Edinburgh International Festival Various venues, 5th to 29th August
Fergus Linehan’s second programme as director of the international festival is an exciting mix of the classical and experimental, with Shakespeare at the heart. There’s ferocious drumming and a stark design in Thomas Ostermeier’s version of Richard III starring cult European favourite Lars Eidinger; Britain’s Cheek by Jowl collaborating with Moscow’s Pushkin Theatre in a compelling and beautiful Measure for Measure; and Shake, a re-imagining of Twelfth Night set in a 1970s seaside resort by French company Eat a Crocodile.
The National Theatre of Scotland gets busy with the brilliant Brooklyn-based ensemble The TEAM for Anything That Gives off Light, in which narratives collide on a tour of the Highlands. Further experiments in theatrical language are assured from the Glasgow-based company Vanishing Point in two pieces at the Lyceum Theatre, The Destroyed Room (“the profusion of tenses that bring the world and the pain of others right into our rooms”) and Interiors, a wordless piece at a dinner party, like Alan Ayckbourn without the jokes.
Young Chekhov National Theatre,14th July to 3rd September
A huge success like this at Chichester last summer—David Hare’s incandescent versions of three early Anton Chekhov plays—would once have illuminated the West End of old. Instead, they fetch up at the National, in these marvellous productions by Jonathan Kent. The idea is to find Chekhov before he became Chekhov, an angry radical, not a purveyor of nostalgic reminiscence among the silver birches. The plays are Platonov, a screech against advancing middle-age, Ivanov, a Hamlet-like shout of defiance against anti-Semitism, and The Seagull (the first acknowledged Chekhov masterpiece) about the birth of modern theatre and the doomed aspirations of youth.
The Libertine Theatre Royal, Bath, 31st August to 17th September
Dominic Cooper, who made his mark in Alan Bennett’s The History Boys and in Phèdre opposite Helen Mirren at the National, plays the Earl of Rochester in a revival of Stephen Jeffreys’s fine play about the hedonist poet and playwright. Terry Johnson’s production— bound for the Haymarket in London after Bath—is well cast with Olivia Lovibond, Jasper Britton and Mark Hadfield.