The Edinburgh International Festival, running from 7-29 August, has announced its 2021 programme which features over 170 classical and contemporary music, theatre, opera, dance and spoken word performances, including 15 new commissions and premieres.
Venues used for the 2021 International Festival include bespoke outdoor venues at Edinburgh Academy Junior School, Parabola’s Edinburgh Park development and the University of Edinburgh’s Old College Quad, alongside carefully planned performances at the Festival Theatre, Traverse Theatre, The Royal Lyceum Theatre and Dance Base.
Audience safety is central to the planning of the 2021 Festival, with measures including outdoor venues, social distancing, shorter performances with no intervals, audience members seated in bubbles and, in a first for the International Festival, online access to 21 free full-length performances.
Fergus Linehan, the Edinburgh International Festival’s director, said: “The programme we are announcing today represents a carefully organised return to live performance. It is a collaborative effort between those who live in our city, our artists, the team at the festival, our donors and stakeholders and all who will be coming along to our performances.
“While so much has been written and said about the challenges of the past 15 months, it is now time to look to the future and to the brilliant musicians, actors, dancers and poets who are getting ready to perform in Edinburgh this August.”
The world premiere of Enda Walsh’s Medicine (4-29 August) from the award-winning Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival is presented in association with The Traverse. Featuring Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina, Brooklyn, The Revenant, Star Wars VIII & IX, Harry Potter series) alongside Clare Barrett, Sean Carpio and Aoife Duffin, the play examines social responses to mental health concerns while deconstructing the fabric of theatrical performance.
The National Theatre of Scotland returns to the International Festival with Hannah Lavery’s Lament for Sheku Bayoh (25-28 August), a co-production between Edinburgh International Festival and the Royal Lyceum Theatre. First seen as a rehearsed reading during the 2019 Festival before it premiered as a digital production in 2020, Lament for Sheku Bayoh is performed by Scottish actors Saskia Ashdown, Patricia Panther and Courtney Stoddart with music composed and performed by Beldina Odenyo.
Alan Cumming returns to the Festival following the success of Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs in 2016 for the first and only UK performances of his new show Alan Cumming Is Not Acting His Age (28, 29 August).
A series of rehearsed readings at The Lyceum includes Jaimini Jethwa’s Hindu Times (20-21 August), presented by the Dundee Rep Theatre, Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh and Pitlochry Festival Theatre in association with Stellar Quines. Winner of the inaugural Women’s Prize for Playwriting 2020, You Bury Me (13-14 August) is written by Ahlam, directed by Katie Posner and presented by Paines Plough, Ellie Keel Productions and 45North.
Opera & Musicals
Under conductor Andrew Davis, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra returns to the International Festival in Richard Strauss’ comedy Ariadne auf Naxos (25, 27 and 29 August). This brand-new concert staging by Louisa Muller features German soprano Dorothea Röschmann as the opera’s wronged heroine, David Butt Philip as Bacchus, Thomas Quasthoff as the house’s major-domo and prize-winning Scottish singer Catriona Morison as The Composer.
Belize-born British composer Errollyn Wallen reimagines and expands the story of Dido and Aeneas in Dido’s Ghost (20-22 August), accompanied by the Dunedin Consort under the directorship of John Butt and starring South African soprano Golda Schultz as Dido. The piece was co-commissioned by the International Festival, Dunedin Consort, Mahogany Opera, the Barbican Centre, Buxton International Festival and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale.
Scottish Opera returns to the International Festival with a new production of Falstaff (8, 10, 12 ,14 August) by Glasgow-born director and designer David McVicar.
The iconic songs of classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals shine in A Grand Night for Singing (8, 10, 12 ,13 August) – a musical revue staged by musical theatre performer Kim Criswell and conducted by Wayne Marshall. The handpicked cast features Criswell alongside Danielle de Niese, Anna-Jane Casey, Damian Humbley and Richard Morrison.
Shona the Musical Choir is a Scottish/African choir based in Edinburgh, presenting original songs from Shona the Musical, a cross-cultural love story that transcends racial barriers. The story and music are inspired by historical events and the socio-political turmoil of Robert Mugabe’s rule of Zimbabwe.
The 2021 International Festival’s dance co-commissions include new dance film Chotto Xenos (14-15 August), inspired by Akram Khan’s solo show XENOS. Directed by Sue Buckmaster and Maxime Dos, Chotto Xenos visits the untold stories of colonial soldiers during the First World War. The film features a powerful performance of Khan’s choreography by Kennedy Junior Muntanga.
Dancing in the Streets (20 August) is a series of filmic postcards from the streets of cities around the world, the homes of the dancers who should have been performing in Edinburgh in August 2020. Four of the world’s most acclaimed choreographers, Alice Ripoll from São Paulo, Omar Rajeh from Beirut, Gregory Maqoma from Soweto and Janice Parker from Edinburgh have created short films with their dancers, responding to the past year and reflecting on their relationship with their home cities. All four films will be screened at Dance Base and available to watch online.
Edinburgh-based dance theatre company Curious Seed makes its International Festival debut with Field – Something for the Future Now (22, 29 August). This durational outdoor dance happening takes place in the beautiful setting of Holyrood Park.