Edinburgh International Festival theatre highlights

Scotsman arts critic Joyce McMillan shares her pick of the theatre offerings at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival

Scotsman arts critic Joyce McMillan shares her pick of the theatre offerings at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival

Richard III

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On a stage backed by walls of bloody, rust-coloured metal, Thomas Ostermeier of the mighty Berlin Schaubuhne conjures up a remarkable Richard III for our times, played by cult German star Lars Eidinger as a strange, tall, loping figure who immediately draws and dares the audience into a strange complicity with his evil projects. Part modern stand-up comic, part medieval vice-figure, and backed by a superb ensemble and fierce live drum score, this Richard explores the mediaeval impulses that still stalk the 21st century, with state-of-the-art design and video helping to chart his rise and fall.

Royal Lyceum Theatre, 24-28 August

Measure For Measure

There’s a rich range of Shakespeare in Edinburgh this year, as theatres across the world mark the 400th anniversary of his death; and the Schaubuhne’s Richard III is matched by this powerfully contemporary Measure For Measure directed by Cheek By Jowl’s Declan Donnellan for the Pushkin Theatre of Moscow. Already acclaimed in Moscow and London, this new take on the flawed rule of a self-righteous and morally authoritarian city governor is said to have Putin-era resonances that are hard to miss; and audiences are promised a unique brew of laughter and biting seriousness.

Royal Lyceum Theatre, 16-20 August

Interiors / Destroyed Room

If you have never experienced the work of Scotland’s remarkable international Glasgow-based company Vanishing Point – or if you have, and can’t wait to revisit it – then the opening weekend of the Festival offers a chance to see both the company’s wonderful 2009 wordless drama Interiors, and their most recent show, The Destroyed Room, premiered in Glasgow earlier this year. Both shows explore director Matthew Lenton’s recurring interest in comfortable western interiors surrounded by unknown worlds of danger and threat, which those inside struggle to recognise; and both display Vanishing Point’s stunning flair for theatre that is both performance and installation, intensely visual, and yet chillingly and brilliantly dramatic.

Royal Lyceum Theatre, 6-8 August

Anything That Gives Off Light

Tremendous Fringe stars TEAM of New York – award winners for shows like Architecting and Mission Drift – combine with the National Theatre of Scotland to create an exploration of the idea of enlightenment that is also a road movie for our times, which begins when a Scotsman living in London catches the sleeper north for a reluctant homecoming. Featuring a live score drawn from both Scottish and American traditions, the show features Sandy Grierson, the star of last year’s Lanark, as part of a six-strong writing and performing ensemble; expect a wild journey through the past and present of our national identities, and on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, in the 21st century.

Edinburgh International Conference Centre, 18-26 August, with previews 15-16 August.