Edinburgh International Festival: 4 theatre highlights for 2019

Scotsman theatre critic Joyce McMillan picks her must-see shows from this year’s Edinburgh International Festival programme

Stephen Fry as himself in Mythos. Picture:EFT


Robert Icke is currently one of the biggest names in British theatre, propelled to fame over the last decade by his series of brilliant new versions of classic texts, ranging from The Oresteia to Schiller’s Mary Stuart. First created for International Theatre Amsterdam in 2018, his version of Oedipus – performed in Dutch with English supertitles – sets the story of the leader who unknowingly breaks one of society’s deepest taboos in the cut-throat world of contemporary politics, where the narrative is played out as a thriller over a tense two hours, as the clock counts down to a vital election result.

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King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, 14-17 August

Robert Icke's new take on Oedipus. Picture:EFT

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Interview with Robert Icke

La Reprise

It’s not easy to choose individual theatre shows from among the seven, all on urgent contemporary themes, that have been programmed by Kate McGrath as part of the You Are Here season (see feature on page 11). Those who caught Milo Rau’s extraordinary Institute of Political Murder on their brief visit to Glasgow in 2014, though – with their show Hate Radio, about the Rwandan genocide – will not want to miss this forensic yet brilliantly theatrical analysis of the murder of a young gay man in Belgium in 2012, in a show described as “both a meticulous examination of the murder, and an inquiry into the origins of theatrical tragedy itself.”

The Lyceum, Edinburgh, 3-5 August

Mythos: A Trilogy

Divided into three full-length shows – Gods, Heroes, Men – Stephen Fry’s theatrical retelling of his own best-selling book, first seen in Canada last year, reflects in particularly accessible form the fascination with the founding myths of Western civilisation that has recently been sweeping British theatre. Seated in what one reviewer described as a “magical wing-chair”, Fry leads his audience with huge charm and erudition through the story of the ancient world from the birth of the gods to the Trojan War. Roll up for the European premiere of a trilogy which sets out on a UK tour immediately after its Edinburgh run.

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, 19-25 August

Red Dust Road

Also part of the You Are Here programme, the world premiere of the National Theatre of Scotland’s stage version of Jackie Kay’s fine memoir about her search for her Nigerian birth father should be one of the major events of the festival. Sasha Frost (as Kay) and Elaine C Smith (as her Scottish mum) star in a retelling that is co-produced by Home, Manchester, and also brings together playwright Tanika Gupta, and director Dawn Walton, best known to Edinburgh audiences for her brilliant 2017 Fringe production of Selina Thompson’s Salt.

The Lyceum, Edinburgh, 14-18 August