Spring is truly in swing and with it comes a lovely bunch of recommendations for the month. The season of new life, April also welcomes the first of this year’s Edinburgh festivals as Edinburgh Science Festival kicks things off from 1 April, while the end of the month welcomes the tenth annual Edinburgh Tradfest. Of course, there are also revivals of old favourites to see and exciting new work by friends of the Festival.
Edinburgh Science Festival
Edinburgh Science Festival is Edinburgh’s annual celebration of hands-on science. The theme for this year is ‘Let’s Experiment’ so they're treating the city as a living laboratory, trying out innovative formats for events in both familiar and unexpected locations. We’ve picked out a few of the events that we’re most excited about for you, but you can also explore the full programme on their website.
Swell is a play exploring the experience of Britain’s first climate change refugees, using the fictional town of Swell as an analogy for the real town of Fairbourne and the experience of its residents. The story follows two siblings as they contemplate the abandonment of the town they grew up in.
The play premiered at the 2022 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, with a minimal set comprising of just one chair allowing the narrative to speak for itself. The play interrogates the cross-sections between the climate crisis, race and culture, exploring the way in which different groups are scapegoated in response to the catastrophe. If you enjoyed 2022’s Muster Station: Leith, Grid Iron’s immersive theatre-piece following the experience of Scottish residents attempting to flee a climate crisis, this is sure to continue the conversation.
Swell is at the National Museum of Scotland on 1 April. Audio description is available for the performance.
Edinburgh Conservation Film Festival
Ahead of the return of Edinburgh International Film Festival as part of the International Festival this summer, dip your toe back in with this evening of curated conservation films. The Conservation Film Festival took place for the first time in 2022 and returns this year with the theme ‘Healthy Planet, Healthy People’. The films each explore links between biodiversity and the health and wellbeing of people across the planet. The evening will culminate in a prize-giving ceremony, spotlighting the creatives behind the films.
Edinburgh Conservation Film Festival is at the National Museum of Scotland on 10 April. The films will be available to view on the Edinburgh Science Festival website from 11–16 April.
Two in a Barrel
This work for families is a funny yet poignant look at the impact of humanity’s habits on our planet and way of life. The story follows two best friends in a barrel – as the name suggests – sitting on an island of rubbish in the ocean. They find treasure in the piles of waste, creating stories for themselves through adventure and imagination. When the rubbish threatens to overwhelm them, the two have to figure out how they can work together in a world with limited resources.
A Streetcar Named Desire by Scottish Ballet
Tennesee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire is one of the best-known plays of the 20th century, thanks in large part to the compelling central character Blanche DuBois. A fading Southern Belle, she is forced by mysterious circumstances to move in with her sister Stella and her brutish husband Stanley. As the narrative unfolds, we witness the unravelling of family secrets, a web of lies and ultimately Blanche herself.
The play’s intensity, steamy atmosphere and sensuous setting make it a natural choice for a dance adaptation. Choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa brought the play to life with Festival favourites Scottish Ballet for the first time in 2015, creating a work that simultaneously 'tugs at the heart-strings even as it shreds the nerves'. This is perfect example of a modern take on narrative ballet returns to Scotland later this month for the first time in eight years.
Summer Nights by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Scottish mezzo soprano Karen Cargill is a powerhouse of the Scottish opera scene who’s given several spellbinding performances at the Festival over the years. She most recently sang in our 2022 Closing Concert bringing life to Elgar’s epic The Dream of Gerontius, which you can watch in full as part of our At Home series. In this seasonal concert with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, also regular performers at the Festival, Cargill brings her emotional sensitivity to Berlioz’s bittersweet love songs from Les nuits d’été, literally translating to ‘The nights of summer’.
Cargill joins rising star French conductor Chloé van Soeterstède. Van Soeterstède bookends the performance with works from opposing ends of the emotional spectrum. Emilie Mayer’s powerful and passionate First Symphony opens the programme, while Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony, known for its musical jokes and sly wit, rounds off the evening.
Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony was the last one he completed; he led its first performance just nine days before his death. It’s fitting then, that such a meaningful symphony was given the name ‘Pathétique’ following its first performance after the composer’s death, translated as ‘full of feeling’. Tchaikovsky himself described the work as ‘the best thing I ever composed or shall compose’, a suitable grand finale for his life’s work.
The Royal Scottish National Orchestra bring the work to life this month with guest conductor Tabita Berglund. Johansen’s ‘Pan’, a nature-scene from Berglund’s native Norway, opens the evening in a nod to Earth Day on 22 April and a continuation of this month’s incidental environmental theme. You’ll also get to hear Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, performed by rising star Randall Goosby.
Hollie McNish with Michael Pedersen at The Queen’s Hall
Glasgow-based Hollie McNish is known for her raucously funny yet thought-provoking poetry. She performed her poem ‘Backtrack’ for our 2021 series A Toast to the People, an unapologetic send up of anti-immigrant rhetoric. Her 2021 poetry collection Slugs... and other things I’ve been told to hate charts all the stages McNish’s life so far. The ‘Growing Up’ section captures the excruciating embarassment of teenagerhood, while ‘Parenting’ examines the performative nature of parental etiquette. Her writing is beloved for its ‘articulate approachability’, touching on topics many are afraid to go near.
McNish is joined at The Queen’s Hall this month by Michael Pedersen to celebrate the release of his book Boy Friends in paperback. With fans including Festival favourites Stephen Fry, Jackie Kay and Kae Tempest, Pedersen is a rising star in Scottish literature. Starting as a love letter to a friend who passed away, Boy Friends expands into a rumination on modern masculinity and the joy to be found in male friendships.
FARA at Edinburgh Tradfest
2023 marks the ten-year anniversary of Edinburgh’s Tradfest, an annual celebration of our city’s wealth of folk-art talent. For one of the first performances in this year’s festival, Scottish powerhouse quartet FARA takes to the Traverse stage. FARA has been at the forefront of the Scottish folk scene since 2014, performing at the International Festival in 2021.
Continuing the environmental theme of this month’s recommendations, FARA’s latest album Energy Islands is inspired by the revolutionary role of their native Orkney in championing renewable energy. Praised as ‘gloriously varied’, the album is inspired by the island in a myriad of ways – its scenery, its poetry and its residents. The album is a celebration of Orkney's accomplishments, with joyous melodies, narrative lyrics and whimsical track names such as ‘West Tide Story’. This is truly folk music for the 21st century.
What are you most excited to see this spring? Let us know on social media using #EdIntFest.
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