The 2008 Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) opens today (8 August 2008) in the Scottish capital (See News, 2 Apr 2008). The 62nd annual EIF - the parent to the much larger and more chaotic Edinburgh Fringe, which opened last Sunday - runs until 31 August with its mix of opera, ballet, music and theatre from around the globe.

One of the most anticipated productions in this year’s EIF schedule is the world premiere of director-choreographer Matthew Bourne’s new dance theatre piece Dorian Gray (pictured), based on Oscar Wilde\'s 1891 gothic novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. Set in the image-obsessed world of contemporary art and politics, in Bourne\'s version, the title character is a beautiful London \'It boy\', in icon of beauty and truth in an increasingly ugly world. This alluring young man makes a pact with the devil.

Dorian Gray, which marks the EIF debut for Bourne\'s New Adventures company, reunites the director-choreographer with the team behind 2003\'s double Olivier Award-winning Play Without Words: designer Lez Brotherston, composer Terry Davies and lighting designer Paule Constable. The company is led by Richard Winsor (Edward in Edward Scissorhands, Angelo in The Car Man) as Dorian, Michela Meazza as Lady H and Aaron Sillis as Basil Hallward. Other cast members include Scott Ambler, Ashley Bain, Jared Hageman, Chris Marney and Shaun Walters.

Commissioned by Sadler\'s Wells, where New Adventures is a resident company, Dorian Gray runs at Edinburgh\'s King\'s Theatre from 22 to 30 August 2008 as part of EIF before its London dates at Sadler\'s Wells, from 2 to 14 September, and a brief regional tour.

Also in EIF’s theatre programme, the National Theatre of Scotland presents the world premiere of 365, David Harrower’s new play which focuses on young people living in practice flats as they prepare to leave care. Like Dorian Gray, it will also transfer to London, running at Lyric Hammersmith from 8 to 27 September (See News, 24 Apr 2008).

Other notable theatre debuts include a Bosnian take on Nigel Williams\' play Class Enemy by East West Theatre Company, and a new adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe\'s The Tell Tale Heart written by Barrie Kosky and starring Martin Niedermair. Overall, the festival boasts three world premieres, two European premieres and ten UK premieres.

Now in his second year as EIF artistic director, Jonathan Mills has chosen as this year\'s theme an exploration of the changes and challenges facing 21st-century European communities. \"Festival 08 invites you to embark upon an exciting and often confronting journey along these cultural borders and beyond,\" he said. \"Artists from Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bosnia and Georgia are juxtaposed with work from Lebanon, Turkey, Palestine, Israel and Iran - all countries with particular challenges on their own borders.\"

The granddaddy of them all, the Edinburgh International Festival is just one of the attractions that draws more than half a million people to Edinburgh each August. Though commonly seen as one single festival, there are in reality several different festivals across the city - the main ones being the Military Tattoo, the Film Festival, the Book Festival and, of course, its main spin-off, the Edinburgh Fringe which, on its own, qualifies as the world\'s largest arts festival, with 2,088 shows presented this year. The 2008 Fringe opened on 3 August and continues to 25 August (See News, 1 Aug 2008).

EIF also features a full schedule of opera, dance and classical music. The entire 2008 programme, can be found on the EIF website.

- by Terri Paddock