Best Edinburgh International Festival shows to see in person and online

This article is sponsored by Edinburgh International Festival.

  • Brian donaldson
  • August 24, 2021

Edinburgh International Festival At Home with abrdn / photo: Ryan Buchanan

From local heroes to global superstars, there is much to see last week of the Edinburgh International Festival

This year’s Edinburgh Festival season has been a challenge for everyone, but the Edinburgh International Festival can look back on what it accomplished in 2021 with pride and pleasure. And it’s not finished yet. With another packed week of fun to come and digital programming that will captivate audiences during the fall and winter months, here we take a look at some of the delicacies to come.

In the flesh, high-quality shows and concerts are coming this week. The highlights of the musical program are the leader of Blur and Gorillaz Damon albarn (Tuesday August 24) who continues to prove his versatility, legend of the American soprano Renee fleming teamed up with german pianist Hartmut Höll (Wednesday 25 August) to perform songs by Handel, Fauré and Strauss, while The comet is coming (Wednesday August 25) unleash a maelstrom of psych rock, electronica and jazz.

Best Edinburgh International Festival shows to see in person and online

The comet is coming / photo: Josh Cheuse

London afrobeat-jazz byte Kokoroko (Thursday August 26) can claim Nile Rodgers as a fan, Members of the Edinburgh Festival Choir (Sunday, August 29) make a welcome return to the EIF (albeit in a slightly scaled-down form) directed by director Aidan Oliver in a concert featuring Britten, Holst and Tallis, and Laura mvula (Sunday August 29) is ready to charm the public with tunes from her new album, Pink noise, a candidate for this year’s Mercury Prize.

And how about that for a diverse trio throughout the last weekend? Malian singer-songwriter Fatoumata Diawara (Friday, August 27) will combine the traditional and the contemporary as we hear it on his latest album, FENFO, while a local hero returns Alan Cumming doesn’t play his age (Saturday August 28 & Sunday August 29) for which the boy from Aberfeldy treats us with wit and song. And Canadian composer and recording artist Caribou (Saturday August 28) offers a show featuring its extremely eclectic range with garage, disco, rock and alt-folk.

Best Edinburgh International Festival shows to see in person and online

Alan Cumming / photo: Josh Going

In the field of theater and oral creation, there is a lot to do for the public. Ninja niqabi (until Saturday, August 28) is a heart-wrenching but vital work that fuses street art, audio performance and a city tour written by Sara Shaarawi in response to assaults on women in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Bringing issues of race and intolerance closer to us, Hannah Lavery Lamentation for Sheku Bayoh (Wednesday 25-Saturday 28 August) recalls the death in 2015 in police custody of a 31-year-old man in Fife.

Beloved Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson (of this acting family) cements his reputation as a world star and outstanding performer in Medication (until Sunday August 29), Enda Walsh’s play on mental health and the deconstruction of the theater itself. In the oral creation event under the aegis of A toast to the people, former UK Poetry Slam winner, based in Glasgow Hollie mcnish joins forces with Nigerian poet-performer Wana udobang (Wednesday 25 August), while graphic designer, playwright and poet Inua Ellams team up with Saul williams (Tuesday August 24), a verse heavyweight who has collaborated with Nine Inch Nails and Allen Ginsberg.

Best Edinburgh International Festival shows to see in person and online

Lament For Sheku Bayoh / photo: Mihaela Bodlovic

Both of these events are part of the At Home program which aims to keep the flame of the Edinburgh International Festival burning throughout the rest of 2021 and even into next year. Also to see At Home it’s a whole lot of concerts like Fatma Said & Malcolm Martineau (Thursday 4 November – Monday 2 May) with the Egyptian soprano who made her international debut here with songs by Mozart, Lorca and Ravel, while the astonishing Chineke! Orchestra is conducted by William Eddins (until Sunday, February 20) in a program featuring Scottish mezzo-soprano Andrea Baker. Richard strauss Ariane Auf Naxos (Sunday August 29-Sunday February 27) is an opera within an opera plus a slapstick comedy all in effervescent packaging, while the violin maestro Nicola Benedetti leads the way in a version of Stravinsky The soldier’s tale (Friday August 27 to Friday February 25) with Siobhan Redmond in the role of the devil, nothing less. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra join forces with the Hong Kong electric conductor Elim Chan (Thursday, November 25 to Monday, May 23) for a film that introduces viewers to the fascinating Argentine cellist Sol Gabetta.

Best Edinburgh International Festival shows to see in person and online

Elim Chan / photo: Sally Jubb

For fans of movement, Dancing in the streets (until Saturday, September 18) offers a quartet of films from cities around the world in which dancers and choreographers meet the last 18 months. The quartet is Alice Ripoll from Rio, Omar Rajeh from Beirut, Gregory Maqoma from Soweto and Janice Parker from Edinburgh.

