Edinburgh International Festival have taken advantage of the blossoming availability of digital media to keep the lights on during the pandemic lockdown. They have commissioned creative filmmakers to highlight the breadth of work and international talent that would usually spend their August days in sold-out halls entertaining arts lovers from across the world.
A transnational cast of filmmakers, directors, musicians and artists have been busy keeping the spirit of the Festival alive through a special YouTube channel which has been packed with a stunning array of performances. Not just a boost for those missing their annual hit of creative arts, it’s also an act of solidarity with artists, musicians and performers who need to find novel and exciting ways to connect to an audience in these tricky times. Thus far the My Light Shines On channel has received over a million views from 47 countries.
The video selection includes Ghost Light, a haunting love letter from the National Theatre of Scotland, evoking moments of Scottish theatrical performances past, present and future. Lighting designers Kate Bonney and Simon Hayes were inspired by the tradition of leaving a single light on in an empty theatre. This lonely symbol suggests that a creative flame continues to burn and the stage won’t stay empty forever. Filmmaker Hope Dickson Leach’s camera follows the mischievous light into the recesses of the theatre, weaving backstage to catch the ghosts of past performances lurking in empty dressing rooms, stairwells and elevator shafts. We see and hear snippets of dialogue from a variety of writers including J M Barrie, David Greig, Rona Munro and Jackie Kay, performed by some top acting talent: James McArdle, Siobhán Redmond, Thierry Mabonga and Anna Russell-Martin. It’s a nicely turned reminder of the breadth of voices and tales our theatres have played host to across the years.
Musical contributions include Chamber Music Soundscapes from The Hub on Castlehill featuring Shakespeare songs by tenor Nicky Spence accompanied by Malcolm Martineau on piano. There’s also a stirring performance of Mahler’s 7th symphony where festival newbie Thomas Sondergard leads the socially distanced chamber orchestra on a blistering voyage from the mellow tones of sunset to bounding melodies of sunrise. Other standouts include a sparkling solo concert from Scottish Indie fav HONEYBLOOD on a bare stage armed only with an overdriven amp, jangling Telecaster and trademark caustic lyrics. It’s raw, frank and strangely poignant.
The Digital programme remains available and free at eif.co.uk or the International Festival YouTube channel. Catch it while you can.
With thanks to Malcolm McGonigle for this review.