August in Edinburgh. The time of year where the UNESCO-recognised medieval city nearly doubles in population and the world’s largest cultural gathering plays to audiences from all over. The festivals are back in full post-pandemic force with over 4,000 events or exhibitions across the city, including over 50 works led by or featuring Canadian artists.
We’re just over halfway through the festival month, but there is still so much fantastic Canadian work to look forward to across all of the major festivals. From eye-popping circus, thought-provoking discussions, and hard-hitting theatre, Canada once again is so very well represented throughout the festival landscape. While there are dozens of shows available to the general public, the High Commission of Canada also hosts an industry-exclusive “Pitch Session”, where Canadian artists and companies will get the chance to showcase their work to producers and programmers from around the world.
The Edinburgh International Book Festival programmed six Canadian women this year. On opening weekend, Ontario-based activist and prolific poet Dionne Brand took part in two discussions on the power of words and language and their use when applied to art and activism, discussing her new published collection Nomenclature: New and Collected Poems. Meanwhile, after being longlisted on the Women’s Prize for Fiction for her novel Children of Paradise, Edinburgh-based Canadian author Camilla Grudova took part in a discussion on labour, raising children and creating art with Olga Ravn. Additionally, Montréal-born Sarah Bernstein spoke about her Booker Prize-longlisted novel Study for Obedience. Throughout the second half of the festival, Wales-based Canadian children’s author Laura Baker invites 3-6 year olds to discover a lifelong love of reading with her new book All the Wonderful Ways to Read, and Schitt’s Creek writer and author of Really Good, ActuallyMonica Heisey dissects millennial love in two events on August 19th and 20th. Capping off the festival, Oscar-winning film director-writer Sarah Polley speaks remotely on her essay collection Run Towards the Danger.
At the Edinburgh FestivalFringe, a bevy of Canada’s best comedy, circus, dance, cabaret and theatre once again offer audiences an eclectic mix of exhilarating thought-provoking work.
Comedian Laura Ramoso has risen to fame through Tik Tok, but her home is on the stage – her debut show FRANCES at Pleasance has already sold out but additional shows have been popping up. Petrikor Danse/Bettina Szabo translates her story of immigrating to Canada from Uruguay to dance in Habitat. Including a custom-made sculpture made to look like the shell of a hermit crab, Szabo will enthral audiences while not shying away from the spiritual and emotional toll immigration can take on someone.
Montréal-based circus company Cirque Kalabanté brings their show Afrique en Cirque to one of the Fringe’s largest venues – Assembly Hall. Inspired by daily life in Guinea, this show by Yamoussa Bangoura celebrates the artistry of African culture and is bound to mesmerise circus-lovers with the performers’ stunning acrobatics. Over at former veterinary college-turned-arts-hub Summerhall, Israeli-Canadian performer revisits his time in the Israeli Defense Forces and examines the decades of turmoil of his home country. A previous entry in Vancouver’s PuSh Festival, Soldiers of Tomorrow offers a challenging but sensitive take on a long and complicated conflict.
Lastly, REcreate Agency and Grace Dickson Productions brings us Summer Camp for Broken People, London-based Canadian writer/performer Emily Beecher’s autobiographical show on mental illness and sexual assault – and the many ways misogyny infiltrates our lives.
On a rather different note, Canadian Fringe favourites Scantily Glad Theatre bring us queer mayhem in Creepy Boys. Audiences will be attending a very strange, possibly satanic 13th birthday party, which offers an insight into the specific angst of growing up different.
At the Edinburgh International Film Festival, we have the single entry of Past Lives by New York-based Korean-Canadian playwright, screenwriter and director Celine Song. A tender and insightful tale of two star-crossed friends wrenched away by time, the show plays at Vue Cinema Omni Centre on the 20th and 21st of this month. For tickets to all of these shows and the full roster of Canadian work, check out the #SpotlightCanada page hosted by our friends at The List!
There you have it! With just under two weeks left of festival time, you can full of some premier Canadian content – maple syrup optional.