Girls - a Talawa, HighTide and Soho Theatre production. Photograph: The Other Richard
Politics, pop culture and tragedy feature in the 20th anniversary Edinburgh Showcase, the British Council's biennial platform of contemporary UK performance alongside the Edinburgh Festivals on 21–26 August.
It's the single biggest opportunity for UK theatre and dance companies to introduce their work to international promoters and the 2017 programme throws a fascinating spotlight on what's on the minds of UK artists today.
For the first time, the Showcase includes performances that are part of the Edinburgh International Festival. Playwright Zinnie Harris reimagines Greek tragedy with the dark story of a dysfunctional family in Oresteia: This Restless House for Citizens Theatre, while Forced Entertainment presents Real Magic, a chaotic cabaret act-slash-magic show about struggle, optimism and the desire for change.
“It’s wonderful to see so many artists – more than 50% of the programme – taking part in the Showcase for the first time,” says Neil Webb, Director Theatre and Dance at the British Council.
"The programme throws a spotlight on what's on the minds of UK artists today"
These artists aren’t afraid to tackle difficult issues: Girls, a Talawa, HighTide and Soho Theatre production, tells of three young women who are kidnapped in Nigeria and examines how the West often turns a blind eye to the stories behind headlines. Liz Carr's Assisted Suicide: The Musical explores a complex and controversial subject through the medium of musical theatre.
Kieran Hurley performs Heads Up, a solo show following the lives of four characters tussling with today’s society in the moments before an apocalyptic event. And in To Be Me, Julie Cunningham – who has danced with Michael Clark and Merce Cunningham’s companies – explores ideas around bodies and the loss of self to a soundtrack by Kate Tempest.
Other Showcase newcomers include Belfast’s Fringe First winning Prime Cut Productions, Rachel Mars bringing together choral singing and the London Riots, and Selina Thompson on the legacy of colonialism and slavery. Plus Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag, which is also a BBC series and hip hop dance group Avant Garde Dance.
Companies returning to the Showcase include Kneehigh, making its first Edinburgh appearance in 13 years with The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, a visually rich piece directed by Emma Rice and inspired by the Russian artist Marc Chagall. Meanwhile, Swansea-based Volcano Theatre Company presents Seagulls, a Chekhov adaptation incorporating a real lake in a performance venue in Leith.
"It's wonderful to see so many artists taking part for the first time"
Liz Carr in Assisted Suicide: The Musical. Photograph: Manuel Vason
Look Left Look Right brings See Me Now, a daring new immersive and interactive play written with and performed by women, men and transgender people, all of whom have experience of working in the sex industry.
Other returning companies include live art duo Action Hero on pop culture and politics, Proto-type Theater delving into surveillance and privacy, and Jess Thom AKA Touretteshero exploring disability culture through Samuel Beckett’s Not I.
The programme was curated by a panel of British Council specialists and industry experts, including more international programmers than ever before. With a record number of 280 applications, and with delegates expected from over fifty countries, the panel sought to choose productions that would appeal to a diverse range of audiences.
"I learned so much about the fascinating work British companies are making"
“Participating on the panel was a wonderful exercise in balancing artistic prowess with the practicalities of the touring market,” says Heather Redfern, Artistic Director of The Cultch, Canada. “The expertise around the table was awe inspiring. I learned so much about the fascinating work British companies are making.”
Artists who appeared in Edinburgh Showcase 2015 have been touring the world and building new international partnerships. Tours include Claire Cunningham in Australia, Japan, Germany and Spain; Kaleider travelling to Italy, Portugal, China, USA, Australia and Nigeria; and Igor and Moreno performing across mainland China, Taiwan, Italy, France and Ukraine.
Alongside the performances, the Showcase presents a week of events bringing together UK companies and international promoters, including a trade fair and pitch sessions for artists who are not performing in Edinburgh.
Opportunities for UK artists and producers:
We have two development opportunities open to UK practitioners, helping them prepare to build international links and take work to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Our Artist Development Programme for artists who identify as BAME and disabled is open for applications until 14 April 2017.
The Emerging Producers Development Programme, which we partner with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, opens for applications on the week of 10 April 2017.
Apply to be a delegate:
If you're a performing arts programmer based outside the UK and you're interested in becoming an international delegate, speak to your local British Council arts contact or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find out more:
Action Hero: Slap Talk
Avant Garde Dance presented by The Place: Fagin's Twist
Citizens Theatre: This Restless House by Zinnie Harris
Forced Entertainment: Real Magic
Frozen Light: Home
Imitating the Dog: Nocturnes
Impermanence Dance Theatre: Sexbox
Joan Clevillé Dance: Plan B for Utopia
Julie Cunningham and Company: To Be Me
Kieran Hurley with Show and Tell: Heads Up
Kneehigh: The Flying Locers of Vitebsk by Daniel Jamieson
Light Ladd and Emberton: Caitlin
Liz Aggiss: Slap and Tickle
Liz Carr: Assisted Suicide: The Musical
Look Left Look Right: See Me Now
National Dance Company Wales: Folk and Profundis (double bill)
The Paper Cinema and Battersea Arts Centre co-production: The Paper Cinema's Macbeth
Prime Cut Productions: Scorch by Stacey Gregg
Proto-type Theater: A Machine they're Secretly Building
Rachel Mars: Our Carnal Hearts
RashDash: Two Man Show
Rhum and Clay and Kit Redstone: Testosterone
Scottish Dance Theatre: Process Day
Selina Thompson: Salt
DryWrite and Soho Theatre present: Fleabag by Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Talawa, HighTide and Soho Theatre production: Girls by Theresa Ikoko
Theatre Re: The Nature of Forgetting
Touretteshero and Battersea Arts Centre co-production: Not I by Samuel Beckett
Traverse Theatre: The Whip Hand by Douglas Maxwell
Volcano Theatre Company: Seagulls
Many thanks to the 2017 curatorial panel:
Ahmed El Attar, Founder and Artistic Director, Orient Productions
Andrew Jones, Senior Programme Manager Theatre and Dance, British Council
Anita Clark, Director, The Work Room
Carole McFadden, Theatre and Dance Programme Manager, British Council
Heather Redfern, Executive Director, The Cultch
Laura Mackenzie-Stuart, Head of Theatre, Creative Scotland
Neil Darlison, Director Theatre, Arts Council England
Chair: Neil Webb, Director Theatre and Dance, British Council
The Edinburgh Showcase is a British Council initiative supported by Arts Council England, Creative Scotland, Wales Arts International and the Arts Council of Wales.