Acting Out EdBookfest

Jun 10 2016 | By More

Book Festival 2016 for theatre lovers

The Edinburgh International Book Festival has launched its programme in its habitually classy fashion with psychedelically painted phrenology heads and plenty of talk about Charlotte Square being Edinburgh’s cultured quarter.

Discern the bumps on the programme’s skull correctly, and you’ll find that among the novelists and big thinkers stiving to Imagine Better between Thursday 11 and Monday 29 August 2016, there are plenty there for those who want to find a theatrical angle, too. As if there wasn’t anything else theatrical happening in Edinburgh August…

Nick Barley at the EdBookfest 2016 Launch. Photo Thom Dibdin

Nick Barley and new best friend at the EdBookfest 2016 Launch. Photo Thom Dibdin

As one might expect in this Shakespeare 400 year there’s a fair number of bard-related events – but there are also theatrical and spoken word performances, a chat with Traverse founder Jim Haynes and appearances from a two of the UK’s most distinguished theatre critics.

The major theatrical event is a new adaptation by Linda McLean for the festival of The View from Castle Rock, Alice Munro’s short stories about the experience of migration – one of this year’s big themes – which is running daily: Thurs 11 to Mon 29 August.

This is not the sort of migration that hits the headlines today, though, but the experience of Munro’s ancestors sailing from Leith Docks in 1818 in search of a better life in Canada, brought to the stage with the help of Edinburgh’s Stellar Quines.

A second commission for the festival is James Ley’s fascinating two hander: Love Song to Lavender Menace, about the history of Scotland’s first gay bookshop. Unfortunately this gets just a one-off performance (Sat 27), but as a work in progress should be back at a future date.


There’s further performance with French graphic artist Barroux and the world premiere of Alpha, a son-et-lumiere dramatic realisation of his powerful graphic novel of a West African migrant who leaves Mali to find his family in France (Sat 13).

David Greig’s great breakthrough play Europe gets a rehearsed reading (Sun 28) under the direction of Philip Howard, who directed its first performance in 1994. And in a tribute to Edwin Morgan’s skills as a translator, Tam Dean Burn is performing Morgan’s translations of revolutionary Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky (Sun 21) in Wi the Haill Voice.

Saturday 20 sees a whole strand of events – well, four – devoted to Spoken Word: Babble On. It kicks off with Beyond the Page, Beyond the Stage, a discussion lead by Eleanor McDowall, producer of Radio 4’s Short Cuts, and including actor Mike Livesley – who is reviving Vivian Stanshall’s Sir Henry at Rawlinson End for the stage (a rather exciting prospect in its own right).

Stand Up and Spit brings a couple of 1980s ranters – Attila the Stockbroker and Tim Wells – together with contemporary spitters of words: Bridget Minamore and Luke Wright. Hollie McNish does her Poetry for Parental Beginners and Luke Wright gives a one-off revival of What I Learned from Johnny Bevan.

A Field of Dreams

Theatre criticism gets a proper outing with what should be two key events. Scotland’s leading critic, Joyce McMillan, talks about Scottish Theatre’s Remarkable Journey (Tue 16) and her soon to be published collection of reviews spanning 30 years: Theatre in Scotland: A Field of Dreams.

Michael Billington, the Guardian’s lead critic, heads up a talk: The Stage’s Greatest Hits?, based around his own book, The 101 Greatest Plays. Which is, in itself, a contentious concept even before you get into the choices he actively made. Banter has been promised for this one.

There’s more to Jim Haynes than the Traverse, of course. He founded the radical Paperback Bookshop (people came specially to buy copies of Lady Chaterley so they could burn them) and co-organised the 1962 International Writers Conference. And much, much more, as he relates in his memoire How I Came to Dine with Vladimir Putin, discussed here in an event suitably titled: Edinburgh’s Cultural Freedom Fighter (Sun 21).

For those interested in a deeper philosophical understanding of the nature of theatre, Theatre of War – Greek Tragedies and Modern Warfare, could be an interesting event (Sun 14). Here Bryan Doerries explains how he uses classic texts to help war veterans (and other survivors) deal with their experiences.

And so to the Bard of Stratford on Avon. A regular handful of ideas-smiths line up to give their take on different aspects of his work. Howard Jacobson (Wed 17), Jeanette Winterston (Sat 20), Richard Wilson (Thurs 25), Emma Smith (Sat 20), and Andrew Dickson with Stanley Wells (Sat 27) all have their own handle.


The View from Castle Rock
artspace@StMarks, 7 Castle Terrace, EH1 2DP.
Thurs 11 – Mon 29 (not 16, 21, 23). Various times.
Tickets and details: or

The following all take place in Charlotte Square Gardens, Edinburgh.
Tickets go on Sale: Tue 21 June @ 8.30am.
Full details on the Book Festival Website:

Alpha: The Man who Hoped for a Better Life
Sat 13: 8pm: Details and tickets:

Theatre of War – Greek Tragedies and Modern Warfare
Sun 14: 7.30pm: Details and tickets:

Joyce McMillan: Scottish Theatre’s Remarkable Journey
Tue 16: 3.30pm: Details and tickets:

Howard Jacobson: Tackling the Bard
Wed 17: 5pm: Details and tickets:

Emma Smith: The Will to Survive
Sat 20: 2.15pm: Details and tickets:

Jeanette Winterson : The Winter’s Tale in Disguise
Sat 20: 8.15pm: Details and tickets:

Beyond the Page, Beyond the Stage: Powerful Words in Unique Settings
Sat 20: 11am: Details and tickets:

Stand Up and Spit: Potent Words with Purpose
Sat 20: 2pm: Details and tickets:

Hollie McNish: Poetry for Parental Beginners
Sat 20: 5.30pm: Details and tickets:

What I Learned from Johnny Bevan with Luke Wright
Sat 20: 7.30pm: Details and tickets:

Michael Billington: The Stage’s Greatest Hits?
Sun 21: 5.30pm. Details and tickets:

Jim Haynes: Edinburgh’s Cultural Freedom Fighter
Sun 21: 7pm. Details and tickets:

Wi the Haill Voice: Mayakovsky and Morgan’s Poetic Revolution
Sun 21: 7.30pm: Details and tickets:

Richard Wilson. The Good Fight: Shakespeare Today
Thurs 25: 11am: Details and tickets:

Andrew Dickson & Stanley Wells: Why Shakespeare Still Matters
Sat 27: 2pm. Details and tickets:

Love Song to Lavender Menace
Sat 27: 7.30pm: Details and tickets:

Sun 28: 7.30pm: Details and tickets:


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