This summer’s curtain-raising show will see the global impact of fake news, spin, propaganda and censorship take centre-stage, with animated images projected on to the facade of the Usher Hall and a live theatrical performance on the first Friday in August.
The show, which is being led by the Edinburgh musician and composer Anna Meredith, will cause the closure of Lothian Road.
Partly designed by a group of young people recruited by the festival, it is aimed at provoking a “poignant reflection on the thousands of young lives lost in the First World War”.
The event, Five Telegrams, is expected to draw parallels with the various forms of communication used both during the century-old conflict and the present day.
Key themes will include exploring the “disparity between reality and public communications”, the burying of truth, the censorship of communications by the state and the redaction of personal messages sent home from the field by soldiers.
Meredith has joined forces with 59 Productions, the production company which has created the dramatic sound and lighting effects for the last three festival curtain-raisers, on Five Telegrams, which is partly inspired by correspondence held in the Imperial War Museum in London.
Five Telegrams is one of the final projects in 14-18 Now, the four-year cultural programme created to coincide with the centenary of the war.
A new 250-strong youth choir, which is being formed specially for the project, will stage a live performance on the night in Festival Square. The visuals beamed on to the Usher Hall will unfold in tandem with an orchestral recording of Meredith’s new five-part 25-minute piece of music, while students from Edinburgh College of Art are helping to design costumes.
The former Scottish Album of the Year winner, who visited the Imperial War Museum with 59 Productions during the research of the project, said: “It wasn’t so much the stories that were in the telegrams that we were interested in – it was more about the telegrams themselves, how they worked and what they didn’t say.
“We wanted to explore the various ways that people communicated in the war, and the ways that they were encoded, redacted or censored. It changed the way that military and personal information was shared.
“It felt like a really interesting way into looking at five really different angles on communication, which all have relevance and echoes today, as starting points for the music and the visuals.”