At 75, Edinburgh Festival more intent than ever on healing divisions


By AGENCY

Performers from the contemporary circus company Gravity & Other Myths perform during the launch of the 75th Edinburgh International Festival at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, Scotland on Aug 3. Photo: AP

Self-described working class playwright Kieton Saunders-Browne used to think the Edinburgh Fringe wasn't for people like him - until a fund set up to draw a more diverse cast of performers to the world's largest arts festival stepped in to help.

The 24-year-old Londoner, of Irish and Caribbean heritage, is using a grant from the Generate Fund to stage his play Block'd Off, which runs at the city's Pleasance Theatre from Aug 3, and break the cycle of deprivation that is central to the work.

Even more than race, class is the issue that touches everyone and "transcends everything," Saunders-Browne contends, and yet, working class stories tend to be untold.

"The reason they're not there is because, almost in a scientific way, working class people have different struggles to deal with," he said.

"You can’t do art, if you have no food, if you don’t know when you’re going to be physically safe."

Director Kieton Saunders-Browne (left) and actor Camila Segal pose for a picture at a rehearsal studio in London last month. Photo: Reuters Director Kieton Saunders-Browne (left) and actor Camila Segal pose for a picture at a rehearsal studio in London last month. Photo: Reuters

Unlike stereotypical Edinburgh Fringe artists, safe in the knowledge they can fall back on family money, Saunders-Browne said his mother's household budget was 3,000 pounds (RM16,000) a year. That's less than the 5,000 pounds (RM27,000) he got from the fund, which was set up by the Pleasance for Black, Asian and Global Majority Artists.

He was nevertheless determined to act and won a scholarship to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA).

His play's characters, male and female - including drug dealers and a white, middle class tutor who tries to help - are all played by one woman, Camila Segal. She says the play fits into a theatrical trend of "moving towards authenticity".

Segal left Brazil at the age of 10 after an aunt provided money for her mother to take her to England in pursuit of a better life.

"I feel like I am this play," she said. "This is extremely personal for me."

Celebrating its 75th anniversary, the Edinburgh International Festival, and the Fringe that formed around it, was founded in the aftermath of World War Two with the goal of using culture to heal divisions.

That ambition has never felt more relevant.

Cabaret icon and performance tour-de-force Aidan Sadler poses for pictures ahead of his Fringe show Tropicana! at George Square in Edinburgh on Aug 3. Photo: AP Cabaret icon and performance tour-de-force Aidan Sadler poses for pictures ahead of his Fringe show Tropicana! at George Square in Edinburgh on Aug 3. Photo: AP

Anthony Alderson, artistic director at the Pleasance, says attracting the greatest range of people is crucial to narrowing gaps in society that have widened during the Covid-19 pandemic and as inflation has surged.

The Pleasance is not the only venue with schemes to support diversity. The nearby Assembly says its performances are selected "regardless of age, class, gender, or race".

Their success will become clear by the end of Edinburgh's first fully live festival since the pandemic.

Ticket sales have yet to match the records of 2019.

"The risks involved in mounting this festival are immense for everyone involved," Alderson said. "Break-even is incredibly difficult to achieve." - Reuters

Article type: free
User access status:
Subscribe now to our Premium Plan for an ad-free and unlimited reading experience!

Edinburgh Festival , Scotland

   

Next In Culture

These artworks at KL Hokkien Cemetery won't follow you home
Authors, celebrities and politicians voice disbelief at Salman Rushdie stabbing
Salman Rushdie stabbing in NY: magical realist forced to live on the run
Grammy-winning tabla maestro Zakir Hussain says he is still a student
All eyes on surrealism at Chan Thean Chie's homecoming show in Penang
Photography and art celebrated at National Art Gallery's 'Fotoseni' show
Horror novel inspired by Shirley Jackson classic expected in 2023
NY company set to release action figure of Ukraine's Zelenskiy
Want more ‘Sandman?’ You'll get a lot more if you read the books
'The Snowman' children's author Raymond Briggs dies at 88

Others Also Read