ThisEgg's dressed. is a true story of healing and defiance after a traumatic attack, told with tender intimacy by four women who have been friends since school. Photo: Lidia Crisafulli
The influences of #MeToo and identity politics resonate strongly in this year's Edinburgh Showcase, the British Council's platform for contemporary UK performance alongside the Edinburgh Festivals on 19–24 August 2019.
The Edinburgh Showcase is the single biggest opportunity for UK theatre and dance companies to introduce their work to international promoters. The 2019 programme throws a fascinating spotlight on what's on the minds of UK artists. There's a surge of performances questioning gender, identity, disability and race – with lots of female-led work. They’re all in Edinburgh as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe or the Edinburgh International Festival.
There's still time to be involved in the Showcase – scroll down to the bottom of this article to see a list of opportunities and find out how to be a delegate.
Bryony Kimmings's I'm a Phoenix, Bitch is an epic show about intensely personal experiences, exploring motherhood, womanhood and mental health with dark, devastating humour. Meanwhile, Birds of Paradise Theatre Company examines disability and notions of male machismo in Purposeless Movements.
Over half the artists are performing in the Edinburgh Showcase for the first time. They include Amy Bell, who celebrates "often being the only dyke in the dance class", looking at sexuality, desire and gender in The Forecast. In Like Honey, Becky Namgauds uses krump – a form of street dance often associated with male energy – to present a female performance full of noise, aggression and blood. BURGERZ finds Travis Alabanza attempting to cook a burger on stage to purge themselves of a transphobic attack and explore how trans bodies survive.
Other newcomers to the Showcase main programme presenting work about gender include Breach Theatre, Cade & MacAskill, Louise Orwin, Oona Doherty, Sue MacLaine Company and ThisEgg.
High profile companies include 1927 with roots., unearthing a catalogue of little known folk tales with live music and a sharp visual edge. The National Theatre of Scotland and Tim Crouch look afresh at the relationship between audience and actors in Total Immediate Collective Imminent Terrestrial Salvation, working with the Royal Court, Attenborough Centre and Teatro do Bairro. Scottish Dance Theatre presents RITUALIA by Colette Sadler – a radical reinterpretation of Stravinsky and Nijinska's classic ballet Les Noces that interrogates gender hierarchy, androgyny and the performance of sex appeal. All these companies have toured widely after appearing in previous Edinburgh Showcases.
"With so many barriers between countries in today's world, this is a positive chance to make real, long-lasting international connections"
Many productions have inclusion at their heart, which can involve breaking traditional theatre conventions. Battersea Arts Centre's Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster fuses hip hop, beatboxing, song and theatre. It's created by young south London artists from BAC Beatbox Academy, a performance collective of 8–29-year-olds. All its shows are relaxed performances, in which audiences are encouraged to move around and interact.
In The Believers Are But Brothers, Javaad Alipoor doesn't just encourage audiences to keep their mobile phones switched on – he speaks to them on WhatsApp, drawing them into a disturbing online world in which young men are undergoing a crisis of masculinity. Mr and Mrs Clark work with deaf artist Jonny Cotsen in Louder is Not Always Clearer, using dance-based movement as one of any ways to tell his story and investigate language and communication.
The programme was curated by a panel of British Council theatre and dance specialists, Arts Council partners and international producers.
"The diversity of artists, companies and the work [coming out of the UK] is truly astounding," says Kath Mainland, Executive Director of Melbourne International Arts Festival and a member of this year's panel. “Work that is innovative, work that crosses artform, work that leads the world in challenging social norms... The UK is also really leading the world in disability arts.”
Alongside the performances, the Showcase team organises a week of events bringing together UK companies and international promoters, including a trade fair. You can view the full programme line-up at the bottom of this page.
Travis Alabanza's show BURGERZ charts and purges the transphobic harassment Alabanza received, while attempting to cook a burger on stage. Photo: Holly Revell
New international exchanges
"With so many barriers between countries in today's world, this is a positive chance to make real, long-lasting international connections," says Neil Webb, Director of Theatre and Dance at the British Council. "I can't wait to introduce the Edinburgh Showcase 2019 artists to our friends from overseas and see new artistic exchanges flourish."
Artists who participated in the last Edinburgh Showcase in 2017 have had fantastic results. For instance, Theatre Re has toured to countries including Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and the USA.
Selina Thompson has been to Australia, Brazil, Canada and the USA. "My career has gone from national to international, which has given us radical new possibilities for sustainability and collaboration," says Thompson. "This also has caused us to really rethink who our work is for and what we want it to do in the world."
Looking to the future
Like Selina Thompson, Seeta Patel was part of our first Edinburgh Showcase Artist Development Programme in 2015. This year she presents Not Today's Yesterday with Australian choreographer Lina Limosani, blending bharatanatyam, contemporary dance and theatre to explore how societies airbrush other histories.
