EDINBURGH FESTIVAL preview
50- 50 I I VI SIO it How the International Festival is
doubling its half-century celebrations.
Eyebrows were raised when the Edinburgh International Festival announced plans to celebrate its 50th birthday this year. Last year, we had the 50th Festival. Now we were getting the 50th anniversary of the mighty arts binge. Smart marketing. Not unjustifiable, though. Since it was founded in 1947 to counter post- war blues, the International Festival has established an unshakeable foothold on the global arts calendar.
‘You can get into the upper circle of the Usher Hall for five quid; and you can't get into everything for five quid on the
Fringe.’ Brian McMaster
And that’s cause enough, reckons its director Brian McMaster, for a double celebration.
’We tried to distinguish the two through programming,’ he explains. ’Last year reflected some of the ideas that led to the creation of the Festival in the first place; this year, we’re looking back at the 50 years.’
When he took the job in I992,
McMaster claimed he was more interested in revivals than new work. Although this year’s programme includes several exciting new pieces, its most striking feature is a season of revamped highlights from the half- century.
Most ambitious among these is Ariadne Auf Naxos, a co-production between Scottish Opera and Nottingham Playhouse, combining a play by Moliere with an opera by Richard Strauss. It received its British premiere at the Festival in I950, and has not been professionally performed in the UK since. 'Now we know why,’ says McMaster wrily. 'It’s incredibly complicated and expensive to do a play and an opera in one evening.’
Another revival is Verdi's Macbeth, the first opera ever to be performed at
the Festival. Cursed by 'technical difficulties', Macbeth will now be a
concert rather than a fully staged performance. But despite this recently announced disappointment, it will be unusual in its rare use of the original score — 150 years old this year.
T.S. Eliot's play, The Cocktail Party, is another remarkable revival. Written for the Festival in 1949, it was the Anglo- American poet’s first play in a decade, featuring much-admired performances by Alec Guinness and Irene Worth. Directed by Philip Franks for the Royal Lyceum company, it now sits alongSide an original-text production of Measure
For Measure, part of an exCiting theatre programme in which the old jostles amicably with the new.
In choosing music for the revwal season, McMaster was again guided by the principle of 'a genuine Festival protect', selecting works that were assooated With or commissioned by the Festival and 'needed an outing again'. Among these are two pieces by Sir Michael Tippett; two pieces by Luigi Nono and a programme of Bach organ works.
The 50th birthday also heralds the Festival’s first £50 ticket — a substantial price, but modest by the standards set
Opera within a play: the orig
inal Ariadne Auf Naxos in 1950
by other international arts festivals. And as McMaster points out, there are very substantial concessions on offer. ’When I was young I came to everything at the Edinburgh Festival,' he recalls. 'I sat in the upper circle at the Usher Hall where the acoustic is fantastic - as it is at the Festival Theatre — and you can get in for five quid. And it makes quite interesting reading to us, looking through the Fringe brochure, because you can't get into everything for five quid in the Fringe.’
The Edinburgh International Festival, ladies and gentlemen: 50 but thrifty.
What’s under the covers of this year’s Edinburgh Book Festival.
With the Edinburgh Book Festival going annual, and a new chief at its helm, it is determined to make its mark this year. Jan Fairley, new director of the Edinburgh Book Festival, aims to transform the event’s Charlotte Square site into an 'oasis of words’. The idea is to attract everyone from book-lovers to those who prefer the occasional flirt with the written word.
Besides big-name writers — from Iain Banks, eternally successful author of The Crow Road to Booker Prize- wmner Pat Barker — there are some innovative additions to the seventeen- day festival.
This year, the Book Festival hooks up With the International PEN Congress. The worldwide writers' forum comes to Scotland for the second time in its
76-year history, and readings of imprisoned and censored writers’ work will take place daily in a new tent, the Teepee.
On a lighter note, the Teepee will also host storytelling events and The Real Book At Bedtime, at which authors will remember the books they loved as children. One for those who don't know their Noddy from their Big Ears.
The Lifestyles Tent Will administer to your body and soul if your brain has had enough. Events Will explore alternative approaches to lifestyle, fitness and health — from feng shui, the Chinese art of organising your home, to massage. Let your fingers do the walking.
The Book Festival also plugs into the world of CD-Rom titles with the BT Electronic Publishing Tent; and wrll be linking words to pictures. Try reading the poems of late George Mackay Brown against the photographs of Orkney-based Gunnie Moberg.
All that and more. At this festival, all you have to do is read on . . .
Book Festival highlights
The Edinburgh Book Festival is at Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, 9-25 Aug.
Iain Banks The BBC‘s successful adaptation of Banks's T/lt’ (‘rnii' Rmnl has whetted the public's appetite for more. The Scottish author launches his new novel Sung ()_/'Slmi(' at the Book Festival. surely giving it one of' its most popular events. (Sat 9 Aug. Post Office Theatre).
24 TIIELIST 25 Jul—7 Aug i997
George Melly The raconteur. jauman and art critic gives the Bachei' Trust Lecture on the Surrealists. linking in
with the Scottish National Gallery of
Modern Art exhibition Dru/u. .S'iirri'ulixni And Their IIl/lt‘l'lIUl'.\'. Expect anecdotes about Melly's friendships with artists from the movement. (Tue l2 Aug. Post Office Theatre)
From Pot ‘I’o E: Drugs And Society In The 19905 Bit ol~ a hot issue. this one. And who better to discuss it than author of the much anticipated Drugs Am/ The I’iirrv Line Kevin Williamson. celebrity ex-drug-
dealer Howard Marks and Matthew Collin. writer on licstasy and dance culturc'.’ (Fri 22 Aug. International Cale) Guevara Is Dead: Long Live Guevara! The guerrilla leader's life is discussed by liis biographer John Lee Anderson and publisher Robin Blackburn. l-rench journalist Regis Debra}: one of the last men to see Guevara alive. has pulled out of the talk btit will take part in The Fleur/r lz'i'pt'i'ii'rii't' on Sat 9 Aug. a Joint event between the Book Festival and the International l’l-ZN Congress. (Sun ll) Aug. Post Office Theatre)
Iain Banks: is any tent big enough
Carol Shields As her novel Larry's I’urrv is launched. the acclaimed (‘anadian author of' The Stone Diaries is in conversation with Scottish writer Liz l.oclihead. (Mon 25 Aug. Post Office Theatre)
Pat Barker As Gillies Mackinnon's film Regeneration is premiered at the lidinburgh International Film Festival. Booker Prize-winner Barker speaks about the transition of her novel to the big screen. (Wed 20 Aug. Post Office Theatre) (Kathleen Morgan)