Unlike previous years, 2012’s Edinburgh International Festival has no theme running through it.
Instead, according to Festival Director Jonathan Mills, speaking yesterday at the official launch of the programme, this year’s festival is more about values of peacefulness and sharing cultures. Values which underpin both the Festival and the Summer Olympic Games, which – as Mills put it – “breathe the same air.”
And, as sportsmen and women from across the world gather to compete in London, so performers from across the globe will congregate in Edinburgh in August, where this year’s programme offers a wealth of world-class culture.
Immediately highlighted were the three “great theatrical imaginations” taking place at the Lowland Hall of the Royal Highland Centre at Ingliston. Transformed into an innovative, cutting-edge space, it will play host to productions which would be impossible to stage in traditional theatres. 2008: Macbeth by TR Warszawa is an “unflinching portrait of a killing machine”; whilst Meine faire Dame – ein Sprachlabor is a comic production loosely based on My Fair Lady and set in a language laboratory – “Monty Python goes linguistic,” as Mills puts it.
Third, Les Naufragés du Fol Espoir (Aurores) by Théâtre du Soleil promises to transform the space into an imaginative and fantastical world populated by Charles Darwin, Queen Victoria and commando nuns…
Of course, Edinburgh’s more accustomed theatres also play host to some productions from across the world. At the King’s, Suzuki Company of Toga will perform their “powerful and claustrophobic” staging of Waiting For Orestes: Electra; and Radu Stanca National Theatre of Sibui, last seen in Edinburgh in 2009 with their spectacular version of Faust, bring their interpretation of Gulliver’s Travels.
At the Lyceum, Vanishing Point‘s “edgy and slightly tempting” Wonderland will open the door on the themes in Alice In Wonderland; whilst “cabaret legend” Camille O’Sullivan will perform The Rape of Lucrece as part of the World Shakespeare Festival.
A varied programme of international dance is also on offer, including three works by New York’s Julliard Dance; the “burlesque ballet” of Rio de Janeiro’s Deborah Colker Dance Company‘s Tatyana; New Delhi’s “hypnotising” Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company; and Leigh Warren‘s dance company from Australia, featuring a part-white, part-indigenous ensemble.Mills’ intention with the opera segment of the programme is to highlight the “richness of regional offerings in the UK”: as The Makropulos Case from Opera North; Tristan and Islode from the Welsh National Opera; and four productions from Scottish Opera demonstrate.
Orchestras from around the globe take part, including the London Symphony Orchestra, the European Union Youth Orchestra and a rare UK performance from the Emperor of Japan’s Imperial Household musicians with Gagaku, an “exquisite and timeless” performance of traditional music.
More intimate musical performances are on offer at Greyfriars Kirk; whilst in The Queen’s Hall Series, a varied selection of musicians will perform at 11am most days throughout the Festival.
The Festival is opened and closed in spectacular fashion with a performance of Delius’ A Mass of Life by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra on 10 August; and by the ever-popular Virgin Money Fireworks Concert by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra on 2 September.
Encounters is a series of lectures by renowned intellectuals and academics covering topics as diverse as What It Means To Be British? and – appropriately for the Olympic year – Athletes and Ideals. The Conversations programme also offers the chance to hear people speak: this time focusing on the artists and performers themselves, including Nicola Benedetti and Camille O’Sullivan.
Finally, one of the performances which will literally light up the Festival nights is NVA’s Speed of Light, which will see runners and members of the public wearing specially-commissioned light suits and carrying portable light sources illuminate the normally dark volcanic mass of Arthur’s Seat.
In all, despite its lack of overall theme, 2012’s Edinburgh International Festival programme has a feel of positivity, innovation and celebration. And whilst London may be the focus for the Olympic flame in summer; in Edinburgh, the Festival will very much be carrying the cultural torch.
There are many other highlights within 2012’s programme, which can be viewed online at the Edinburgh International Festival website. Priority booking for Festival Friends and Patrons is now open; with public booking opening on 24 March.