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New Director of Edinburgh Intl. Festival Debuts with Strong Theater Lineup

The new chief of the Edinburgh International Festival has announced a stellar theatrical lineup for his inaugural edition of the festival, with Robert Lepage, David Greig, Enda Walsh, Simon McBurney and Ivo van Hove (whose “Antigone,” pictured above, stars Juliette Binoche) among the 2300 artists from 39 nations that Fergus Linehan — previously of the Dublin Theater Festival, the Sydney Festival and Sydney Opera House — has invited to appear in the August event.

After a July opening in Toronto, Lepage will present the European premiere of “887,” a high-tech reflection on the nature of memory. Drawing on the director’s childhood memories of the 1970’s October Crisis, when troops were sent onto the streets of Quebec, the solo show considers how we are shaped by the past. (887 is the number of the apartment he grew up in.)

Playwright Greig (“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “The Events”, “Midsummer”) will work with director Graham Eatough on an adaptation of “Lanark,” the seminal Scottish novel by Alasdair Gray. Staged by Glasgow’s Citizens Theater, the world premiere is an ambitious three-act play that alternates between post-war Glasgow and the fantasy world of Unthank.

Complicite’s McBurney also has a world premiere in the form of “The Encounter,” a one-man show inspired by “Amazon Beaming” by Los Angeles screenwriter Petru Popescu. It’s the true story of American photojournalist Loren McIntyre, who ventured into the jungle in search of an isolated Amazonian tribe, and whose encounter there led him to ask big questions about perception and reality.

From Berlin’s Volksbühne, helmer Herbert Fritsch stages “Murmel Murmel,” a 178-page play by Dieter Roth that consists entirely of the word “murmel.” The 70-minute production is said to be an exercise in surrealism.

Linehan is also offering welcome revivals of two recent Scottish highlights. “Dragon,” by Vox Motus working with the National Theater of Scotland and Tianjin People’s Arts Theater, is a wordless fantasy for young people in which a boy’s anxieties take the form of a series of spectacular dragons, while “Paul Bright’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner” by Untitled Projects, also with the National Theater of Scotland, blurs fact and fiction in an adventurous evocation of a long-lost theater director.

Already announced is Van Hove’s production of “Antigone” starring Binoche, currently on stage in London and described by Variety’s Matt Trueman as a “rallying cry against the us-and-them, black-and-white mentality of contemporary global politics.”

Theatricality is also a strong force elsewhere in the festival’s overall lineup of music, opera and dance. For example, playwright Walsh (“Once,” “The Walworth Farce,” “Ballyturk”) has teamed up with composer Donnacha Dennehy for “The Last Hotel,” a chamber opera about “life, death, duty and guilt.” The world premiere is staged by Ireland’s Landmark Productions and Wide Open Opera with the 12-strong Crash Ensemble.

And in his staging of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” Australian director Barrie Kosky joins forces with animator Paul Barritt and performer Suzanne Andrade, the British duo whose 1927 company has staged hits including “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” and “The Animals and Children Took to the Streets.”

The Edinburgh Intl. Festival runs Aug. 7 – 31. The lineup for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the equally famous summer event that launched to provide an independent alternative to the Intl. Festival, remains to be announced.

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