Edinburgh International Festival: The 2018 programme

The EIF programme for 2018 features cutting-edge theatre and dance, and a huge array of contemporary music

Preview by Peter Simpson | 14 Mar 2018
  • Midsummer

This year's Edinburgh International Festival programme is here, with 2,750 artists from 31 nations set to hit the city over the month of August to present new theatre, music, dance and art. Once again, the EIF will kick off with a huge outdoor event produced by the award-winning 59 Productions. 

Five Telegrams (Festival Square, 3 Aug, 10.30pm) is inspired by letters sent by young soldiers during World War One, with a new orchestral score written by Scottish Album of the Year winner Anna Meredith; Five Telegrams is a co-production between EIF, the BBC Proms and the 14-18 NOW project of WWI commemorative events, and will also serve as the opening event for this year's Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in July. Another free event in association with 14-18 NOW comes in the form of Kadamati (Palace of Holyroodhouse, 22 Aug, 6.15pm), a dance piece choreographed by Akram Khan that will bring together hundreds of local dancers.

Music at Edinburgh International Festival

One of the most intriguing strands of the Festival is Light on the Shore, a very special series of gigs at Leith Theatre featuring some of Scotland's most important contemporary musicians. EIF director Fergus Linehan talked us through the Light on the Shore programme – read our chat with Linehan here – with the highlights including gigs from Mogwai and Django Django, Southbank Sinfonia collaborating with the aforementioned Anna Meredith on her SAY Award-winning album Varmints, and a very special performance of the music of Boards of Canada by Berlin-based ensemble s t a r g a z e. Full details of the Light on the Shore strand will follow on 2 May; stay on the edge of your seats for that.

In addition to Light on the Shore, the EIF music programme features gigs at the Playhouse from John Grant (20 Aug) and St Vincent (26 Aug), a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of legendary composer Leonard Bernstein (Usher Hall, 25 Aug), and a classical programme that culminates with the traditional Fireworks Concert in Princes Street Gardens (27 Aug).

Theatre and Dance at EIF 2018

Peter Brook's Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord bring a trio of shows to Edinburgh as part of their EIF residency. The Prisoner (Lyceum, 22-26 Aug) brings together a cast from across Asia, Africa and the UK in an exploration of justice and guilt, co-written and co-directed by Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne; La Maladie de la Mort (Lyceum, 16-19 Aug) promises to be an "uncompromising" adaptation of Marguerite Duras' novella by theatre-maker Katie Mitchell, combining elements of theatre and film; and a brand-new adaptation of The Beggar's Opera (King’s Theatre, 16-19 Aug) by John Gay.

Elsewhere in the theatre programme, Lyceum artistic director David Greig and Gordon McIntyre of Edinburgh indie band Ballboy reprise their 2008 show Midsummer (The Hub, 4-26 Aug (not 7, 14 or 21 Aug)) – a gig theatre piece with full live band, the Edinburgh-set two-hander is billed as "a streetwise romcom that turns a midlife crisis into a dance of freedom". There's also a new version of Waiting for Godot (Lyceum, 3-6, 8-11 Aug) by award-winning Galway-based theatre company Druid; Anna Deavere Smith's in-depth solo exploration of the interplay between the United States' prison and education systems in Notes from the Field (Church Hill Theatre, 6-11, 13-18 Aug); and The End of Eddy (Festival Theatre Studio, 21-26 Aug), a new co-production between young peoples' theatre company Unicorn Theatre and Untitled Projects, the team behind the critically-acclaimed Paul Bright’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner from EIF 2015.

A pair of influential dance companies make their EIF debuts this year – Company Wayne McGregor present Autobiography (Festival Theatre, 11-13 Aug), a show inspired by McGregor's genome sequencing and featuring music by footwork and techno producer Jlin, and Company L-E-V present the two-part Love Cycle (King’s Theatre, 9-12 Aug). There's also the hugely intriguing Cold Blood (King's Theatre, 4-6 Aug), which combines film, theatre, music and dance with miniaturised sets and a trio of dancers using only their hands.

Edinburgh International Festival 2018 runs 3-27 Aug, read the full programme on the EIF website. Tickets go on sale to EIF members on 17 Mar, general sale begins 24 Mar