Edinburgh Int’l Fest living up to reputation

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Edinburgh Int’l Fest living up to reputation

EDINBURGH - From medieval Scotland to the modern-day Middle East, from ancient Greece to a Japanese mental hospital, the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) is living up to a reputation for provocative theater in its 65th year.

The TR Warszawa production “2008: Macbeth” is a stunning Polish take on Shakespeare’s Scottish play performed on a huge new stage constructed in a vast hall for the EIF at the Royal Highland Show grounds on Edinburgh’s western outskirts.

Iconoclastic director Grzegorz Jarzyna finds similarities between murder and warfare in Macbeth and contemporary mayhem in the Middle East.

“It is very interesting that after so many centuries our behavior is so similar,” he told Reuters.

“Shakespeare saw something universal in human beings and how they behave in different situations, what are our instincts. He goes deeply into human nature, makes some universal patterns, and that’s why I think after so many centuries it works.”

The play’s setting could be Chechnya or the Balkans, Beirut or Baghdad, with dialogue from Shakespeare in Polish and English subtitles.

Scotsman newspaper critic Joyce McMillan notes that the production’s set on three floors is so vast that in many ways it “ceases to be live theater, and becomes a kind of IMAX installation.”

Realistic battle scenes included massive blasts, gunfire - and even the introduction of three members of Britain’s Parachute Regiment abseiling into action.

But McMillan added that Jarzyna’s interpretation of the play made two points with great clarity: “that the world of high-tech modern warfare is still full of warlords like Macbeth, and that men who are praised for ruthless killing in war .?.?. are unlikely to find it easy to stop once the battle is over.”

At the King’s Theatre, Japanese director Tadashi Suzuki won a five-star critical praise for his production of “Waiting for Orestes: Electra,” based on the tragedy by the ancient Greek writer Euripides and transferred to a psychiatric hospital.

“All the world’s a hospital, and all the men and women merely inmates: that is the central belief that lies behind my theatre work,” Suzuki was quoted as saying in the program introduction.

The play, which Suzuki has adapted from a version of Electra by Hugo von Hofmannsthal for the director Max Reinhardt first performed in Berlin in 1903, centers on the demands by Electra that her brother Orestes exact revenge on their mother Clytemnestra for the murder of their father.

The theme transfers well from an ancient Greek amphitheater to the setting of a Japanese psychiatric unit: wheelchair-bound inmates provide the chorus and percussionist Midori Takada’s drumming keeps up a precise background beat.

Scotsman critic Mark Fisher praised Korean actress Yoo-Jeong byun as a “compelling” Electra, while Chieko Nato as Clytemnstrata is “a towering giant of amoral self-justification.” Reuters
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