This article is sponsored by Edinburgh International Festival.

Best Edinburgh International Festival shows to see in-person and online

Best Edinburgh International Festival shows to see in-person and online

Edinburgh International Festival At Home with abrdn / picture: Ryan Buchanan

From local heroes to global superstars, there's a lot left to see in the Edinburgh International Festival's last week

This year's Edinburgh festival season has been a challenge for everyone, but the Edinburgh International Festival can look back on what it has achieved in 2021 with pride and pleasure. And it's not over yet. With another week's packed entertainment to come and a digital line-up that will keep audiences enthralled well into the autumn and winter months, we take a look here at some of the delights still to come.

In the flesh and in-person, some top-quality shows and concerts are ahead this week. Highlights among the music programme are Blur and Gorillaz leader Damon Albarn (Tuesday 24 August) who continues to prove his versatility, US soprano legend Renée Fleming teams up with German pianist Hartmut Höll (Wednesday 25 August) to perform songs by Handel, Fauré and Strauss, while The Comet Is Coming (Wednesday 25 August) unleash a maelstrom of psych rock, electronica and jazz.

Best Edinburgh International Festival shows to see in-person and online

The Comet Is Coming / picture: Josh Cheuse

London Afrobeat-jazz octet Kokoroko (Thursday 26 August) can claim Nile Rodgers as a fan, Members Of The Edinburgh Festival Chorus (Sunday 29 August) make a welcome return to the EIF (albeit in a slightly trimmed-down form) led by director Aidan Oliver in a concert featuring Britten, Holst and Tallis, and Laura Mvula (Sunday 29 August) is all set to charm audiences with tunes from her new album, Pink Noise, a contender for this year's Mercury Prize.

And how about this for a diverse trio across the final weekend? Mali singer-songwriter Fatoumata Diawara (Friday 27 August) will blend the traditional and contemporary as heard on her latest record, FENFO, while a local hero returns in Alan Cumming Is Not Acting His Age (Saturday 28 & Sunday 29 August) for which the Aberfeldy lad regales us with wit and song. And Canadian composer and recording artist Caribou (Saturday 28 August) delivers a show platforming his hugely eclectic range featuring garage, disco, rock and alt-folk.

Best Edinburgh International Festival shows to see in-person and online

Alan Cumming / picture: Josh Going

In the theatre and spoken-word realms, there's plenty for audiences to get their teeth into. Niqabi Ninja (until Saturday 28 August) is a harrowing but vital work which merges street art, audio performance and a tour of the city as written by Sara Shaarawi in response to the assaults on women in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Bringing issues of race and intolerance closer to home, Hannah Lavery's Lament For Sheku Bayoh (Wednesday 25–Saturday 28 August) recalls the 2015 death in police custody of a 31-year-old man in Fife.

Beloved Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson (from that acting-royalty family) cements his reputation as a global star and remarkable performer in Medicine (until Sunday 29 August), Enda Walsh's play about mental health and the deconstruction of theatre itself. In the spoken-word event under the umbrella of A Toast To The People, Glasgow-based former winner of the UK Poetry Slam Hollie McNish joins forces with Nigeria's storytelling performance-poet Wana Udobang (Wednesday 25 August), while graphic artist, playwright and poet Inua Ellams teams up with Saul Williams (Tuesday 24 August), a verse heavyweight who has collaborated with Nine Inch Nails and Allen Ginsberg.

Best Edinburgh International Festival shows to see in-person and online

Lament For Sheku Bayoh / picture: Mihaela Bodlovic

Both those events are part of the At Home programme which aims to keep the Edinburgh International Festival flame burning all the way through the remainder of 2021 and even into next year. Also to be seen At Home is a whole load of concerts such as Fatma Said & Malcolm Martineau (Thursday 4 November–Monday 2 May) with the Egyptian soprano having made her International debut here with songs from Mozart, Lorca and Ravel, while the astonishing Chineke! Orchestra is conducted by William Eddins (until Sunday 20 February) in a programme which features Scotland-based mezzo soprano Andrea Baker. Richard Strauss' Ariadne Auf Naxos (Sunday 29 August–Sunday 27 February) is an opera within an opera plus a slapstick comedy all in one effervescent package, while violin maestro Nicola Benedetti leads the way in a version of Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale (Friday 27 August–Friday 25 February) featuring Siobhan Redmond as the devil, no less. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra join forces with electric Hong Kong conductor Elim Chan (Thursday 25 November–Monday 23 May) for a film which introduces viewers to mesmerising Argentinian cellist Sol Gabetta.

Best Edinburgh International Festival shows to see in-person and online

Elim Chan / picture: Sally Jubb

For movement fans, Dancing In The Streets (until Saturday 18 September) features a quartet of films from cities across the world in which dancers and choreographers respond to the last 18 months. The foursome are Rio's Alice Ripoll, Beirut's Omar Rajeh, Soweto's Gregory Maqoma, and Edinburgh's very own Janice Parker.

