Musical celebration of Muriel Spark to take centre stage at Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Muriel Spark will be honoured in a musical celebration inspired by her work at this year's Fringe.
Muriel Spark will be honoured in a musical celebration inspired by her work at this year's Fringe.
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A new musical celebration of the literary legacy of Muriel Spark will take centre stage in an official £550,000 showcase of Scottish work at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Shows inspired by an actor’s experiences after arriving in Britain as an 11-year-old Kosovan asylum seeker, the reality of life as a military drone worker, and Scotland's colonial and slave trade past will feature in the programme.

The “Made in Scotland” initiative, now in its 11 year, will feature 22 different music, theatre and dance productions across the Fringe. Other highlights include the creation of a multi-sensory, audio-visual pop-up playground, a “little top” circus experience for babies and a new 100-seater music venue made out of "upcycled" pianos.

Saxophonist Raymond Macdonald is behind the musical tribute to Spark, which is inspired by some of her most memorable novels, themes and characters. It is one of several productions selected for the Made in Scotland programme which are being staged at the pop-up Pianodrome venue, which will operate throughout the Fringe at The Pitt market in Leith.

Macdonald’s show, Lie Still My Sleepy Fortunes, which will be staged for the first time in Spark’s home city by a nine-piece band against a backdrop of specially-created visuals, including images of Spark and her books. It has been unveiled as part of the Scottish Government-funded initiative in the wake of a year of special events to coincide with the 100th anniversary of her birth in 1918.

Macdonald said he got the idea for the show after bumping into Colin McIlroy, curator of a Spark centenary exhibition staged at the National Library of Scotland last year, during a late-night train journey between Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Macdonald said: “Colin is also a guitarist and I played with him in a band called Future Pilot AKA. Just before we got off the train when we met up on he told me that a call had gone out to artists for projects inspired by the centenary of Muriel Spark’s birth.

“I’m a big fan of Muriel Spark and had read a lot of her books, but the great thing about the project is that I’ve really re-connected with her work.

“When I got some initial funding to develop the project I really immersed myself in her novels, short stories and poetry. I even downloaded audiobooks which I listened to when I went out running in the morning.

“Translating one particular art form into another is fraught with ambiguities, but I also think it is important to celebrate those ambiguities.

“Some pieces have been based on fragments of text in Sparks work, while in others I am really just trying to evoke her spirit. It is also well known that she had a huge interest in music. She would think nothing of travelling hundreds of miles to go to a concert.”

Meanwhile Edinburgh-based Mara Menzies, the daughter of a Scottish father and Kenyan mother, who was brought up on the coast of the African country, will be unveiling Blood and Good, a brand new show recalling Scotland's involvement in transatlantic slave trade and colonial rule in East Africa.

The award-winning storyteller will draw on ancient mythology to create an Edinburgh-set tale about a dying mother’s gift of a box to her daughter containing clues to a priceless treasure, which will be staged at the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

Menzies said: "“I am thrilled to be showcasing the magical nature of traditional storytelling with a contemporary twist in the perfect setting of the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

"The oral tradition is an incredibly important part of both my Scottish and Kenyan heritage and one that I am proud to have taken and continue to take, around the world.

"To have the support of Made in Scotland is quite special, as it indicates a deep sense of pride in the art of storytelling."

How Not To Drown, which is part of the Traverse’s Fringe programme, will see Dritan Kastrati recall his perilous journey from Kosovo to the UK with a gang of human traffickers and his fight for survival in the country system.

Drone, which will be staged at Summerhall, will deploy a mixture of theatre, music, video and poetry to examine how unmanned aerial vehicles have become “the technology of a neurotic century.”