EIF: Cultural Exchange

The Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) will celebrate its 70th anniversary in 2017. For this special celebratory edition, which runs from 4 to 28 August, the event will welcome 2,020 artists from 40 nations to perform in Scotland’s capital city. Leading the programme for a third year running is Festival Director Fergus Linehan, who announced a dynamic line-up of world-class talent from across the performing arts. The month-long festival was established in 1947 in the aftermath of World War II to ‘provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit’ through a shared celebration of artistic excellence and cultural exchange.

EIF begins with a free, public outdoor event titled The Standard Life Opening Event: Bloom. Taking place on 4 August, this large-scale art project celebrates the explosion of colour, vibrancy and optimism that supported the arrival of the International Festival in 1947, and its subsequent cultural influence in Edinburgh and the rest of the world. The event brings together illuminations and projections in a central location, produced for the third year by 59 Productions, creators of the acclaimed Harmonium Project and Deep Time.

Featured artists who promote the contemporary relevance of the festival’s founding ideals include British bass-baritone Sir Bryn Terfel, singer-songwriter Jarvis Cocker, conductor Riccardo Chailly, Sitar player and composer Anoushka Shankar, Australian chanteuse Meow Meow and violinist Nicola Benedetti. Mercury Prize winner PJ Harvey will also make an appearance in two concerts. This marks her return to Edinburgh with her full nine-piece band, performing tracks from the critically acclaimed album The Hope Six Demolition Project, as well as material from her catalogue.

World-renowned companies and ensembles leading the way for innovation are Italian opera house Teatro Regio Torino, dance company Nederlands Dans Theater, the orchestra of Milan’s opera house La Scala Filarmonica della Scala and psychedelic-folk legends The Incredible String Band. This year will also feature a special season of leading Scottish theatre companies including Citizens Theatre, Royal Lyceum Theatre and the Traverse Theatre Company, who all present works that consider the origins of European drama from a contemporary perspective.

Underpinned by the work of Edinburgh-based playwright Zinnie Harris, all three productions (Oresteia: This Restless House, Rhinoceros and Meet me at Dawn) will examine the fragility of human relationships, society and civilisation. Elsewhere, The Old Vic Theatre Company, which performed at the first festival in 1947 and often over the first decade, will return with the world premiere of The Divide from one of the country’s best-loved playwrights, Alan Ayckbourn.

Two new venues for 2017 will host more theatre. At the Churchill Theatre, Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape is performed by Irish actor Barry McGovern in a new production directed by Michael Colgan, outgoing Artistic Director of Dublin’s Gate Theatre. Meanwhile, the Studio at the Festival Theatre houses two contrasting works – Real Magic from acclaimed Sheffield-based company Forced Entertainment and a late-night residency from Turner Prize-winning artist and performer Martin Creed, whose nightly cabaret Words & Music fills the venue over three weeks.

The festival will be brought to a close on Monday 28 August with the Virgin Money Fireworks Concert, when over 400,000 fireworks will be choreographed to live music from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

Edinburgh International Festival, 4-28 August, venues across Edinburgh.

For more details, visit www.eif.co.uk.

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1. PJ Harvey, The Hope Six Demolition Project.