Au Fol Espoir

At the end of a mega month, with a huge backlog to expose from all the shows and stages, this post comes first for one reason. Watching the sheer event of the castaways of the Théatre du Soleil on their final night at Lowland Hall was my last knoll for August. With a few more days and a few more shows to go, I have myself been shipwrecked for any other show this month. Watching Ariane Mnouchkine gather up her troupe and launch them into four frantic hours of the most human and most literal théâtre, I know I have witnessed an unsurpassable spectacle.

The analysis is for the critics. I remain just bowled over and incredibly grateful to have attaneded something as monumental. Here are my images from shores of the Fol Espoir.


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Edinburgh International Festival – A New Year

Wednesday saw the launch of the programme for the EIF’s 2012 Festival. I was invited back to shoot the launch photocall and file to the press.

As Spring is starting to shake the limbs of the city to life again, I had it forgotten after such a drawn out winter, that the festival is officially on the horizon. This winter in particular was so grey, I had just accepted there would never be a summer again. But now that the proof is all around (and I went to the shop in a t-shirt this morning just to check), I can’t but get excited for August.

The EIF programme is particularly exciting this year and I cannot hide just a tinge of jealousy that I won’t be on the front lines again this year. Pick up a brochure from the Hub and while you are at it, take a final look at my exhibition EIF: The Big Picture.

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Hanging On

All under way!

After all the recent talk of the frame, 34 brand new frames have just arrived for your viewing pleasure at The Hub, home of the Festival 11: The Big Picture.

This is the long anticipated culmination of my work with the EIF for the duration of the festival in August. This solo exhibition “lifts the lid” on all things EIF, but really it represents the cream of my image making and taking for a full-on august and weaves the subtle 24 day story of Edinburgh’s most breathtaking festival.

A real struggle to edit down our selection. A huge thank you to all our Facebook voters. You are all welcome to come down and take a peak under the lid yourselves! The exhibition opens this Thursday 3rd November and remains so until next year.

Many hands

Make light work, as the proverb says.  Still the work required of this festival is only for the hardy. And hard work is not taken lightly.

It has been hypnotically fascinating to watch the machine of the Edinburgh International Festival come to full fruition. While I am only around as the photographer for the peak of action, it is easy to spot a year of hard work embedded in the frantic activity that is August. Artists and ambassadors from polar corners of the globe, full crews and sets and companies appearing in Edinburgh overnight by what seems like calm coincidence. As diverse a production as any one that appears on its stages. Diverse to its very core, it is easy to overlook the local hands that keep the show afloat.

Thanks for a brilliant festival.

Staff at the Usher Hall wait at the stage door as a performance closes
An instructor from the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble keeps time during a dance class
Wardrobe staff prepare the dancers point shoes behind the scenes at the National Ballet of Scotland

A dancer practices classical Indian dance positions at the Nritrygram dance class
Legendary artist Wu Hsing-kuo performs on stage as King Lear

BBC crew prepare the lighting for the Review Show with the Legendary Music of Rajestan
Wu Hsing-kuo and the First Minister of Taiwan

A Rajistani musician tunes up before a recital
Pyrovision fireworks crew prepare a week early in all conditions for the ultimate Sunday night display

A festival patron on a touch tour of 1001 Nights where visually or hearing impared are guided through a performence using touch and description
Melvyn Tan customises his piano to play a percussion duet for his performance

A performer of Ea Sola prepares the mat floor backstage before a show
Pianist Yefim Bronfman
 Shen Wei dancers warm up with slow breathing exercises before a morning dance class

A weaver at the Dovecot Heirlooms exhibition spins fine silk on a traditional loom
Sally Hobson, head of programme development with the festival

Jonathon Mills, director of the Edinburgh International Festival

Back in the fish tank

Some of the crew from The Wind up Bird Chronicle at the Kings Theatre

A few more visual updates from on and off the stage at the Edinburgh International Festival.

Semiramide at the Festival Theatre

 The Revenge of Prince Zi Dan at the Festival Theatre

1001 Nightsat the Lyceum Theatre

Princess Bari at the Playhouse Theatre

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Age old

The Festival has just turned 64 years young! 64 is a huge achievement for the longest running performance festival in Edinburgh. While maybe starting to feel a little senior, compared to the scenes of art, performance and theatre where it draws its programme from, it is actually very young.

While the festival pulls huge tradition and ritual from across the globe, it uses every modern convenience to drive itself. Everywhere i look i see the very old with the very new. Old performers and new audiences. Ancient venues with fresh approaches. Old circles welcoming new friends. Traditional stories told like for the first time.

 A mother and her daughter admire the Lightning Drawings exhibition at the launch night

The rooftop grid system at the Festival Kings Theatre. These bars have taken the weight of thousands of performances since 1906.
Amjad Ali Khan during a sound rehearsal
Princess Bari Choreographer Eun-Me Ahn and the Lord Provost of Edinburgh embrace in thanks at the artists reception at the City Chambers

Conductor Alberto Zedda leads a rehearsal of the orchestra for Semiramide

Ravi Shankar receives a standing ovation at the age of 91 at the Usher Hall

The original curtain counter-weight at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre

Sir Gerald Elliot hosts an Indian inspired pre-theatre reception in honour of Ravi Shankar

2nd year students from the Royal High School stretch out before an after school dance class. THe RHS is a main focus of dance tuition with many students going on to dance professionally

A guest weaver operates a handmade loom at the Dovecot studios. His technique is meticulous and ancient in spinning silk.
Young participants in the Nrityagram Ensemble dance class look on with a snack


The smoke and mirrors

In many ways when we stand to applaud, we clap for what is immediately before our eyes. A procession of performers or a slight genuflection, the celebration is signalled and we are on our feet, gushing praise. We applaud the spectacle, though members of the audience never forget the craft.

But the craft is a spectacle all of its own. A performance itself behind closed doors. The preparation and procedure of a performance can last for weeks and merge across continents in differnet terrains before coming together before our cacophanous ovations.

For the Peony Pavillion, i knew this was certainly the case. The National Ballet of China allowed me to access their dancers on and off stage during their visit to the Edinburgh International Festival this week. It allowed me to penetrate the smoke and mirrors, so to speak, of their own rich spectacle. I saw how grand a feat it is to bring, literally to transport, a performance like that to the stage. Dozens of dancers, an orchestra, props and stage equipment as well as the company staff, all for 5 nights. I was lucky to see beyond the porceline expressions of some of the worlds greatest ballet dancers, to see how young they are and how their youth still shone through the pressures and demands of thier roles.

In the wings of the show i stood like a brick, while their serpentine bodies eased in and out of costumes and disappeared and reappeared through hidden doors. I was overcome just how powerful the ballet is from close quarters, but i was struck more by how wonderfully out of shape i felt.

Forward March

 Performances are fully underway after a busy weekend of openings and celebrations. Edinburgh is properly mobbed and seats are packed. Get a glimpse…

  Wu Hsing-Kuo performs a one man visual feast in King Lear at Edinburgh’s Lyceum

 Korean adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest performed with the cinematic virtuosity of Hayao Miyazaki at Edinburgh’s Kings Theatre

Classical Guitarist Xuefei Yang warms up for a receital for BBC Festival Cafe at Edinbugh’s Potterrow
March on Festival 11!
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Festival : on

 It has arrived! Today is the first day of the Edinburgh International Festival and it is time to get to work.

I want to get a series of posts rolling over the next month that show the tiny mechanics of this great Festival. It is a performance of sorts itself, simply on sheer scale, and i am looking forward to documenting my way through all the smoke and mirrors. Without diluting anything with words, stay tuned and Behold!

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