In this blog from 2023, we shared some cultural recommendations for the month of March. Some of our favourite performances from Festivals past headed to London, while Edinburgh-based artists debuted work here in Scotland.
Coppélia by Scottish Ballet
Scottish Ballet’s Coppélia received its world premiere at the Festival in 2022 and won rave reviews from critics and audiences alike, hailed as ‘a truly trail-blazing production’. Choreographers Jess and Morgs took Delibes’ classical ballet as their inspiration while updating the story for the 21st century, with the doll Coppélia now taking the form of a new artificially intelligent robot.
The technology isn’t contained to the plot, however. The piece plays with the audience’s perception of reality, using live-capture and pre-recorded footage projected on screens around the stage to show multiple perspectives. The score, like the dancing, is a mixture of pre-recorded performance and live music. For classical ballet fans, elements of Delibes’ original score are woven throughout the performance, most notably playing through the earbuds of Dr Coppélius, reimagined as a tech mogul, as he warms up for a workout. The result is a brilliant comment on modern times that maintains all the wit and whimsy of the original Coppélia.
Coppélia is at Sadler’s Wells in London from 2–5 March. There is an audio-described performance and a touch tour. You can also listen to an audio-introduction of the performance.
Girl at Glasgow Film Festival
Glasgow-based actor, playwright and director Adura Onashile captivated audiences at the 2022 Festival playing the title role in National Theatre of Scotland’s Medea. She drew out compassion and empathy from the audience for the character, even as she commits one of the most unthinkable crimes.
Onashile brings this same compassion and complexity to Girl, her debut feature film as a director. The film follows a mother and daughter, Grace and Ama, who are trying to build a new life for themselves in Glasgow. As Ama starts to befriend a classmate, Grace worries that this new relationship will threaten the bond that has grown between her and her child through their mutual status as outsiders. It's the story of a mother’s struggle to protect her daughter without passing on her fear and the difficulty of relearning how to trust.
Steven Osborne at The Queen’s Hall
Steven Osborne is a regular at the International Festival and one of the 21st century’s foremost Scottish classical musicians. He most recently appeared at the Festival in 2022, for an ‘utterly delightful’ performance at The Queen’s Hall with fellow Edinburgh pianist Malcolm Martineau.
This month, Osborne is back at The Queen’s Hall for a performance commemorating the 150th anniversary of Rachmaninov’s birth. A prolific composer and a piano virtuoso, Rachmaninov’s music is renowned amongst musicians for being incredibly challenging, but rewarding for audience and artist alike.
A Little Life at Harold Pinter Theatre
Dutch legend of theatre Ivo van Hove brought his epic adaptation of Hanya Yanagihara's novel A Little Life to the International Festival in 2022. The production deeply moved both audiences and critics, with one describing the experience as being ‘engulfed in an emotional cauldron’. Van Hove is now bringing a new English-language staging of this incredible story to London, with a star-studded cast led by James Norton, Luke Thompson, Omari Douglas and Zach Wyatt.
This new adaptation is slightly shorter, at only three and a half hours as opposed to over four, but it’s still pretty monumental in scale. Norton, who plays Jude and doesn’t leave the stage for the duration, has revealed that he has snacks hidden in the set to help him manage his type one diabetes whilst on stage. Key elements of van Hove’s original production have been maintained, including the use of onstage seating to create a more intimate and immersive experience.
If you’re not sure you’re ready to commit to three and a half hours just yet, you can get a taste of it in just 60 seconds in our video with van Hove from the 2022 Festival – but we'd recommend snapping up tickets for the full-length experience.
Il trittico by Scottish Opera
Good things come in threes and opera is no exception. This month, Scottish Opera and director Sir David McVicar are taking on Il trittico, Puccini’s trio of operas, for the first time. Each opera stands alone, with a distinct sound and storylines that range from tragedy to comedy, but when presented together, there’s a sense of completeness, adding richness and depth to the experience.
This production consists of an all-star cast, including familiar Festival favourites Roland Wood, Elgan Llŷr Thomas and Karen Cargill. McVicar, who brought Falstaff to the Festival in 2021, is known for his colourful and imaginative productions. Scottish Opera have also allowed for a longer second interval to give you time for dinner and drinks before the third act, so you can truly make it a special night at the opera.
Il trittico is at Theatre Royal, Glasgow from 11– 18 March and Festival Theatre, Edinburgh on 22 and 25 March. All performances have supertitles and there are audio described performances in both theatres.
Edinburgh-based Young Fathers took our home at the Hub by storm with their performance in 2016. It was praised for creating a moment of communion, with one audience member saying ‘they did the city proud, they did themselves proud, and for the Edinburgh International Festival it was a beautiful moment’.
They released their fourth album Heavy Heavy at the beginning of February and it’s already receiving rave reviews from critics, who’ve described their blending of genres as a ‘sonic smörgåsbord’. Building on their award-winning discography, Heavy Heavy was a project borne from spontaneous and communal music-making. The creative process took inspiration from Hey Locke’s art installation The Procession and was informed by band member Kayus Bankole’s trips to Ghana and Ethiopia.
The band is known for their ‘small acts of joyful resistance’, with their music and performances balancing important, engaged political messages with an infectiously joyous sound.
Chineke! Orchestra: Coleridge-Taylor, Price, Simon at Southbank Centre
Chineke! Orchestra have performed at the last two Festivals, playing works by composers ranging from Mozart to Jessye Norman.
Their upcoming concert is similarly broad in scope, shining a light on a selection of music from the 20th and 21st centuries. Contemporary composer Carlos Simon’s piece ‘Fate now conquers’ is directly inspired by a quote from an 1815 journal entry by Beethoven. Drawing on the harmonic structure of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, it subverts expectations with unpredictable musical gestures. The performance concludes with Florence Price’s First Symphony, which you may remember from the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Usher Hall concert last summer.
Sandwiched in between is a performance of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's Violin Concerto in G minor, for which soloist Elena Urioste joins the orchestra. A former BBC New Generation Artist, this is a wonderful opportunity to see a rising star in action.
What show are you starting the new season with? If you go to any of these, or have suggestions to add to our list, we’d love to hear about them! Share with us on Twitter and Instagram at @edintfest or using the hashtag #EdIntFest.
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