (15 August).

In addition, Respect MP George Galloway (17 August) will be talking about his book.

Last, but certainly not least, there is plenty for lovers of visual art. You can enjoy a major exhibition of the work of Italian master Titian (Royal Scottish Academy, 5 August-5 December).

The great modern American artist Jasper Johns (Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, open now, until 19 September) is the subject of another major exhibition.


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