New plays to premiere at Edinburgh International Festival

Last Updated on 3 June 2021 by Showcall Editorial Team

Enda Walsh’s new play, Medicine, starring Domhnall Gleeson is among highlights of this year’s programme of live performances at Edinburgh International Festival

Edinburgh International Festival theatre
Lament for Sheku Bayoh (photo: Mihaela Bodlovic), Medicine (artwork: Alex Sapienza) and Hindu Times (photo: Ross Fraser McLean)

Edinburgh International Festival is returning with new plays by Enda Walsh and Hannah Lavery as part of a programme of live shows and concerts this August.

Running from 7 to 29 August, it will feature over 170 performances of theatre, classical and contemporary music, opera, dance and spoken word, including 15 new commissions and premieres.

Theatre includes the world premiere of Enda Walsh’s latest play Medicine, starring Domhnall Gleeson alongside Clare Barrett, Sean Carpio and Aoife Duffin. It examines social responses to mental health concerns while deconstructing the fabric of theatrical performance.

The National Theatre of Scotland will present Hannah Lavery’s Lament for Sheku Bayoh, a co-production between Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre. It was first seen as a rehearsed reading during the 2019 festival and then premiered as a digital production in 2020. The cast comprises Scottish actors Saskia Ashdown, Patricia Panther and Courtney Stoddart with music composed and performed by Beldina Odenyo.

The Lyceum will also host a series of rehearsed readings including Jaimini Jethwa’s Hindu Times, presented by the Dundee Rep Theatre, Royal Lyceum and Pitlochry Festival Theatre in association with Stellar Quines.

Another rehearsed reading will be You Bury Me, the debut play by Ahlam, which won the inaugural Women’s Prize for Playwriting 2020. It is directed by Paines Plough’s artistic director Katie Posner, with music by Arun Ghosh, and presented by Paines Plough, Ellie Keel Productions and 45North.

Alan Cumming returns to the festival following the success of Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs in 2016 for the first and only UK performances of his new show, Alan Cumming Is Not Acting His Age – an evening of story and song celebrating ageing.

A Grand Night for Singing is a musical revue showcasing songs from classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, staged by American musical theatre star Kim Criswell. Conducted by Wayne Marshall, the cast will feature Criswell alongside Danielle de Niese, Anna-Jane Casey, Damian Humbley and Richard Morrison.

Shona the Musical Choir is a Scottish/African choir based in Edinburgh, presenting original songs from Shona the Musical, a cross-cultural love story that transcends racial barriers. The story and music are inspired by historical events and the socio-political turmoil of Robert Mugabe’s rule of Zimbabwe.

Opera highlights include Richard Strauss’ sumptuous comedy Ariadne auf Naxos under conductor Sir Andrew Davis with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, staged by Louisa Muller with Dorothea Röschmann, David Butt Philip, Thomas Quasthoff and Catriona Morison.

Also on the programme are Scottish Opera’s new production of Falstaff by Glasgow-born director and designer Sir David McVicar, and Errollyn Wallen’s Dido’s Ghost, accompanied by the Dunedin Consort under the directorship of John Butt and starring Golda Schultz.

The 2021 festival’s dance co-commissions include new dance film Chotto Xenos, inspired by Akram Khan’s solo show Xenos, directed by Sue Buckmaster and Maxime Dos, which visits the untold stories of colonial soldiers during the First World War, performed by Kennedy Junior Muntanga.

The programme features 26 concerts of classical music including the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Dalia Stasevska presenting the world premiere of Anna Clyne’s Pivot, a new work inspired by an old Edinburgh folk music venue.

Performances by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra will include Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream under the baton of Thomas Søndergård with narration by Dame Harriet Walter.

Blur and Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn will present tracks from across his songbook including the current project The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows. The festival also features gigs from Anna Meredith, Nadine Shah, Laura Mvula, Kathryn Joseph, Kokoroko, The Unthanks, and many more contemporary and traditional music artists.

The Aberdeen Standard Investments Opening Event will be Night Light, a free large-scale fire night-walk created by French artist collective Compagnie Carabosse, combining elaborate fire sculptures and live traditional Scottish music against the backdrop of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

The 2021 festival includes a digital programme of 21 full-length productions available to watch online for free, including Lament for Sheku Bayoh and Ariadne auf Naxos. The full programme will be announced in late June.



About Mark Ludmon 318 Articles
Mark Ludmon has been a journalist for over 20 years, specialising in theatre, hospitality and drinks after starting in regional daily newspapers. He has an MA in early modern literature and history, focusing on Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, and a theatre studies MA from Royal Central School of Speech & Drama. He is a former panellist for the Olivier Awards. He tweets at @MarkLudmon.