THE new director of the Edinburgh International Festival has vowed to give home-grown artists much more prominence in the event as he announced indie music favourites Franz Ferdinand and King Creosote in his debut programme.
A brand new adaptation of Alasdair Gray’s iconic book Lanark and a revival for two National Theatre of Scotland productions will be performed under a new strategy drawn up by Irishman Fergus Linehan to use the festival’s global “platform” to showcase Scottish work.
Mr Linehan said he had scrapped a long-standing “house rule” that the EIF would not stage any Scottish work if it had been seen before in Scotland or elsewhere. He said he wanted to fill a large gap where tried and tested large-scale Scottish work could not be performed before the huge international audience which descends on Edinburgh in August.
He told The Scotsman: “When people arrive into Edinburgh in August you want a sense of what the place is about. You don’t want it to the exclusion of the international programme, you want it in addition to it. It’s not just about looking at what’s coming up and what we can commission, but pieces that have really made an impact over the previous 12 or 24 months.
“Edinburgh in August is the greatest platform we will ever have anywhere in the world. I don’t think it’s the time to say if something has been fantastically successful in Scotland that we should deny ourselves the possibility of putting it on. The evidence will be whether people will want to go to these shows. But Scottish work already does better than anything else in the festival.”
A series of free city-wide performances of brass band music will take place as part of a celebration of its early 19th century origins in Scotland.
And in its 50th year, the Edinburgh Festival Chorus - a group of amateur singers who perform in festival concerts each year - will feature prominently in a spectacular new outdoor curtain-raiser on the opening night. The free event - which will see the Usher Hall transformed after dark by a series of vast digital animations - is one of several new innovations introduced by Mr Linehan, a former director of the Sydney Festival and Dublin Theatre Festival.
Others include turning creating a new late-night “music club” in the EIF’s 19th century gothic building on the Royal Mile and turning part of the new underground extension of the EICC into two “black box theatres.”
The festival will see a revival of an NTS co-production, Paul Bright’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner, which was partly inspired by James Hogg’s classic 19th century novel and a director’s attempt to turn it into a landmark stage play in the 1980s. The introduction of family-friendly productions for the first time will see award-winning NTS show Dragon, developed with a Chinese theatre company, staged at the Royal Lyceum.
Two other music events specially geared for young people will be held on the final two days of the festival, at the Queen’s Hall and the Ross Theatre, where members of the SCO will perform hours before taking the stage for the festival’s fireworks finale.
Franz Ferdinand will be swapping their normal outdoor festival environment for an intimate show with the 1970s Los Angeles rock outfit Sparks to showcase material from an album the bands have made.
Singer songwriter King Creosote will be reviving his acclaimed project “From Scotland With Love,” which was commissioned for the Commonwealth Games culture programme and saw specially-commissioned songs married with footage from the national film archives.
Playwright David Greig’s new version of Lanark - a co-production with the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow - will be staged exactly 20 years after a previous EIF adaptation. Other Scottish artists confirmed in Mr Linehan’s line-up including violinist Nicola Benedetti and singer-songwriter Alexi Murdoch, while percussionist Colin Currie will perform in the Scottish premiere of a new concerto by composer James MacMillan.
Mr Linehan added: “The festival has had a house rule which was that if a Scottish work had been seen in Scotland and elsewhere it wouldn’t be in the festival. It was just an assumption, but it assumes that all Scottish work has been widely seen around the world.
“It creates a tension in that a lot of the visiting work has been seen, produced and proven to be successful, whereas a lot of the local work is new. You don’t get a representation of work that’s been proven to be successful.
“We have the attention of audiences, promoters and presenters from around the world. Butu there’s a kind of gap between the festivals through which a lot of the most successful work falls. That’s what we’re trying to address.”
King Creosote’s show will be part of The Hub Sessions, which will see the main hall in the EIF’s headquarters become a musical melting pot, with a capacity of around 500.
Other acts booked to appear there include Canadian piano virtuoso Chilly Gonzales, American jazz maestro Robert Glasper, English singer-songwriter and indie rock duo Richard Reed Parry and Bryce Dessner, from Arcade Fire and The National, who will have a joint piece of music performed by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.
Mr Linehan said: “The main space in The Hub has always reminded me of school assembly time in the past.
“We’ve tried to conceive the most beautiful music club you can imagine, create the most beautiful space for amplified space and then just programme really interesting things into it.
“The building has never full worked as a place in the evening. It has to be programme driven. We’ve put in projects that, at the end of the day, I would like to go to.”
Mr Linehan, who has also programmed two gigs by cult American singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens, conceded there was “a certain amount of toes in the water” about bringing in indie, rock, pop and jazz into the festival programme.
But he added: “In a sense, we’re pretty much the last major institution to embrace these forms of music into our programming.
