Region’s talent in Edinburgh

EMMA LEE The Edinburgh Festival is considered one of the most important cultural celebrations in the world. EMMA LEE and RICHARD PARR take a look at the programme and some of the acts that are flying the flag for our region’s vibrant arts scene at this year’s event.


The 61st Edinburgh Festival season is underway. During the next three weeks, thousands of performers - from the unknown to household names - will flock to the Scottish capital for one of the world's most important cultural events.

Whether it's music, opera, theatre, comedy or art you're looking for, with more than 2,000 shows in the Fringe festival alone, there's bound to be something to entertain the thousands of visitors who flock to the famous event.

Although it's referred to as the Edinburgh Festival, it is, in fact, a collection of independent festivals happening simultaneously.

A blend of high and low art, it generates millions of pounds for the Scottish economy.

It started life as the Edinburgh International Festival in 1947 as a post-war effort to “provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit” and reunite Europe through culture. It has gone from strength to strength.

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The Fringe is particularly noted for its comedy programming, and is one of the places to catch up-and-coming talent, plus well-established names. This year's star turns include Ricky Gervais, Paul Merton and Frank Skinner.

Performers and writers from our region will also be heading to the city. Some of the performers are supported by Escalator East to Edinburgh, an Arts Council England East initiative to bring the best emerging talent to the festival, which is now in its fifth year.

Norwich-based Spin Off Theatre will be performing a two-man version of Twelfth Night in Norfolk dialect, called Mardling the Bard, while up-and-coming poet Luke Wright is taking his show, Luke Wright: Poet and Man, to the festival. Described as “the best young performance poet around” by the Observer, he is also hosting Luke Wright's Poetry Party at the weekend, which will feature free performances by 20 poets, including John Hegley.

The East Anglian-based theatre company Eastern Angles are taking the production Truckstop to the festival, which will then tour schools in our region once the new term starts, and west Norfolk-based poet Gareth Calway is also heading north of the border.

Acclaimed young Suffolk playwright Joel Horwood's play Stoopud F****n Animals is being staged at the Traverse theatre. Horwood, who was born at Halesworth, is one of the rising stars of the theatre world - last year his work won a prestigious Fringe First award and rave reviews. His latest play is set in his home county, complete with Suffolk accents, and, in keeping with the East Anglian theme, it stars Norfolk-raised actor Carl Prekopp.

And the award-winning Norfolk Youth Music Theatre made their Fringe debut on Monday. A 20-strong cast from across the county are presenting two shows - Benjamin Britten's opera, the Little Sweep, and a modern rock version of Dido and Aeneas. They will perform the shows twice daily for the rest of this week at a venue near the Royal Mile, the heart of the Fringe.

The performers have been joined by some of their families and friends who are helping with the logistical aspects of setting up the shows and breaking them down within a strict allotted timespan.

Anna Lawrence, from Norwich, who is directing the Little Sweep, said: “It is a great experience for these young people because they not only have to do the performance of their show in a professional manner like a touring company, but they have to perform excerpts on the Royal Mile to promote it.”

She added it was fantastic that NYMT director Adrian Connell, based at Sheringham, had put together a Norfolk project of such a size and taken it to Edinburgh.

Key roles include Sam Miller, from North Wootton, King's Lynn, in the title role, Anna Thirkettle, of Trowse, as Miss Baggett, Charlie Little, of Norwich, as the nursemaid, and Matt Williamson, of Wymondham, and Joe Ringer, of Norwich, as the sweep masters.

The two Edinburgh shows will be staged at the city's Maddermarket Theatre at the end of October.