Edinburgh International Festival marking 100 years since World War I

Tue Mar 18, 2014 1:09pm EDT

* Festival programme reflects conflict in 20th century

* Programme marked by "a certain soberness", director says

* Events in Edinburgh constitute major global showcase

EDINBURGH, March 18 (Reuters) - Conflict and war in the 20th century will be themes of this year's annual Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) to mark 100 years since the outbreak of World War One, the festival's outgoing director said on Tuesday.

More than 2,400 artists from 43 nations have been invited to take part in the festival from Aug. 8 to 31. Along with the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the International Book Festival and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, combined they constitute one of the world's biggest annual artistic showcases.

This year's EIF programme is marked by "a certain soberness to remind ourselves of our place in the world and a certain kind of reflectiveness to think about what we really believe in and how history has shaped us", Jonathan Mills, the festival's outgoing Australian-born director, told Reuters.

He noted that World War One started on Aug 4, 1914 "and we are an August festival...There's a sense that this festival, of all, feels it's come full circle".

The theme of conflict is embodied in several productions, including the Flemish Thalia Theater production of "Front" exploring trench warfare in World War One, Dmitri Shostakovich's "Leningrad Symphony" commemorating the 900-day Nazi siege of the Russian city in World War Two, and pacifist composer Benjamin Britten's "War Requiem" on the futility of war.

South Africa will mark the 20th anniversary of the end to apartheid and the election of Nelson Mandela as president in 1994 with the Handspring Puppet Company's production of "Ubu and the Truth Commission" and the world premiere of "Inala" by the Ladysmith Black Mambazo dance company.

During his eight-year tenure at the head of the annual August festival, founded in 1947 in the aftermath of World War Two, Mills has broadened its offerings to attract top talent in music, theatre, opera and dance on a global scale.

Irishman Fergus Linehan, who is a former director of the Sydney International Festival, is head of music at the Sydney Opera House and got his start in the Dublin theatre, takes over the EIF next year. (Reporting by Ian MacKenzie; Editing by Mark Heinrich; Editing by Michael Roddy and xxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx)