This year's EIF offers plenty to look forward to, from a glow-in-the-dark race up Arthur's Seat to a Polish Macbeth and the Mariinsky Ballet. What will you be booking for?
You've got to admire Jonathan Mills's sense of mischief. While politicians north and south of the border fret over the case for Scottish independence, the artistic director of the Edinburgh international festival is reminding us what it means to be British. To top and tail his 2012 programme, just launched this morning, the Australian director has included stirring English patriotic favourites by Frederick Delius, William Walton and Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Actually, though, this August's programme is not as conspicuously themed as his previous lineups and the British strand goes little further than that. It does fit in with a general Olympic spirit, however. As Lyn Gardner wrote recently, the London Olympic Games draw to a close just as the EIF is kicking off and Edinburgh's several summer festivals, seeing themselves as the Olympics of the arts world, are hoping to pick up some reflected glory.
Flying the union flag is one way to do this. So too is sending large numbers of runners up the slopes of Arthur's Seat in a display of choreographed athleticism. Speed of Light by NVA – the Glasgow company that brought us The Storr – will feature teams of endurance runners wearing light-emitting suits powered by their own kinetic energy. Taking place every evening of the festival, it could give the EIF the kind of visibility the fringe, thanks to its enormous size, takes for granted.
Another way to capture the Olympic spirit is to present what Mills calls "the thrilling virtuosity of a new generation of talented performers". Some of those come from New York's Juilliard School, the European Union Youth Orchestra, the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester and Dmitry Krymov's Laboratory School of Dramatic Art from Moscow, which is bringing a staging of A Midsummer Night's Dream (As You Like It).
For theatregoers, it's a bumper year. The 2011 focus on the far east resulted in relatively few straight plays – Mills is catching up this year with a nine-play drama programme. Of particular note is a return to the Lowland Hall at the Royal Highland Centre at Ingliston, last used for Silviu Purcarete's Faust, where three large-scale productions will be housed.
They include 2008: Macbeth, an extravagant multimedia staging by Grzegorz Jarzyna for Poland's TR Warszawa (also bringing Nosferatu to London's Barbican at the end of October), Meine faire Dame – ein Sprachlabor, a leftfield response to My Fair Lady by Switzerland's Christoph Marthaler for Theater Basel and Les Naufragés du Fol Espoir (Aurores), a four-hour epic by the wonderful Ariane Mnouchkine and her Théâtre du Soleil loosely based on a posthumous novel by Jules Verne.
Back in the town centre, Glasgow's Vanishing Point will premiere Wonderland – you can also see artistic director Matthew Lenton in action later this month when he stages The Legend of Captain Crow's Teeth at London's Unicorn theatre.
Other theatre highlights include Waiting for Orestes: Electra by the Suzuki Company of Toga, Samuel Beckett's Watt by Dublin's Gate Theatre, the world premiere of Gulliver's Travels by Silviu Purcarete for Romania's Radu Stanca National Theatre of Sibiu, the RSC's Rape of Lucrece starring Camille O'Sullivan and the return of Chile's Guillermo Calderón with Villa and Discurso.
Dance fans are equally well served, with visits from the Mariinsky Ballet, Deborah Colker Dance Company, Ballet Preljocaj and others, while opera buffs can get their teeth into the premiere of Opera North's The Makropulos Case, Les Arts Florissants' David et Jonathas and four new pieces from Scottish Opera by Craig Armstrong, James MacMillan, Huw Watkins and Stuart MacRae.
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