Hitlist: our selection of shows from the Edinburgh International Festival
The Edinburgh Festival is just around the corner, so here’s our pick of 10 of the best Edinburgh International Festival shows
There aren’t many true jazz legends left standing, but Herbie Hancock is one. Now 82, the Chicago-born pianist was a child prodigy, and at age 11 he was accompanied by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a performance of a Mozart piano concerto. At 22, he released his first solo jazz album on the famous Blue Note label. He is best known, however, for his work with Miles Davis as a member of the trumpeter’s so-called “second great quintet” – he played on albums such as Nefertiti, Sorcerer and In A Silent Way – and in the 1970s and 1980 as a musician who fused jazz with funk first, then disco and hip-hop. Check out albums such as Fat Albert, Head Hunters, Feets Don’t Fail Me Now and Future Shock for more on that front. On top of all that, he is probably the world’s greatest living performer of the works of George and Ira Gershwin. A very special addition to the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) 2022.
Edinburgh Playhouse, August 7 (8 p.m.)
Created and performed by Alan Cumming and featuring music by Edinburgh native Anna Meredith, how’s that for a Caledonian dream team? – Burn tells the story in theater and dance of the Scottish national bard, Robert Burns. Expect the unusual though: this National Theater of Scotland (NTS) production is very much about the man rather than the myth. How did he cope with his notoriety? What have been his own mental health issues? One of the two choreographers is Steven Hogget whose credits include the all-conquering NTS show Black Watch and West End phenomenon Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
King’s Theatre, August 4-10 (3 p.m. and 8 p.m.)
An untitled love
Featuring the music of 1990s neo-soul and R&B envelope pusher D’Angelo, this dance production is the latest feature from American choreographer Kyle Abraham, whose work is described as half-Martha Graham, half-Prince. What’s not to like, right? Political and questioning, without ever losing sight of its entertainment mission, An Untitled Love is performed by Abraham’s pretty company AIM by Kyle Abraham and arrives in Edinburgh after a three-night run at Lincoln Center in New York.
King’s Theatre, August 20 & 21 (8 p.m.)
London Symphony Orchestra
You can argue until the bells come back, but until then, let’s just say the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) is one of the best in the world and leave it at that. They arrive in Edinburgh under the direction of celebrated conductor Sir Simon Rattle (pictured above) to perform the world premiere of Precipice Dances by young British composer Daniel Kidane alongside the music of Berlioz (Le Corsaire), the favorite by Rattle Sibelius (Symphony No 7, his last major work) and Bartok (lyrical work The Miraculous Mandarin, which caused such a scandal when it premiered in Cologne in 1926 that it was quickly banned). Don’t expect such ructions in Edinburgh.
Usher Room, August 18 (8 p.m.)
Muster Station: Leith
One of the achievements of outgoing EIF director Fergus Linehan has been his ability to populate unlikely corners of the city with high-end arts events – places like the suburban business district The Gyle, which staged last year events in a tent open for this purpose located (easily) between a parking lot, a tram stop and one of the outlying Covid-19 vaccination centers in the capital. Another odd venue is the town’s high school Leith Academy, which has hosted EIF shows for a few years now. The latest is this site-specific promenade theatrical performance by Scottish company Grid Iron, which posits some sort of apocalyptic event that has brought bewildered and confused citizens – that is, you, the audience – to this “gathering station”. And then ? Go up and you will find out.
Leith Academy, August 15-26 (days and times vary)
Amsterdam International Theater
Led by visionary theater creator Ivo Van Hove, familiar with the FEI, the Dutch company International Theater Amsterdam (ITA) has been awarded one of the festival’s residency spots and is thus mounting three productions in Edinburgh, including two of their repertoire – sort of a Greatest Hits Package if you like – and a new piece. The “hits” are A Little Life, based on Hanya Yanagihara’s 2015 bestseller of the same name, and The Magic Mountain, a four-hour adaptation of Thomas Mann’s influential 1924 novel. The new work, The End Of Eddy, is also based on a novel: the 2014 debut of 29-year-old French literary prodigy Edouard Louis, a fictionalized account of his own experiences of growing poverty and homosexuality in a rough and tough navy. Leaning town of Le Pen in northern France. If our own Douglas Stuart has a Gallic counterpart, it is Louis. All shows are presented in Dutch with English surtitles.
The End Of Eddy, Church Hill Theatre, August 19-21 (2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.)
A Little Life, Festival Theatre, August 20-21 (variable times)
The Magic Mountain, King’s Theatre, August 26-28 (times vary)
Promising a reimagining of the original 1870 score by Léo Delibes – the production includes real-time filming and visual projections – Scottish Ballet (pictured above) presents a world first in the history of the life-size dancing doll and of the boy who falls in love with her (her?). Music is performed live by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra and choreography is by Morgann Runacre-Temple and Jessica Wright, who trade as Jess & Morgs.
Theater Festival, August 14-16 (2:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.)
Another Linehan innovation was the introduction to the FEI of contemporary musical artists, many of whom performed in a revitalized Leith Theatre. This year is no different. Nestled in a roster that also includes London-based jazz quartet Sons Of Kemet, electronica veteran Squarepusher, rapper-poet Kae Tempest, Detroit techno pioneer Jeff Mills and local heroes Arab Strap, is Destiny Frasqueri, aka New York rapper Princess Nokia (pictured above). Raised partly in care and partly in her grandmother’s home in Spanish Harlem, Nokia mixes a love of nu-metal bands such as Korn with the bold feminism of Queen Latifah and TLC, and she’s a part of a new generation of form-shifting queer artists. – friendly female rappers coming out of the Big Apple. It’s not for nothing that she was included in the soundtrack to Crystal Moselle’s 2018 cult film, Skate Kitchen, about New York’s all-female skateboard team.
Leith Theatre, August 17 (8 p.m.)
Another NTS production, this time a re-enactment of Liz Lochhead’s famous tale of one of the most taboo Greek myths (and given their propensity for transgression, that’s saying something). Michael Boyd directs this new version and rising Glasgow-based actor Adura Onashile – also a writer and director – plays the title role. The performance is standing only.
The Hub, August 10-28 (days and times vary)
The Jungle Book Reimagined
FEI favorite Akram Khan returns with his eponymous dance company for this riff on Rudyard Kipling’s classic novel. Here, Mowgli becomes a climate refugee forced to leave the countryside with his family and go to the city, there to meet a troop of animals who undertake a kind of rewilding of the same urban space. There’s a 10-person cast, state-of-the-art animation techniques and an original score by the great Jocelyn Pook, a former member of The Communards, PJ Harvey and Massive Attack collaborator and soundtrack composer whose credits include Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and Martin Scorsese’s Gangs Of New York. Do not miss.
Theater Festival, August 25-28 (2:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.)