FESTIVAL PREVIEW ~
Nicola Robertson investigates the strange affair of Macbeth at this year’s Festival, While TYCVOYJOhHStOH probes the directions of the Film Festival.
With an impressive and substantial programme of films and special events, the public face of the 43rd Edinburgh International Film Festival is more positive than ever before. However, the recent resignation of the Polish guest co-director Krzysztof Zanussi is only the most visible sign of behind-the-scenes disquiet, for the problems in fact go much deeper than practising film-maker Mr Zanussi’s inability to find time to devote to the event.
The current period of transition ironically began with the unprecedented financial success of last year’s event, after which the EIFF Executive Committee. headed by Colin Young for the first time. felt able to separate the Film Festival from the year-round activities of Filmhouse. The upshot of it all was that Hickey stayed at Filmhouse and the Festival was left to start anew from scratch. Unfortunately, a search lasting well into 1989 found the Festival Committee unable to appoint his successor, and they came up with a holding operation in the shape of joint guest directors in Times critic David Robinson and Polish director Krzysztof Zanussi.
The Pole’s packed film-making
schedule however meant that he only
ever met with David Robinson on a couple of occasions, and contributed only a handful of telephone calls to the assemblage of the programme. Even so, at the time of the initial announcement, his prolific work-rate was already common knowledge, and while he at least did the decent thing by voluntarily handing in his notice, one has to call into question the Committee’s wisdom in appointing a busy film-maker in the first place. Meanwhile, back in Edinburgh,
David Robinson and his young administrator Tom Gerhardt walked into an empty room 101 days before the Festival was due to start, four bare walls that had to be transformed into Britain’s most prestigious film event in three months. It’s a remarkable achievement that Gerhardt and his team have created a whole operation from the ground up, their dedication extending to some 96 sleepless hours spent compiling the substantial programme brochure — superhuman efforts that should really never have been needed in the first place.
David himself has testified to the strain he’s been facing. Selecting the programme virtually single-handedly, battling to secure films from the sometimes generous, sometimes capricious fingers of the London distributors, at the same time he’s been turning out his copy every week, as well as working on a film project of his own. While he’s certainly come up with the goods in terms of the films on show, the daunting workload and travel schedule he’s had to soldier through must surely be a central argument in favour of an Edinburgh-based permanent Director.
The Committee have some serious
thinking to do lest we see a rerun of the too much, too late scenario that has unfolded this year. That the Festival had to be ﬂung together in just over three months; that the guest directors were both busy men with other fish to fry; that the youngsters doing the donkey work have been toiling under unacceptable conditions; and that at a time of instability the financial risk of an expanded programme has been sanctioned: all these things attest to a fundamental lack of direction from the top.
One hopes that the box office this year will live up to David Robinson‘s hopes, but if heavy losses are incurred then one has to fear for the future. The event‘s minimal resources surely need to be strengthened, and in today‘s funding climate (like it or not) the money will have to be found through sponsorship rather than the fruitless and self-righteous expectation of major subsidy increases. A swift decision regarding next year‘s directorship is what‘s needed now from the Executive Committee. In the end, the esteemed international status ofthe Edinburgh Film Festival has to be constantly maintained. It must not be taken for granted.
Sitting in the Richard Demarco Gallery seven days ago with Jonathan Chapman, the gallery’s theatre co-ordinator, discussing the expected arrival of the Italian theatre company La Zattera Di Babele, it was inconceivable anything could go wrong. The beautiful island of Inchcolm and its abbey ruins off the Fifeshire coast, the kilted pipers and TV installations from last year’s ‘Towards Macbeth — a prologue’, the electric generator and ferry were all booked and ready for the one of the Festival’s more experimental gestures.
On Thursday night, eleven days before the first sell-out performance of Shakespeare's ‘Scottish play’, the fax-machines between Ericce in Sicily and Edinburgh wired through a message that Carlo Quartucci and his wife, Carla Tato, the directors of La Zattera Di Babele, had, for ‘health reasons‘, booked into a spa
resort and would not be coming to the Edinburgh Festival.
For the Richard Demarco Gallery, the International Festival organizers and the Italian Institute, who are all involved in the project, the news is an enormous blow. For John Bett
and Juliet Cadzow. the two Scottish actors, who had been working for over twelve months with the Italians, visiting the company in Ericce, it represents a frustrated attempt at cross-cultural theatre. A spokesperson from the Italian Institute commented ‘It was about ten days ago we heard that La Zattera were not coming, but at the beginning we hoped that this was not going to happen. I don’t know exactly what was going on , but they sent a medical certificate to Richard Demarco — Carlo Quartucci looked very ill — I think he had had a nervous breakdown or something like that.’ It has also meant that the Italian Institute‘s planned exhibition ‘The Garden of Interactive Arts‘, has had to be cancelled ‘because it was very linked with the performance.‘
The cavalier withdrawal of the Italian company from this year’s Festival is something normally insured against by an official contract between the organizers and the theatre company. Richard Demarco claims, rather vaguely, that the company ‘never actually sent back the contract we sent them. which they had to sign with us, so
that we could then sign one with the Festival, because we were responsible to the Festival.’ Festival Director, Frank DunIOp, asserts that ‘the International Festival is about taking risks, and we have spent a nerve-wracking few days reorganising Macbeth on Inchcolm Island’, while Demarco, an enthusiast who once mortgaged his house to bring Taduesz Kantor’s magnificent Polish company to Scotland, cheerfully agrees ‘its hard to make great theatre without taking risks’.
The furore surrounding the Cursed Play, as Macbeth is sometimes dubbed, underlines the delicate programming ofthe Festival. This project, balanced like a house of cards between three major promoters, has set off a chain-reaction which may just create the energy and magic needed to produce a memorable performance. John Bett has risen to the occasion. He will direct a version of Macbeth on Inchcolm Island to replace La Zattera’s offering, which will involve a ‘bigger cast — the whole island will be peopled by ghosts. The audience will be garbed exactly like the actors,
and they won’t know iftheir life is threatened next in this horror story ofa lunatic king.‘ The production will have a more linear aspect to it and will draw upon and emphasise the Scottish roots of the tragedy using an entirely Scottish east. The Italian Institute have managed. with incredible resilience, to put together an exhibition of three contemporary Venetian artists. All this in a week! With 1400 tickets sold for Macbeth on Inchcolm Island the stakes are high. Frank Dunlop is optimistic. ‘I believe inspiration happens under pressure‘, and if there is one person who thrives under pressure it is Richard Demarco; ‘I‘ve got in three days all the details ofa new production which just proves you can do it against the odds.‘ Festival audiences are being offered an unusual chance to participate in the spontaneous energy released by improvisation in an experimental setting. It might prove to be one of Ricky‘s greatest feats. I Macbeth on Inchcolm Island ,é (Festival) Information Richard J Demarco Gallery (Venue 22) 557 I 0707.14—17 Aug. 20—22 Aug. 7.30pm. £15. (Ferry leaves 7pm) J The List ll— 17 August 198913