Liam Rudden: EIF 2016 Hot tickets and highlights

RICHARD III

RICHARD III

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DAME Edna Everage creator Barry Humphries, Hollywood Scot Alan Cumming, local hip hop trio Young Fathers, and the annual Virgin Money Fireworks Concert - just four of the highlights announced last week, as the 70th Edinburgh International Festival programme was unveiled.

Throw in a handful of folk singers, cult Montreal music collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor, ethereal Icelandic post-rockers Sigur Ros, and Glasgow’s Mogwai (in a collaboration with film-maker Mark Cousins) and you have what is arguably one of the most eclectic and accessible, although some would no doubt say ‘dumbed-down’, International Festivals for many a year.

Of course, the ballet, opera, theatre, and orchestral strands of the annual gathering are still in place, they just don’t seem quite as dominant in new artistic director Fergus Linehan’s overall vision.

That said, for traditionalists there’s a new production of Mozart’s comic opera Cosi Fan Tutte at the Festival Theatre; a concert performance of Das Rheingold at the Usher Hall by the Marlinsky Opera, along with new works from Scottish Ballet, the National Theatre of Scotland and experimental theatre company Vanishing Point.

However, it’s Barry Humphries’ Weimar Cabaret evening I’m most excited about - just don’t expect a ‘Hello Possums’ from Dame Edna or you could be in for a surprise.

The dadaist performer has curated an evening of ‘degenerate music’ from Germany’s Weimar Republic, or as Humphries succinctly puts it, a programme of ‘music Hitler hated’.

Working with the Australian Chamber Orchestra and cabaret performer Meow Meow, Humphries promises jazz, cabaret and Broadway musical-style numbers that are both racy and risque, ‘reawakening the hedonistic partying and social turmoil of 1920s and 30s Berlin’.

Another spectacle that should be worth catching this August is Alan Cummings Sings Sappy Songs - certainly no airs and graces there as titles go.

Star of Broadway, TV series The Good Wife, and not forgetting the sitcom The High Life, Cummings will perform songs by Kurt Weill, Noel Coward, Stephen Sondheim, Rufus Wainwright, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry at the Hub, on the Royal Mile, throughout the Festival - his first visit since 2007, when he played Dionysus in The Bacchae at The King’s.

As someone who loves to see the work of Shakespeare performed as it was written, glorying in all its bawdy humour, political satire, knowing asides and poetic rhythm, it always jars when the Bard’s prose is translated.

Although I have yet to see a production that captures his poetry and wit, the EIF’s love affair with foreign language Shakespeare continues. This year a German Richard III and a Russian Measure For Measure have caught my eye.

Out of sheer curiosity, both are on my list to see.

Another, arguably predictable, piece of programming is Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, but then as Jean Brodie once said, ‘For those who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like.’

That it stars Tony Award-winner Cherry Jones will make it a draw for many, including fans of the US TV series 24, in which she played Allison Taylor, the first female President of the United States.

However, should you be looking to take a chance on something different this year, The Toad Knew by James Thieree with Compagnie du Hanneton could be a winner. Dancers, contortionists, high wire artists and Thierree’s unique brand of clowning and physicality suggest this could be something special.

Check out the full EIF 2016 programme at www.eif.co.uk.

You never know what else might catch you eye.