The Edinburgh International Festival continues through Sunday August 29; the full At Home program is available at

AT HOME: A Toast to the People: Inua Ellams and Saul Williams

Inua Ellams and Saul Williams bring their own styles to this must-see filmed event A Toast to the People. Watch Inua Ellams and Saul Williams’ electric night of poetry and spoken word, filmed on the Old College Quad site of the International Festival. Expect a performance full of unexpected …

Online Events

Thu 28 Oct

To free / 0131 473 2000

As part of the Edinburgh International Festival.

AT HOME: Fatma Said & Malcolm Martineau

Egyptian soprano Fatma Said makes her International Festival debut with Edinburgh pianist Malcolm Martineau in a film starring Mozart and Spanish songs by Lorca and Falla. Soprano Fatma Said was the first Egyptian singer to perform at La Scala in Milan, as Pamina in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and more recently took…

Online Events

Thu Nov 4

To free / 0131 473 2000

As part of the Edinburgh International Festival.

A Toast to the People: Hollie McNish and Wana Udobang

This A Toast to the People event features Hollie McNish and Wana Udobang in an evening of electric performance. Join Hollie McNish and Wana Udobang for an electric evening of performance poetry and spoken word in the Old College Quad Hall of the International Festival. Expect a celebration of contemporary storytelling at its …

Lamentation for Sheku Bayoh

  • 3 stars

Writer and director Hannah Lavery is leading an artistic but heartbreaking response to the 2015 death of Sheku Bayoh in custody in Scotland. `No problem here, mate. Nothing at all. In the early hours of the morning, Sheku Bayoh, 31, walked home to his friend after watching a boxing match. Just a few hours …


  • 4 stars

Writer and director Enda Walsh’s dark and often absurd new play is receiving its long-awaited world premiere at the International Festival. Domhnall Gleeson is directing a formidable cast in a new play by venerable Irish playwright Enda Walsh. Devastatingly funny and deeply moving, Medicine examines society …

Renée Fleming & Hartmut Höll

Grammy Award-winning American soprano Renée Fleming joins German pianist Hartmut Höll for a massive concert of classical songs. American soprano Renée Fleming is one of the superstars of classical music. She has a voice that conductor Sir Georg Solti has described as “like a double cream” and has received countless…

Damon albarn

The Blur and Gorillaz frontman follows his Mercury-nominated debut solo album with a brand new show. Originally gaining worldwide fame in the 90s as the lead singer of British pop group Blur, Damon Albarn has led the animation group Gorillaz for the past 20 years. The East Londoner has a long solo career…

Field- Something for the future now

Directed by Christine Devaney and featuring an ensemble of Edinburgh-based artists, Field is an immersive and uplifting work that has Arthur’s Seat as a backdrop. Field is a long-running outdoor dance event designed in a physically distanced world. With Arthur’s majestic seat as a backdrop, the performers respond to…

Members of the Edinburgh Festival Chorus

The Edinburgh Festival Chorus returns in a smaller format, with a concert as varied as in previous years. The Edinburgh Festival Chorus has been the backbone of the International Festival’s choral program for over 50 years. Although the pandemic months were a particularly difficult time for all the singers …

Ninja niqabi

  • 5 stars

Writer Sara Shaarawi and director Catrin Evans present an experimental performance in reaction to recent mob attacks in Tahrir Square in Cairo. Combining street art, audio story performances and a walk through your town, Niqabi Ninja is a graphic novel-style revenge story written in reaction to the 2012-2014 Mafia sexual violence …

Laura mvula

Soul singer Laura Mvula pays homage to the sounds of ’80s new wave and dance-pop, as heard on her new album Pink Noise. Birmingham-born artist Laura Mvula grew up loving Michael Jackson, Earth, Wind and Fire and singing in her aunt’s a cappella choir. His thrilling and tender gospel pop has been nominated twice for…


This young London collective combines jazz improvisation with afrobeat rhythms and three-part harmonies to create complex and smooth compositions. Bringing heartwarming Afrobeat music from London, this mellow eight-piece collective takes its name from the Nigerian dialect Urhobo, which means ‘to be strong’. Their music…

AT HOME: Ariane auf Naxos

  • 4 stars

Sir Andrew Davis conducts the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in a filmed concert of Richard Strauss’s comedy Ariadne auf Naxos. It’s the party to end all the parties. But two entertainments were double-scheduled to mark the highlight of the evening – a serious opera and a slapstick comedy. The soprano star throws …

AT HOME: Dancing in the Streets: Alice Ripoll

  • 4 stars

Celebratory film by Rio de Janeiro-based choreographer Alice Ripoll about the lives of the dancers in her company. Alice Ripoll runs two dance companies, one of which is based in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. For her commission from the International Festival, she made a film during the pandemic with the dancers of this company within …

Darcy J. Skinner

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