The Edinburgh International Festival continues until Sunday 29 August; the full At Home programme can be found at

AT HOME: A Toast to the People: Inua Ellams & Saul Williams

Inua Ellams and Saul Williams bring their own distinct styles to this not-to-be-missed A Toast to the People filmed event. Watch Inua Ellams and Saul Williams' electric night of performance poetry and spoken word, filmed at the International Festival’s Old College Quad venue. Expect an performance full of unexpected…

Online events

Thu 28 Oct

Free / 0131 473 2000

Part of Edinburgh International Festival.

AT HOME: Fatma Said & Malcolm Martineau

Egyptian soprano Fatma Said makes her International Festival debut with Edinburgh-born pianist Malcolm Martineau in a film featuring Mozart and Spanish songs by Lorca and Falla. Soprano Fatma Said was the first Egyptian vocalist to perform at La Scala, Milan, as Pamina in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and more recently took…

Online events

Thu 4 Nov

Free / 0131 473 2000

Part of Edinburgh International Festival.

Laura Mvula

Soulful singer Laura Mvula pays homage to the sounds of 80s new wave and dance-pop, as heard in her new album Pink Noise. Birmingham-born artist Laura Mvula grew up loving Michael Jackson, Earth, Wind and Fire and singing in her auntie’s a cappella choir. Her thrilling and tender gospel pop has been nominated twice for…

A Toast to the People: Hollie McNish & Wana Udobang

This A Toast to the People event features Hollie McNish and Wana Udobang in an evening of electric performance. Join Hollie McNish and Wana Udobang for an electric night of performance poetry and spoken word in the International Festival’s Old College Quad venue. Expect a celebration of contemporary storytelling at its…

Lament for Sheku Bayoh

  • 3 stars

Writer and Director Hannah Lavery leads an artistic yet grief-filled response to the 2015 death in Scottish police custody of Sheku Bayoh. ʻNo problem here pal. None at all.ʼ In the early hours of the morning, 31 year-old Sheku Bayoh set out to walk home from his friend’s place after watching a boxing match. Just hours…


  • 4 stars

Writer and director Enda Walsh’s dark and frequently absurdist new play receives its highly anticipated world premiere at the International Festival. Domhnall Gleeson leads a formidable cast in a new play from revered Irish playwright Enda Walsh. Devastatingly funny and profoundly moving, Medicine examines social…

Renée Fleming & Hartmut Höll

Grammy award-winning American soprano Renée Fleming joins German pianist Hartmut Höll for a wide-ranging concert of classical song. American soprano Renée Fleming is one of classical music’s superstars. She has a voice that conductor Sir Georg Solti described as being ‘like double cream’ and has received countless…

Damon Albarn

The Blur and Gorillaz frontman follows up his Mercury nominated first solo album with a brand-new show. Originally rising to global fame in the 90s as the lead singer of Brit pop band Blur, Damon Albarn has gone on to front the animated band Gorillaz for the past 20 years. The East Londoner has an extensive solo career…

Field- Something for the Future Now

Directed by Christine Devaney and featuring an ensemble of Edinburgh-based performers, Field is an immersive, uplifting work that has Arthur’s Seat as its backdrop. Field is a durational outdoor dance-happening conceived in a physically distanced world. With the majestic Arthur’s Seat as a backdrop, performers respond to…

Members of the Edinburgh Festival Chorus

The Edinburgh Festival Chorus return in smaller form, with a concert as wide-ranging as in previous years. The Edinburgh Festival Chorus has provided the backbone of the International Festival’s choral programme for more than 50 years. Though the pandemic months have been a particularly challenging time for all singing…

Niqabi Ninja

  • 5 stars

Writer Sara Shaarawi and director Catrin Evans present an experiential performance in reaction to recent mob assaults in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Combining street artwork, audio-story performance and a walk through your city, Niqabi Ninja is a graphic-novel style revenge story written in reaction to the 2012–2014 mob sexual…


This young London-based collective combines jazz improvisation with Afrobeat rhythms and three-part harmonies to create intricate, mellow compositions. Bringing feelgood Afrobeat music from London, this mellow eight-piece collective takes its name from the Nigerian Urhobo dialect, meaning ‘be strong’. Their music…

AT HOME: Ariadne auf Naxos

  • 4 stars

Sir Andrew Davis conducts the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in a filmed concert performance of Richard Strauss' comedy Ariadne auf Naxos. It’s the party to end all parties. But two entertainments have been double-booked to mark the evening’s climax – a serious opera and a slapstick comedy. The star soprano is throwing…

AT HOME: Dancing in the Streets: Alice Ripoll

  • 4 stars

Rio de Janeiro-based choreographer Alice Ripoll's celebratory film about the lives of her company’s dancers. Alice Ripoll runs two dance companies, one of which is based in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. For her International Festival commission, she made a film during the pandemic with the dancers of this company within…