Scottish Enlightenment is principal theme

EDINBURGH — The Scottish Enlightenment is the principal theme of Jonathan Mills’ third program lineup for the annual Edinburgh Intl. Festival, which runs Aug. 14-Sept. 6.

The Sydney-born a.d. has drawn inspiration from the cultural movement that revolutionized scientific, artistic and philosophical thought in the mid-1700s.

“Our point of departure was that moment in the 18th century when there was an unprecedented flowering of creativity in this city,” he says. “But by no means was it the only place we looked. We looked back and forward.”No figure better epitomizes the movement away from superstition toward rational thought than the hero of Goethe’s “Faust.” That’s why Mills has invited Romania’s “Radu Stanca” National Theater in Sibiu to perform its apocalyptic adaptation — featuring a cast of more than 100 — of a play once considered unstageable.”It’s loosely based on the play, and yet it’s one of the most accurate and reverential versions of the Faust story I’ve seen,” says Mills.

Taking us back into a time of “endarkenment,” playwright Rona Munro will retell the fictionalized story of Janet Horne, who, in 1727, became the last woman in Britain to be legally executed for witchcraft. A co-production with Edinburgh’s Traverse Theater, “The Last Witch” imagines a woman unashamed to be in league with the devil.

A parallel theme is Scotland’s influence abroad, represented by Gotham’s Mabou Mines, reviving “Peter and Wendy,” its radical 1996 version of J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan,” Scotland’s best-traveled play.

The self-explanatory “Diaspora” is a multimedia extravaganza by Singapore’s Theatreworks and the Singapore Chinese Orchestra.

“It’s as if you are watching the unfolding of globalization,” says helmer Ong Keng Sen, who has collaborated with five Asian video artists on a collage of stories about migration.

Picking up on the idea of superstition is “Faith Healer,” revived by Dublin’s Gate Theater in a Brian Friel triple bill that’s rounded out by the Chekhov-inspired “Afterplay” and “The Yalta Game.” The trilogy, directed by Patrick Mason and Robin Lefevre, preemed in Australia earlier this year and makes its second stop in Edinburgh.

Back on the theme of the Enlightenment, Melbourne’s Malthouse Theater returns to Edinburgh with “Optimism,” Tom Wright’s reworking of “Candide.”

“The message of this production is that if you are in search of Utopia, be very careful what you ask for,” says Mills. “It could turn sour.”

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