War and peace announced as themes for Edinburgh International Festival 2014
- David Kettle
- 18 March 2014
This article is from 2014.
Programme highlights includes works involving Luk Percevel, Handspring Puppet Company and The Kronos Quartet
War and peace, conflict and conciliation are the grand themes being tackled in Jonathan Mills’ final year as director of the Edinburgh International Festival. The 2014 programme, announced today, explores music, dance, theatre and other arts not just directly influenced by the turmoil of war, but also intended to celebrate or console in times of peace.
‘I realised that there was a much broader dimension to be brought to the war theme,’ Mills explained, ‘namely the way in which artists have allowed us to transcend, even to be optimistic at the darkest moments in human history. So that out of the mud and the horror, there are ways in which poetry and music, dance and theatre can allow the spirit to shine and soar.’
Several events take the centenary of the beginning of the First World War as a direct inspiration. Front is a multilingual staging of Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front from Flemish Thalia Theater and director Luk Percevel, and The War from Vladimir Pankov’s Chekhov International Theatre Festival imagines the hopes and aspirations of a group of students immediately before the outbreak of the conflict.
The Kronos Quartet brings a multimedia collaboration with composer Aleksandra Vrebalov and filmmaker Bill Morrison, Beyond Zero: 1914-1918, which explores the art being created before, during and after the Great War. And a performance of Britten’s War Requiem from the Philharmonia Orchestra contrasts the horrors described in First World War poetry by Wilfred Owen with the traditional Latin mass text.
Elsewhere, though, the festival looks more widely at the theme of conflict. For operas, Berlioz’s The Trojans covers conflict in ancient Greece, and Britten’s Owen Wingrave asks how far a person should go to stand by their pacifist beliefs. There are also several events looking at confrontation and reconciliation in South Africa. Ubu and the Truth Commission is an early work by Handspring Puppet Company (now celebrated for their work on War Horse) looking with dark wit at the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and Inala is a large-scale dance work bringing together dancers from Rambert and the Royal Ballet with South African a cappella legends Ladysmith Black Mambazo. And an uncompromising installation in the Playfair Library, Exhibit B, explores themes of racism and slavery in Europe and Africa.
There’s also a strong Commonwealth focus, with performers from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada bringing prominent events.
Already announced earlier in the year, the festival’s take on the Scottish independence referendum is The James Plays, a trilogy of new stage works by award-winning Scottish playwright Rona Munro on the kings of 15th-century Scotland, starring Blythe Duff and The Killing’s Sofie Gråbøl.
Alongside more than 40 classical music concerts, another unclassifiable event sure to cause a stir is Delusion of the Fury, a ritualistic performance involving dance, music and theatre by American maverick Harry Partch, who redefined musical tuning and built his own sculpture-like instruments to realise his strange, mystical works.
‘I hope that all these elements coalesce into a broad view of war and conflict, and its relationship to culture,’ said Mills. ‘But also inherent in many of them are subtle and very careful ideas about who we are, what our values are, and the kinds of debates we’re having at the moment.’
Edinburgh International Festival, various venues, Fri 8–Sun 31 Aug 2014, eif.co.uk