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Edinburgh International Festival expands remit as Fergus Linehan announces new line-up

Ifeoma Fafunwa's Hear Word!, featuring ten of Nigeria’s best-known performers, will be part of this year's festival. Photo: Chris van der Vorm

The Edinburgh International Festival is expanding its remit to take on mid-scale work from a much broader geographical reach at this year’s edition in August, director Fergus Linehan has revealed.

It comes as he unveils the line-up for this year’s event, which includes Sydney Theatre Company’s The Secret River and Opera Ventures and Scottish Opera’s Breaking the Waves, based on the Lars Von Trier film.

Speaking to The Stage ahead of the launch of this year’s EIF programme, Linehan said discussions about securing the future of the event had exposed a block of work that it was not programming at the moment.

The result is a major new strand You Are Here, funded by the Place Programme partnership, which draws in support from the British Council, Edinburgh’s Lyceum and Fuel Theatre.

It includes Milo Rau’s International Institute of Political Murder with La Reprise, Hear Word! featuring ten of Nigeria’s best-known performers in a piece by Ifeoma Fafunwa, and Kiinalik, a Canadian piece about melting ice flows.

Linehan is also extending the EIF’s local geographical reach. The free opening event will be for an audience of 15,000 at Tynecastle Park, home to Hearts football club, where the LA Philharmonic will be seeking to recreate a Hollywood Bowl concert.

The EIF will also continue its association, which began last year, with Leith Theatre, where it will be staging contemporary work.

The emergence of the new strand does not mean the EIF has abandoned large-scale work.

Adding to several previously announced productions, such as the National Theatre’s Peter Gynt, newly announced shows include Komische Oper Berlin with Barrie Kosky’s Eugene Onegin and Stephen Fry’s EIF debut with Mythos.

Linehan warned that uncertainty around Brexit posed a problem for the festival, and expressed concern about freedom of movement should Brexit happen.

In particular, he said he was worried about international companies’ freedom of movement post-Brexit.

“A show leaves Paris on a Saturday and it needs to be with us on a Sunday to be able to go on on a Monday. I don’t know if you have been through the airport in August, but it is right up to the line. So anything that would interfere with that would be extremely problematic,” he said.

Edinburgh International Festival extends Fergus Linehan’s contract until 2022 [1]