“Most major venues around the world who are programming at this level have done it for many years. You’ve got to look at your audience. Are people as divided in their musical and artistic tastes as the institutions necessarily are?
“We’re trying to reflect the way people consume culture. There’s pop music which is just a big baseline which is designed for a Saturday night. There’s also pop music of extraordinary complexity and virtuosity.
“With everything we’ve chosen we’ve tried to look to people who are really good musicians, do really ambitious work and are doing something a little bit outside of what they would normally do.
“We’re trying to say to people ‘here is an international arts festival which reflects what’s going on in the world.’ Why would you leave them out?’ I think their absence would be more of a question than their inclusion.”
• Tickets for this year’s Edinburgh International Festival , which runs from 7-31 August, go on sale on 28 March.
THE SCOTSMAN’S HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE 2015 EIF PROGRAMME:
Seven, Edinburgh Playhouse, 20-22 August: Germany’s Ballet Am Rhein perform Swiss choreographer Martin Schlapfer’s first full-length ballet the company he founded, set to Mahler’s 7th Symphony, with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra also in the line-up.
Sylvie Guillem - Life in Progress, Festival Theatre, 8-10 August: The world-renowned French ballet dancer, who shot to fame while training at the Paris Open Ballet School in the late 1970s, will visit Edinburgh on her farewell world tour after announcing her retirement late last year.
Lo Real/Le Reel/The Real, Festival Theatre, 19-21: Spanish flamenco dancer Israel Gavin tackles the persecution of the Roma and Sinti people in fascist Spain in the 1930s and 1940s in a show - sung in Spanish - featuring a whole host of singers, dancers and instrumentalists.
The Magic Flute. Festival Theatre, 27-30 August: Australian director Barrie Kosky, artistic director of Berlin’s Komische Oper for the last three years, and British theatre company 1927 bring their Buster Keaton and Nosferatu-inspired version of Mozart’s opera to Edinburgh, complete with giant spiders, demons, butterflies and wolves.
The Marriage of Figaro, Festival Theatre, 13-26 August: Ivan Fischer, music director of the Budapest Festival Orchestra, takes the helm of their acclaimed semi-staged production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, with the players and the conductor joining the singers on stage as the action unfolds.
The Last Hotel, Royal Lyceum Theatre, 8-12 August: Two of Ireland’s leading artists, writer-director Enda Walsh, a previous favourite with Edinburgh Festival Fringe audiences, and composer Donnacha Dennehy, join forces for the world premiere of a black comedy chamber opera “about life, death, duty and guilt.”
The Harmonium Project, outside the Usher Hall and in Festival Square, 7 August: The 50th anniversary of the Edinburgh Festival Chorus will be marked with an outdoor broadcast of a concert outside the Usher Hall, which will be transformed by specially-created digital animated artworks. It is hoped as many as 10,000 revellers will watch the spectacle.
FFS (Franz Ferdinand and Sparks), Festival Theatre, 24 August: A decade on from triumphant Fringe shows in Princes Street Gardens, the celebrated Glasgow art-rockers have landed a plum EIF slot at the Festival Theatre for a live recreation of an album they have just made with the early 1970s LA glam rock outfit Sparks.
Wave Movements, The Hub, 28 August: The Scottish Chamber Orchestra take on a late-night show at The Hub with a difference - a brand new piece of music, by rock musicians Richard Reed Parry and Bryce Dessner from Arcade Fire and The National respectively, entirely inspired by the different wave cycles of the world’s oceans.
Antigone, King’s Theatre, 8-22 August: One of the most eagerly-awaited theatre productions to be staged at the EIF for years will see Oscar-winning actress Juliette Binoche make her festival debut in Belgian theatre director’s new version of the Greek tragedy, which has been attracting sell-out audiences during a run at the Barbican in London.
887, Edinburgh International Conference Centre, 13-23 August: The European premiere of the latest work from one of Canada’s leading theatre-makers, Robert Lepage, is an autobiographical play inspired by childhood memories of the 1970 “October Crisis”, when two terrorist kidnappings brought troops onto the streets of Quebec.
Lanark, Royal Lyceum Theatre, 23-31 August: The world premiere of a new co-production between the EIF and Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre will reunite former Suspect Culture collaborators David Greig, the playwright, and Graham Eatough, the director, for a new stage adaption of Alasdair Gray’s iconic novel Lanark, to coincide with the artist’s 80th year.
While Fergus Linehan has decided against any conventional visual art exhibitions in his debut programme, photography will take centre stage through the work of Edinburgh-based Gavin Evans, who has previously worked with David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Daniel Craig, Ewan McGregor and Samuel Jackson. His striking specially-commissioned portraits of eight key figures in this year’s EIF line-up will appear across Edinburgh before and during the festival, as well as on the cover of the official programme.
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND MOBILE APPS