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Theatre that battles against the Edinburgh Fringe money makers

This article is over 11 years, 6 months old
Mark Brown picks out some encouraging signs of resistance to the commercialisation of the Edinburgh arts festival
Issue 2315
Mr Carmen—experimental theatre by St Petersburg company AKHE
Mr Carmen—experimental theatre by St Petersburg company AKHE

Taken together, the cultural programmes that take place in Edinburgh each August and September amount to the biggest arts festival on the planet.

The programme for the Festival Fringe alone dwarfs those of other famous festivals, such as Avignon in France.

However, for some time now there has been a danger of the Fringe putting commerce before culture as it becomes an ever larger “arts marketplace”.

The theatre programme seems to have become increasingly frivolous year-on-year, with a greater emphasis on light entertainment and celebrity.

This year, however, there are encouraging signs of resistance to the commercialisation of the festival. The expansion of the programme at the Summerhall venue, which only started last year, is especially exciting.

Brilliant Polish company Teatr Piesn Kozla (TPK) perform two shows, Macbeth, 9-11 August, and Songs of Lear, 12-24 August. And Italian group Teatro Sineglossa are putting on Remember Me from 21-26 August.

TPK, creators of deeply emotive shows Chronicles–A Lamentation and Lacrimosa, deserve to be ranked among the greatest companies working in world theatre today.


Of course, in a festival the size of Edinburgh there have always been theatrical gems dotted here and there throughout the city.

Lovers of imaginative, experimental performance should take in Mr Carmen by the extraordinary St Petersburg company AKHE (Assembly Roxy, until 27 August).

The Assembly programme also boasts an important production from South Africa. Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act by the Fugard Theatre of Cape Town is at Assembly Hall until 27 August.

It is the great dramatist Athol Fugard’s play about an illegal, apartheid-era love affair between a black man and a white woman.

Other Fringe highlights include Continuous Growth (Pleasance Dome, until 27 August), a promising, Gogol-style satire of contemporary capitalism. There’s also Morning (Traverse, until 19 August), the latest play by Simon Stephens, author of the powerful play Pornography.

Beyond the Fringe, the Edinburgh International Festival itself has an impressive programme of theatre, opera, dance and music. This year’s highlights include Opera North’s new production of The Makropulos Case by the great Czech composer Leoš Janácek (Festival Theatre, 11 and 13 August).

Meanwhile “2008: Macbeth” (Lowland Hall, Ingliston, 11-18 August) by excellent Polish company TR Warszawa, relocates Shakespeare’s tragedy to war-ravaged Iraq.


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