August 2021: Ten Moments From Week 1

It was an amzing return to live festival events in Edinburgh, after a break of c16 months, and we've picked ten moments from across our festivals family that brought a tear to the eye or a smile to the lips, and made us realise the importance of such communal experiences.

1. EIF Opening Concert

EIF - opening

The BBC Symphony Orchestra launched the 2021 Edinburgh International Festival’s orchestral series with a concert full of the sun, wit and inspiration of Italy – and which opened with PIVOT, a brand new work specially commissioned by the International Festival from London-born, New York-based Anna Clyne, one of today’s most immediate and emotionally involving composers. Taking place in one of the Festival’s specially created outdoor pavilions, and with an audience attending their first live classical concert in 16 months, ‘the occasional distant calls of gulls and oystercatchers – hardly disturbances – only served to make the experience even more extraordinary’ according to the Scotsman.

2. Film Fest on the Forth 

Film - Forth

Organised by the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Film Fest on the Forth screenings were staged in an outdoor area accommodating up to 260 socially distanced film fans at Port Edgar Marina, located at South Queensferry on the banks of the Firth of Forth overlooking the three iconic bridges. The weekend was supported by EventScotland as part of the Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21, and the fantastic themed line-up comprised eight well-loved feature films with a maritime link, all well suited to family audiences. And when showing the above pictured film, one audience member was heard to shout: ‘we’re going to need a bigger screen.’

3. A Slavery Tale European premiere of Isaac Julien’s multi-screen exhibition is one of the highlights of the Edinburgh Art Festival and focuses on the life of the emancipated slave Frederick Douglass – said to be the most photographed American of the 19th century - who first travelled to Scotland in 1846 as part of his campaign for the abolition of slavery. Viewing the 10-screen filmic environment at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art, the Times said it was ‘a startlingly emotive and visually arresting narrative that chimes with some of the tropes of the Black Lives Matter movement’.

4. On The Beach

Fringe - Beach

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is renowned for the number of artists and companies that locate their work in unusual settings around the city – and this open-air drama 'Move' for five female performers, about the movement of women across the world and their relationship with the sea, has been sited in the unique location of Silverknowes Beach. Telling female stories of migration, loss and mourning from across the globe, the location is well chosen. As the Scotsman noted: ‘The sense of space and light is immense, and yet the stress and complexity of modern life is there too; the flashing lights on the Forth bridges to the west, aircraft taking off from the airport, rigs moored in the firth….It’s hard to imagine a finer setting for Julia Taudevin’s choral drama.’ 

5. Powerful Medicine

EIF - Medicine

Domhnall Gleeson leads a formidable cast in this new play from revered Irish playwright Enda Walsh for the Edinburgh International Theatre at the Traverse Theatre. Devastatingly funny and profoundly moving, Medicine examines social responses to mental health concerns, while deconstructing the fabric of theatrical performance. Since his 1997 Edinburgh debut with huge Fringe hit Disco Pigs, Walsh has been a frequent visitor to Edinburgh and this new work, which he also directs, ‘is a heartbreaking yet hugely energising and thrilling journey through one man’s troubled psyche [with] the whole meaning of the text is beautifully and bravely teased out by a magnificent cast’ and according to the Telegraph '..may well turn out to be the finest theatre production in Edinburgh this summer'.

6. What's Normal? The Normal is a vivid reflection of life during the 2020 pandemic, staged at the Talbot Rice Gallery as part of Edinburgh Art Festival. Through artworks that express hope, grief, survival, violence and solidarity – it situates our lived experience within a global artistic dialogue, underscored by the need for a profound re-orientation towards planetary health following the “wake-up call” of COVID-19. And the online discussion this week featurd artist Femke Herregraven who talked about her work relating to the bubonic plague, and the links between finance and disease.

7. Latest City Venue 

Fringe - Multistory2

Fringe venues Gilded Balloon, ZOO, Traverse and Dance Base collaborated to create MultiStory, a brand-new festival hub based at the NCP Castle Terrace Car Park. The programme boasts both Fringe mainstays – Sunshine On Leith (from Captivate Theatre) – and Fringe debuts, including legendary Edinburgh drag queen Alice Rabbit. Booker Prize-winner Ben Okri OBE and Edinburgh-based choreographer Charlotte Jarvis bring the world premiere of Starting From First Position, while Traverse Theatre will present Aye, Elvis by Morna Young and A Funny Place To Put A Window by Stuart Hepburn.

8. Falstaff Packs A Punch

EIF - Falstaff

Scottish Opera returned to the Edinburgh International Festival with a new production by Glasgow-born director Sir David McVicar, specially adapted for this performance in the specilly re-opened Festival Theatre. His new staging got to the bones of Falstaff, balancing the laugh-out-loud moments with a poignant tale of a childlike man who has outlived his own time – full of experience and regret, but ultimately a glorious celebration of life itself. As leading classical outlet Bachtrack commented: ‘although we were a masked audience of 380 in a 1900-seat venue, this production gave a much-needed power-punch of enjoyment to kick-start the city's festival. It’s fun to be back, and thrilling to be in the same room as a performance once again.’

9. A Garden Exhibition 

Art - Matthew Arthur Williams

Matthew Arthur Williams presents an exhibition of photographic prints set against the lush greenery of Johnston Terrace Wildlife Gardens. Captured in various locations on the West coast of Scotland including during a Bothy Projects residency on the Isle of Eigg. Williams references a long history of portraits in the landscape. Part of the Edinburgh Art Festival's new strand 'What happens to desire...' curated by Glasgow based artist, film-maker and programmer, Tako Taal. 

10. Street Events Return

Fringe - Street Events

The world-famous Edinburgh Festival Fringe street events returned with a scaled-back programme of live performances. The Fringe Society is working with independent Scottish event company Unique Events to ensure that this iconic, vibrant part of the Fringe is delivered effectively and securely, thanks to generous support from the City of Edinburgh Council and EventScotland. A fantastic starting point for any Fringe-goer, events runs daily from 11:30 until 20:30 in the High Street’s designated Fringe Safe Street Performance Area, West Parliament Square. All performances are delivered in accordance with current and relevant Covid guidelines, with daily event details published online for audiences to plan their day.

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