Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Dancing and club culture takes centre stage in Summerhall programme
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Plays, immersive experiences, a celebration of Edinburgh club nights in the 1980s and 1990 and star DJs will be part of Summerhall’s programme.
Its line-up will also feature work exploring drug addiction, policing and the prisons system, the links between masculinity and violence, and the relationship between human beings and water – which will be staged in a swimming pool.
Other shows will be inspired by the death of Elvis Presley, 1980s video games, Australian wine-drinking, the experience of being a call handler on a pandemic helpline and French Eurovision star Barbara Pravi.
The Danish dance show Mass Effect will see the cast of performers push their bodies to their physical limits in a performance which is expected to feature local dancers for the last 15 minutes of each show.
Danusia Samal’s show Bangers, which is set at a club night in urban London, will follow the highs and lows of two strangers struggling with their pasts and hurtling towards the future.
Thispopbaby’s dance-theatre show Party Scene – which is described as “part urgent gathering, part explosive event” – will explore tough questions about drugs, sex, consent and mental health in the queer community.
Fred Deakin will be staging Club Nights, an “immersive joyride” recalling the events he promoted in Edinburgh in the 1980s and 1990s, including Going Places, Misery, Thunderball and Devil Mountain, with a show featuring spoken word, music, visuals and dance.
Weathervanes, a multi-media performance-installation and “ritual dance theatre experience," will explore questions around the afterlife, ancestral memory and connection to nature, as well as promote “psychic healing through dance intervention.”
Scotland’s reputation as the European country with the highest rate of drug-related deaths has inspired the creation of Concerned Others, Tortoise in a Nutshell’s show, which will use immersive soundscapes, turntables and projections to explore how the country has struggled to recognise a “deadly culture of shame, ignorance and misunderstanding” surrounding addiction and drug-related death.
One-off club nights will be staged by Optimo Espacio, Magic Nostalgic, Femergy and Club Sylkie at Summerhall, which will also be hosting a late-night closing party featuring synth-pop duo Maranta and artist Chell Young in an event expected to combine music with visual art, film, performance and costume.
The venue’s August music line-up includes singer-songwriters Kathryn Joseph, Withered Hand, Pictish Trail and Colin Macintyre, folk-pop outfit Randolph’s Leap, folk outfit Breabach, funk-rock band Thumpasaurus, and a collaboration between jazz drummer Sarathy Korwar and dance music pioneer Auntie Flo.
Comics and theatre-makers Mark Thomas and Daniel Kitson, pianist Will Pickvance, poet and comic John Hegley will also be staging new shows at the venue.
Unique festival experiences will be on offer via Katrine Turner’s “Alternative Helpline For The End of The World”, which will see audience members book a phone call for a personal diagnosis or can watch a live performance unfold at Summerhall’s box office.
A shipping container will be transformed for Darkfield’s video games-inspired immersive experience Arcade, which will see audiences sitting in the darkness as they are transported to alternative environments of a world at war.
Audiences are expected to enter a real swimming pool in the city for Bodies, Ray Young’s show, which promises to provide for “an active, sensory experience of water, discovery and rest.”
Billed as a contemporary confessional for the modern-day sinner, the Without Sin installation aims to provide a place at Summerhall for “a non-judgmental exercise in healing and reflection.”
The Talent will be set in a small sound booth where a female voice-over artist will be asked to conjure up voices for commercials, self-help audiobooks, meditation tapes and computer games.
Dance, theatre and spoken word will all feature in Blink Dance Theatre’s Elvis Died of Burgers, which promises to take a “deep dive into the ‘King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’ at the end of his life.”
Summerhall chief executive Sam Gough said: “Our 2023 programme contains some brilliant, beautiful, challenging, moving and fantastically creative work from all over the world.
"More than a third of the programme is made up of international work from six of the seven continents.
"As we approach this year with ongoing conflict in Europe, political change and uncertainty as well as a range of financial challenges across the cost of living and huge inflationary pressures on our income, we want to thank the artists for returning to Edinburgh or coming for their first fringe at Summerhall; those who have braved and borne the extraordinary costs of participating in the largest open arts festival in the world, and for having faith in our ability to curate a world class arts programme that will offer incredible experiences to all of our audiences.”
Summerhall founder Robert McDowell said: “The ethos of Summerhall is to keep faith with the founding principle of the Edinburgh International Festival, to ‘heal wounds of war through the language of the arts’, artists, scientists and others linked by shared genius to bridge over every major social divide with new and old voices of insight and protest, love and care for all of the planet and for Europe in the world, multi-lingual, multi-cultural, multi-national; the human spirit operating in crises, playful, profound, political too, but never propaganda.
“The purposes of the arts are to encourage all to look, listen, think and act harder, to see value in what otherwise is foolishly ignored, discarded or wasted.
“Summerhall is a uniquely flexible multi-arts multi-disciplinary set of exhibition and performance spaces to accommodate all creativity & cross-currents in our sciences and arts. If we are nationalist, it is for all countries and people everywhere or nowhere.”