Unlike many of the city’s other venues, Summerhall seems to undergo a less all-encompassing change in August. It’s not that it doesn’t put on a host of challenging, thoughtful and imaginative productions – it’s just that it does the same thing the other 11 months of the year. The only difference is the sheer volume – nearly 120 performances crammed into three weeks.
Perhaps befitting a world that increasingly feels like the introductory chapter to a badly-written dystopia, the themes explored this year are often dark and difficult. 4D Cinema sees Mamuro Iriguchi turn himself into a mobile cinema, by covering his face with a screen. In Counting Sheep, Lemon Bucket Orchestra (a Balkan gypsy-punk collective) document their experiences during the 2014 Ukrainian uprising in immersive style. And BRONKS’ Us/Them, which, explores the situation of the Beslan school siege, investigates how children respond to extreme situations.
There’s a fair selection of home-grown theatrical talent as well, with Fringe First winner Jenna Watt bringing up Faslane, a play with nuclear war-heads as its backdrop. Watt explores Trident’s personal and political space in Scottish political and cultural life, drawing on her knowledge of people who work on the base. Dood Paard’s MacBain meshes the stories of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth together with Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, in what promises to surely be one of the more interesting spins on Shakespeare this year. And to return to the apocalyptic theme, theatre-maker Kieran Hurley and musician Michael John McCarthy present Heads Up, a glimpse of a familiar world on the day of its destruction
Summerhall will also see the return of Northern Stage, with a selection of work from across northern England. There’s Lung’s E15, focusing on the 29 London women who fought their own eviction; Unfolding Theatre’s Putting the Band Back Together, part-gig, part-play featuring Sunderland indie-rockers the Futureheads; and RashDash’s all-singing, all-dancing exploration of the patriarchy, Two Man Show. There’ll be a host of other innovative theatre companies present, with Aurora Nova, Paines Plough and Sh!t Theatre, to name but a few.
Always a year-round fixture, regular gig night Nothing Ever Happens Here has a string of tantalising acts lined up. Artists include Mercury Prize-nominated London vocalist and songwriter Eska, alternative folk troubadour Richard Dawson, Kathryn Joseph, winner of the 2015 Scottish Album of the Year, and the fantastically named Bill Wells with his National Jazz Trio of Scotland, who are, despite appearances, an indie-pop group.
Finally, for those who fancy something a little more light-hearted, the venue will be making much of its connection with Pickering’s Gin. Visitors can opt for the more traditional Pickering’s Gin Jolly, learning all about the distilling process and enjoying several samples along the way. Or, for the more adventurous/masochistic, there is the option of being locked in a darkened room, with one and a half hours to solve the clues and plot your escape, in Locked In: The Distillery Escape. Comforting to know perhaps that, should you fail, there are definitely worse places to spend August in Edinburgh.