Edinburgh Military Tattoo deploys lasers for first time as it honours space race

Iconic themes from science fiction epics Star Wars and Star Trek are to feature in the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo as it deploys state of the art laser beams in its array of special effects for the first time.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo programme was revealed at Edinburgh Castle today.
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo programme was revealed at Edinburgh Castle today.

A spectacular tribute to the first moon landings nearly 50 years ago and Albert Einstein’s discovery of the theory of relativity will also be centrepieces of the production.

It will be staged under the banner of “the sky’s the limit” and will highlight the human race’s fascination with flight and space travel.

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A recreation of Apollo 11’s famous 1969 mission to the moon is expected to be among the highlights of a show which will also celebrate the centenary of the Royal Air Force.

Images of bumble bees, seabirds from the Shetland Isles, Mexican eagles, an Arabian Nights skyline and soaring Spitfire aircraft will be project ed onto Edinburgh Castle esplanade during the show, which will also feature a version of a Justin Bieber hit, Despacito.

The space travel elements of the Tattoo have been planned a year after British astronaut Major Tim Peake was a guest of honour at the event, which will launch with a special preview performance on Thursday.

The production, which will be seen by around 220,000 people on the castle esplanade this month, will feature more than 1200 performers.

Schoolchildren from Malawi will be among around 300 teenagers to be cast in the show, as part of the event’s participation in the Scottish Government’s Year of Young people programme. A group of 20 pupils from the Edinburgh Girls High School will be joining forces with a choir from the Mary Erskine School in Edinburgh for the bees sequence.

A specially-formed band of more than 100 performers will be celebrating the flight of the Mexican eagle and the country’s Aztec history and heritage in a sequence which will feature Despacito, while Boston’s Middlesex County Volunteers Fifes and Drums will accompany a hot air balloon sequence.

The Royal Cavalry of the Sultanate of Oman, which will include an all-female marching band and 30 performers on horseback, will perform before the “Arabian Nights” backdrop after more than four years of talks with organisers over a possible appearance at the event.

The Czech Armed Forces Band will accompany a sequence celebrating the world’s natural beauty, and the landscapes, villages, towns and cities which have evolved over the centuries.

One of the most popular acts to appear at the Tattoo in recent years, Switzerland’s Top Secret Drum Corps, will be providing dazzling displays to accompany images exploring space, time and the speed of light, including Albert Einstein’s most famous calculations.

The show will include a sequence honouring the groundbreaking Scottish piping legend Gordon Duncan, who died 13 years ago at the age of just 41 after a battle with alcoholism, but left a legacy of more than 100 tunes which have since been performed around the world. Other highlights include a performance of The Last Post by the Royal Ypriana Wind Band Buglers, who were formed in Ypres in the aftermath of the end of the First World War.

Brigadier David Allfrey, the event’s chief executive and producer, said: “It’s an enthralling 90-minute spectacle that’s set to be one of our best shows yet, with an army of young performers to the fore.

“Audiences can expect to be spellbound by the sights, sounds and eclectic atmosphere created by our cast, with incredible light and laser technology thrown in for good measure.

“We will be looking very loosely at the history of flight throughout the show, which will reach a climax with the performance of a specially-commissioned piece of music, The Sky’s The Limit, by more than 800 musicians.

“We are quite pleased with the projection of the rocket we will be using at the end of the show, which will be based on Apollo 11.

“There will be a certain amount of flame and smoke which will give people a bit of a sense of the space programme.

“Our lighting designer, Gerry Mott, has always resisted the use of lasers in the show, but I think they will fit in so well with the Mr Blue Sky sequence at the end of the show, when we’ll be using them along with fireworks.”

Sir Stephen Hillier, chief of the air staff of the Royal Air Force, said: “In our 100th anniversary year, I’m really delighted that the Royal Air Force has the lead for this year’s Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo – a very special event in a very special year.

“Scotland has always been a vital part of that RAF story. From one hundred years ago at Montrose Station, the first operational military airfield, to today at RAF Lossiemouth on the Moray coast, one of the RAF’s principal bases, protecting UK and NATO airspace. I’m also proud to say that Scotland was the start of my own personal story and RAF career.

“Throughout the RAF100 celebrations and Scotland’s Year of Young People, the greatest legacy we can build is to inspire and unlock the potential of new generations, so that together, we can help shape our next century. The theme for this year’s Tattoo – “The Sky’s The Limit’ – could not, therefore, be more appropriate.”

Limited tickets are still available from the Tattoo’s website. Returns may be available on the day of performances from the box office on Cockburn Street.