Just as New York theatregoers seeking to get out of the city venture to Williamstown, Pittsfield, and Ann Arbor during the summer, the U.K. offers a myriad of arts festivals for those seeking alternatives to London.
Last week Playbill highlighted events taking place in the biannual Manchester International Festival, running June 29–July 16, but the grand-daddy of them all—and the biggest arts festival in the world—takes place in Edinburgh every August. The event is actually a collection of festivals gathered together under one umbrella, with the largest part being the Festival Fringe, a non-curated festival that welcomes all artists—or at least those who can afford to pay the necessary fees for venue hires, accommodation costs, and so on. The three-week festival now comprises over 3,000 shows performed in some 300 venues across the city.
The Fringe Program will be announced in June, but the International Festival—the curated and officially funded part of the festival—has just announced its theatre program for 2017. The lineup includes the world premiere of a new, two-part Alan Ayckbourn play titled The Divide that will run August 8-20 before transferring to London's Old Vic.
Edinburgh-based playwright Zinnie Harris is behind three productions at the festival: Oresteia: This Restless House, a re-imagining of Aeschylus’s 2,500-year-old drama from the Citizens Theatre; a new adaptation of Eugène Ionesco’s Rhinoceros from the Royal Lyceum Theatre with Turkey’s DOT Theatre; and the world premiere of Meet me at Dawn from the Traverse Theatre Company, which redefines the Orpheus and Eurydice myth as a modern love story. For further details, read the Playbill story here.
Theatres campaign on behalf of a critic
In an effort to save costs, The Guardian announced that it was putting an end to commissioning weekly online columns from theatre critic Lyn Gardner, prompting protests from the theatre community. In a show of unity, over 40 leading theatres signed a joint letter to the paper urging it to reconsider. The signatures include the National’s Rufus Norris, the RSC’s Gregory Doran and Erica Whyman, the Almeida’s Rupert Goold, Hamptead's Edward Hall and the Donmar Warehouse's Josie Rourke, as well as the artistic leaders of major regional theatres across the country.
The letter stated: “Lyn Gardner’s stage blog is a genuine piece of pioneering journalism. Uniquely insightful and hugely valuable, it is an essential component of the narrative of U.K. theatre today. She has long provided a space to interrogate and discuss the detail of our growing industry from issues of funding to the development of artistic practice and the vibrancy of our theatre ecology. Through her blog she has created a vital public arena for everyone, from emerging artists and theatre makers, to those of us who are more established and running buildings. Such digital platforms are an indispensable stage for critical and creative thinking about our industry.”
Olivier Awards adds new honor for Inspired Champions
The Olivier Awards have announced that they will honor individuals who have motivated and inspired others with their commitment to theatre. The six honorees have been nominated by the public, and include Janet Hudson-Holt, the long-serving costume supervisor of The Mousetrap, Harry Gabriel, a stage door keeper at the West End's Shaftesbury Theatre for over 35 years, and Edwin Shaw, a long-serving box office manager at the London Palladium. They will each be invited to the Olivier Awards ceremony April 9, where they will receive a plaque.
Casting and production news
A revised production of The Who's Tommy is set to launch a U.K tour at Ipswich’s New Wolsey Theatre beginning March 30, featuring new songs by Pete Townshend. The production stars Peter Straker, who was in the original London stage version of the show in 1979, joining an inclusive cast of actors with and without disabilities. “When I heard the there was a new planned production of Tommy, I was pleased of course. But when I heard they planned to do a production featuring actors with disabilities of various kinds—that will actually throw new light on the original story—I became very excited,” commented Townsend. “This is a totally new adventure, and really does refer back to my original story in which a young man, disabled by extreme trauma, finds his way to some kind of spiritual place because he can feel music.”
Casting has been announced for a new summer production of On the Town at Regent's Open Air Theatre. Danny Mac, who was a finalist on Strictly Come Dancing 2016 and is best known for playing Mark “Dodger” Savage in TV's Hollyoaks, will star as Gabey.
For further news…
Stay tuned to Playbill.com and follow me on Twitter @shentonstage, for rolling news updates as they happen.