Other artists who have graduated on to the Showcase main programme this year after taking up development opportunities with the British Council include Chisato Minamimura and Javaad Alipoor – as has Sarah Shead, who is working with Patel as a producer. See our list below if you're a UK practitioner interested in applying for any of our current opportunities.
This year, the British Council is looking to the future of Edinburgh. The Edinburgh Showcase has proved successful at generating international touring for UK artists and has changed significantly over the past 22 years. Yet, inspired by the artists we work with, we're making some space for experimentation. We're currently recruiting a consultant to help us and our partners explore new ideas and consider whether our engagement with the Edinburgh Festivals could achieve greater impact and create even more international opportunities. See below for details.
Oona Doherty and Prime Cut Productions's Hard to be Soft is a dance piece for, and about, the people of Belfast. It looks behind the masks of violence and machismo to the inner lives of Belfast hard men'and strong women. Photo: Luca Truffarelli
Recommended Shows: We seek out new work in Edinburgh once the festivals begin for our Recommended Shows. These are productions that we announce on the week of the Edinburgh Showcase and recommend as new hot tips to our delegates. There will be members of our Theatre and Dance team in Edinburgh throughout August seeing performances to recommend from amongst the thousands of shows at the festivals. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a show in Edinburgh that you'd like us to consider. We'll add it to our list and will do our very best to attend.
UK consultant: We're looking for a UK consultant to help us shape the future of the British Council's work with Edinburgh. Deadline for applications is 15 April. See our Arts Opportunities page for details of this and many more opportunities.
We also have two development opportunities open to UK practitioners, helping them prepare to build international links and take work to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Artist Development Programme: Applications are open for our programme for UK artists who identify as minority ethnic or disabled. Deadline is 5 May. Find out more.
Emerging Producers Development Programme: Applications are open for a programme for producers that we partner with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society. Deadline is 24 April. Find out more.
Although Edinburgh Showcase networking events are by invitation only, anyone can buy tickets for the performances through the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Edinburgh International Festival box offices.
Apply to be an Edinburgh Showcase delegate:
If you're a performing arts programmer based outside the UK and you're interested in being an international delegate, speak to your local British Council arts contact or email email@example.com.
Find out more:
The full Edinburgh Showcase 2019 programme is:
Amy Bell: The Forecast
Battersea Arts Centre and BAC Beatbox Academy: Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster
Becky Namgauds: Like Honey
Birds of Paradise Theatre Company: Purposeless Movements
Breach Theatre: It's True, It's True, It's True
Bryony Kimmings: I'm a Phoenix, Bitch
Cade & MacAskill in association with Take Me Somewhere: Moot Moot
China Plate and Staatstheater Mainz present: Status written and performed by Chris Thorpe and directed by Rachel Chavkin
Chisato Minamimura: Scored in Silence
Colette Sadler: Learning from the Future
Hackney Showroom presents: BURGERZ by Travis Alabanza
Javaad Alipoor: The Believers Are But Brothers
Karl Jay-Lewin and Matteo Fargion: Extremely Pedestrian Chorales
Keisha Thompson co-commissioned by Contact and STUN: Man on the Moon
Lost Dog Dance: Juliet and Romeo
Louise Orwin: Oh Yes Oh No
Mr and Mrs Clark: Louder is Not Always Clearer
National Theatre of Scotland in Association with the Royal Court Theatre, The Attenborough Centre and Teatro do Bairro: Total Immediate Collective Imminent Terrestrial Salvation
National Theatre Wales: Cotton Fingers
New Perspectives Theatre Company: The Fishermen
Nikki & JD presented by Jacksons Lane: Knot
Oona Doherty and Prime Cut Productions: Hard To Be Soft – A Belfast Prayer
Ridiculusmus: Die! Die! Die! Old People Die!
Scottish Dance Theatre: RITUALIA
Seeta Patel & Lina Limosani: Not Today's Yesterday
Seke Chimutengwende & Alexandrina Hemsley: Black Holes
Sue MacLaine Company: vessel
ThisEgg in collaboration with Made My Wardrobe: dressed.
Tim Cowbury and Mark Maughan in association with James Quaife Productions: The Claim
Many thanks to the Edinburgh Showcase 2019 curatorial panel:
Paul Burns, Head of Dance, Creative Scotland (UK)
Maggie Dunning, Development Officer, Arts Council of Wales (UK)
Tarek Iskander, Director, Theatre, Arts Council England (UK)
Andrew Jones, Senior Theatre and Dance Programme Manager, British Council (UK)
Laura Mackenzie-Stuart, Head of Theatre, Creative Scotland (UK)
Kath M Mainland CBE, Executive Director, Melbourne International Arts Festival (Australia)
Carole McFadden, Theatre and Dance Programme Manager, British Council (UK)
Freddie Opoku-Addaie, choreographer (UK)
Kathrin Vesser, Dramaturg and Artistic Director, Gessnerallee Zürich (Switzerland)
Meiyin Wang, curator and independent producer (USA)
Chair: Neil Webb, Director Theatre and Dance, British Council (UK)