We’re excited to reveal our programme of 30 compelling productions, featuring burgers, blood and #MeToo influences
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 this page to see a list of opportunities and find out how to apply 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 in the programme 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 showing work about gender include Louise Orwin, Oona Doherty 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
"Work that is innovative, work that crosses artform, work that leads the world in challenging social norms"
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's "hard men and strong women". Photo: Luca Truffarelli
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 who are members of 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 many 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.
"Despite a challenging backdrop, the diversity of artists, companies and the work is truly astounding"
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 these 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. See our list of opportunities 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 Edinburgh could achieve greater impact and create even more international opportunities. See below for details.
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.
Edinburgh Showcase delegates: 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 complete the online application form. Please email email@example.com if you have enquiries.
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