News: Edinburgh International Festival’s 2024 Theatre Programme

The Edinburgh International Festival has unveiled an expansive programme of world-leading opera, music, theatre and dance from 2-25 August 2024, when the original festival that defines Edinburgh as the world’s Festival City returns for another year. 

This is the second year under the helm of Festival Director and Scottish violinist, Nicola Benedetti. ‘Rituals That Unite Us’ is the theme underpinning the 2024 Edinburgh International Festival, responding to an overwhelming desire for togetherness from artists and audiences following on from 2023’s question ‘Where Do We Go From Here?’. Full details here and more about the theatre programme below.

The world premiere of The Fifth Step, a thrilling and provocative new play written by David Ireland, and directed by Finn den Hertog. The taut two-hander features BAFTA-nominated Scottish actor Jack Lowden, returning to Scottish stages for the first time since his theatrical debut in Black Watch in 2010.

Daring dramatist David Ireland (Cyprus Avenue, Ulster American) collaborates with the National Theatre of Scotland to tell a complex story about men, intimacy and our belief systems, exploring the difficult journey to sobriety.

In another world premiere, Amy Liptrot’s bestselling memoir The Outrun is brought to life by Olivier Award-winning playwright Stef Smith, director Vicky Featherstone, and Edinburgh’s producing theatre The Royal Lyceum Theatre. 

A young woman finds herself washed up back home on the Scottish archipelago of Orkney, with no idea how or if she can rebuild her life after a decade of addiction. Flashing back and forth between Orkney and London, she must find a way to navigate the alluring wildlife and wildness of both environments. The Outrun will run for the duration of the Festival.

As part of the International Festival’s commitment to working with young people, a group of young people from Edinburgh’s Lyceum Youth Theatre will engage with their counterparts in Orkney to make an installation of their creative work in the theatre foyer. A school’s performance, with Q&A with The Outrun’s creatives, will also welcome young people to engage meaningfully with this world premiere production. 

In a UK premiere, Internationaal Theater Amsterdam brings a shocking retelling of Heinrich von Kleist’s Penthesilea. Penthesilea, Queen of the Amazons, belongs to an all-female society of warriors, who can only have sex with men they have defeated on the battlefield. Locking eyes with the Greek army commander Achilles during battle in the Trojan War, Penthesilea falls in love at first sight and vows to defeat him.

After her critically acclaimed debut at the 2022 International Festival with The End of Eddy, director Eline Arbo returns now as newly appointed Artistic Director of Internaational Theater Amsterdam with a play that defies gender convention and traditional staging.

Also making its UK premiere is Peruvian theatre company Teatro La Plaza’s take on the Shakespearean classic Hamlet. Rather than telling one man’s story, director and writer Chela De Ferrari’s interpretation hones in on the importance of community. Here the stories of people with Down’s syndrome take centre stage, when historically they have been relegated to the background. De Ferrari brings new meaning to the 400-year-old play and asks, how can those with Down’s syndrome exist in a world that continually sets out to exclude them? 

Award-winning company 1927 present a new family production, and Scottish premiere, Please right back. Combining fantastical animations with bold storytelling to explore the effects of the criminal justice system, Please right back sweeps audiences into a magical, mischievous world, inspired by writer-director Suzanne Andrade’s own childhood. When Kim and Davey’s dad, Mr E, disappears, letters become his only means of communication. Staged using song, dance, and absurd, subversive animations, Please right backexplores the difficulties children go through when a parent leaves the family, while celebrating the power of the imagination to overcome hardship. 

Following the struggles of three Afro-Brazilian women as they fight for their community, Christiane Jatahy’s powerful play After the Silence explores Brazil’s legacy of colonialism and racism. In investigating the lasting repercussions of these brutal systems, Jatahy lays bare the impact that is still deeply felt in society today.

Jatahy was awarded the Golden Lion for Theatre at the 2022 Venice Biennale for her entire body of work, distinctive for blending documentary film-making, installation work and theatre. This captivating production is given its UK premiere, following her critically acclaimed play Dusk at the 2023 Festival. 

Indigenous artists Émilie Monnet and Waira Nina come together for the European premiere of Nigamon/Tunai, an immersive contemporary ritual. The words Nigamon and Tunai mean ‘song’ in the artists’ respective languages: Anishinaabemowin and Inga. Monnet, from Canada, and Nina from the Colombian Amazon, join in solidarity against environmental destruction and plundering of resources in their communities by mining and oil companies.

Together, the artists create a multi-sensory experience, immersing the audience in the traditional knowledge of their cultures and the struggles that bind them together.

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