When you walk into the Main Hall in the Hub to see David Greig’s Midsummer – with a programme of glossy pictures in your hand, probably, given that this is the International festival after all – you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re about to watch a show that’s serene, genteel, and calm. Cecile Tremolieres’ glorious design places us in the heart of an outdoor wedding. There are trestle tables with those cute white wooden chairs, covered in pretty linen tablecloths and drapes. There are flowers in beautiful arrangements, artfully placed around perfect pyramids of champagne flutes. There are fairy lights strung above our heads, and there’s luscious green grass under our feet. The wedding band is playing, the audience is lightly chatting, and the setting of the Hall itself is absolutely beautiful.
What it actually becomes is kind of the International Festival generation’s answer to All We Ever Wanted Was Everything: messy, uncertain gig-theatre in which everyone gets sweaty, has a few existential crises, and kind of falls in love but isn’t quite sure. Soon after the doors are shut, Bob (Benny Young) steps out of the audience and into the crowd and promises to tell us a story (before we all start crying at the wedding that is to follow). He begins to tell us about the story of a young couple meeting in a bar – but is then shortly interrupted by Helena (Eileen Nicholas), who says that he’s remembering it all wrong. So is the tone set for this show that celebrates and revels in remembering and misremembering, with the story of Bob-and-Helena’s best-and-worst-weekend-ever told by both the couple and their younger selves.
It’s a gloriously playful piece of storytelling, more than anything else: a love letter to Edinburgh and the people who live there. All four actors are brilliantly endearing, as we flash in and out of their minds and actions. Their movement around the space is spectacular, with Jenny Ogilvie’s movement direction appearing to give furniture the ability to do ballet, and having the cast run up and down ladders, around the back of the space, and tie themselves into literal knots. Gordon McIntyre’s music is beautiful, the sort that makes you wish you were lying in the sun somewhere falling in love – or indeed, as the whole show does, wish that you were lying in the middle of rainy midsummer Edinburgh falling in love instead.
Midsummer is on at the Edinburgh International Festival until 26th August (times vary). Tickets are £32.00, with discounts available, and can be purchased here.