Murrayfield set to be transformed for Edinburgh’s festival curtain-raiser

It is an event that will herald the return of Edinburgh’s world-famous cultural celebration – by bringing acrobats, dancers, musicians and choral singers into the home of Scottish rugby.

Performers from Australia and Scotland are preparing to join forces to stage one of the biggest free opening events in the history of the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF).

A 16,000-strong crowd is expected to pack into Murrayfield’s West Stand and onto the pitch for the last in a series of free opening events staged during EIF director Fergus Linehan’s tenure.

The event will not only mark the start of the 75th-anniversary season of the festivals, but their full-scale return for the since time in three years after emerging from the impact of the pandemic.

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    Two Australian companies who have previously won acclaim at the Fringe will be taking centre stage at Murrayfield on Friday night.

    Indigenous dance troupe and circus stars Gravity and Other Myths will be reviving a show staged earlier this year in Australia, with Argyll-born fiddler Aidan O’Rourke, Hebridean singer Kathleen MacInnes and Skye piper Brighde Chaimbeul flying out to take part in a project jointly commissioned by the EIF and the Adelaide Festival.

    The performers will be reunited at Murrayfield and joined by the National Youth Choir of Scotland for a 70-minute show, which Edinburgh Makar Hannah Lavery has also worked on. It will see the stadium transformed by dramatic lighting effects and giant screens.

    Lachlan Binns, co-founder of Gravity and Other Myths, said: “We’ve been dipping our toes into larger-scale productions like this over the last couple of years. Strangely enough, the pandemic gave us the opportunity to try bigger things and build more ambitious projects.

    Performers from Australia have been preparing for the Edinburgh Interational Festival's opening event, Macro. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

    “When the Edinburgh International Festival came on board we started getting really interested in all the parallels and similarities between Scotland and Australia, our colonial histories, local people being displaced, all the stories and places that are steeped in history and have a lot of significance to the people who lived there.

    "We had a fantastic time collaborating and integrating our companies, working and the Scottish musicians who came over to Adelaide. It’s been really amazing to come over to Edinburgh and repeat it here.

    “The city has real significance for us as although we’re Australian, it really feels as we were born and took our big steps here.

    "The show is about collaboration, connection and coming together, about different places and cultures, and the things that join us together across great distances and the things that we share.”

    Performers from Australia have been preparing for the Edinburgh Interational Festival's opening event, Macro. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

    Djuki Mala director Joshua Bond said: “We will have a massive stage, in a massive stadium, with massive screens on either side of the stage.

    "Some of the performers will have hand-held cameras, which will give the audience the chance to see some of that live action, which is sometimes lost in a large-scale event, and help bring them right onto the stage.”

    Mr Linehan said: “No-one will have seen anything like this it Murrayfield – it will be a very spectacular show.

    “The whole idea of new circus and physical theatre has been really strong in Australia and festival audiences have grown to love it as well, including in Edinburgh with venues like Circus Hub, but will just be on a completely different scale.”