Theatre News

Programme announced for 2021 Edinburgh International Festival

The EIF returns in August with a range of safety measures

Alan Cumming returns to the EIF this year
Alan Cumming returns to the EIF this year

The programme has been announced for the 2021 Edinburgh International Festival, which will run across the Scottish capital from 7 to 29 August.

The return of the EIF, which was cancelled last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, marks a "significant turning point for Scotland's cultural sector", said festival organisers, who hope this year's festival will "pave the way for other organisations to rebuild their own live performance programmes".

Despite restrictions due to continuing Covid-19 safety measures, it is an ambitious programme with over 170 classical and contemporary music, theatre, opera, dance and spoken word performances. These include 15 premieres and new commissions.

Theatre highlights include the world premiere of Medicine, Enda Walsh's latest play featuring Domhnall Gleeson, which examines society's relation with mental health. Meanwhile Alan Cumming returns to the festival for the first UK performances of his new show Alan Cumming Is Not Acting His Age, an evening of story and song which celebrates ageing.

The Royal Lyceum Theatre will play host to live audiences for the first time in over a year, with a programme including the National Theatre of Scotland's Lament for Sheku Bayoh and rehearsed readings of Hindu Times by Jaimini Jethwa and You Bury Me by Ahlam, the joint winner of The Women's Prize for Playwriting.

Elsewhere, A Grand Night for Singing is a musical revue that will showcase songs from classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals. Staged by musical theatre performer Kim Criswell and conducted by Wayne Marshall, the cast features Criswell alongside Danielle de Niese.

Impression of a performance venue to be used at Edinburgh Park
Impression of a performance venue to be used at Edinburgh Park

Safety measures at the EIF will include social distancing, shorter performances with no intervals, audience members seated in bubbles and, in a first for the festival, online access to 21 free full-length performances.

Venues used for the 2021 Festival include bespoke outdoor venues at Edinburgh Academy Junior School, Parabola's Edinburgh Park development and the University of Edinburgh's Old College Quad, alongside the Festival Theatre, Traverse Theatre, The Royal Lyceum Theatre and Dance Base.

The EIF will also include a digital programme of 21 full-length productions available to watch online for free. These include Ariadne auf Naxos, the Chineke! Orchestra, Lament for Sheku Bayoh, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Talisk and the Zehetmair Quartet.

Festival director Fergus Linehan said: "The programme we are announcing today represents a carefully organised return to live performance. It is a collaborative effort between those who live in our city, our artists, the team at the festival, our donors and stakeholders and all who will be coming along to our performances.

"While so much has been written and said about the challenges of the past 15 months, it is now time to look to the future and to the brilliant musicians, actors, dancers and poets who are getting ready to perform in Edinburgh this August."