I do enjoy a good arts festival. Mind you, regular readers will probably be well aware of that, if they've seen this site's previous coverage of Edinburgh and the London Film Festival. The thing is, it's not just a way to consume art in bulk, or to see things that wouldn't normally come to your town (although both of those are certainly attractions for me): what I like most about festivals is the way that you can sometimes catch an extraordinary piece of work purely by accident.
Case in point: on the old site, I documented the events of August 20th 2002, when The Belated Birthday Girl and I spent an hour or two wandering around Edinburgh desperately trying to find a show that wasn't sold out or cancelled. We ended up at a play called The Al-Hamlet Summit purely because there was nothing else available: and it was fabulous. Zaoum Theatre Company - specifically, their lead writer/director Sulayman Al-Bassam - had taken the basic ideas behind Shakespeare's tragedy, and reworked it as a new drama set in the contemporary Middle East. A dangerous thing to be doing in the first Edinburgh Festival to be held after 9/11, particularly given the explosive finale to Al-Bassam's adaptation: but sheer nerve and theatrical invention carried it through.
And now, five years later, Sulayman Al-Bassam has returned to the UK - and to Shakespeare's birthplace, no less - to see if Richard III can stand up to the same treatment.