From five-star reviews to cultural creative conversations, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland engaged with thousands of audience members and participants during a busy four weeks in Edinburgh. Linda Innes reports on this year’s festival highlights. 

The students of the MA Musical Theatre programme have earned a reputation for being some of the hardest working performers at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, with two shows daily and 50 performances taking place throughout August.

“I’ve done Fringe events in New York and Washington but nothing is quite like the Edinburgh Fringe,” says student Jacob Bedford. “It’s crazy.”

American Jacob performed a lead role in this year’s ‘80s-inspired musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, directed by Douglas Irvine. Telling the story of two suave con-men trying to out-swindle one another in the South of France, the musical proved a hit with Festival-goers and reviewers.

The show attracted thousands of people to the Assembly Hall and offered the opportunity of a lifetime for the hard-working students who performed each day to an international audience. Director of Drama, Hugh Hodgart believes opportunities like this make RCS a distinctive institution in which to study.

“The Edinburgh Festivals are simply bursting with opportunities for anyone who is passionate about the performing arts. Having such incredible events on our doorstep allows RCS students to really make the most of putting their learning to the test on the world’s biggest, most international arts stage.”

Musical Theatre student Arjana Sanfilip, came to RCS to experience the Festivals.

“I’d always wanted to come to Scotland and to the Fringe – I never thought that my first experience of it would be performing at it!”

I think it’s amazing that every day we get in our costume, perform and then we can go and see all different types of theatre from across the world.

Arjana Sanfilip

Musical Theatre student

The students performed Dirty Rotten Scoundrels each morning in a two-and-a-half-hour main stage production before a quick turnaround for the afternoon shows Legacy: A Mother’s Song and Legacy: The Book of Names. These devised shows were created, produced and performed in partnership with students from Northwestern’s American Music Theatre Project (AMTP) in a truly trans-Atlantic partnership cementing the relationship between the two institutions.

This intercontinental undertaking is a major collaboration, with hundreds of emails, Face-times and conference calls between the directors, writers, composers and performers, with the American students flying over from Illinois just two weeks before the first performance.

Both new works attracted rave five-star reviews from press and audiences alike, with one critic claiming there was “far too much talent to fit into a one-hour show and a 500-word review”.

David H. Bell, AMTP Artistic Director, says: “Theatre is a collaborative art form; there is no better way to understand and appreciate another artist and to grow as an artist yourself than by the process of collaboration, communication and creation. This partnership is a cultural and social collaboration and one that is profoundly exciting for us.”

Uniting artists to collaborate and share was the ethos behind another RCS venture in Edinburgh this August, with the International Festival Encounters summer school bringing together producers and devisers from across the world in this week-long course delivered in partnership with the University of Edinburgh.

More than a dozen participants joined the prestigious summer course, traveling from Singapore, America, India and across the UK to take part in masterclasses and discussions held by artists including Jackie Wylie from the National Theatre of Scotland and Agnes Ness from Dance Base.

Lily Asch came from the US to experience the Festival and participate in the course: “It’s astounding that there’s so much energy and creative verve happening here in Edinburgh, and this summer school allows us to be part of this incredible experience.”

The Royal Conservatoire’s cultural celebration continued to the end of the Festival, with the annual Creative Conversation held in the beautiful setting of the National Galleries. Cultural leaders, artists and academics joined together for an afternoon to discuss the importance of culture in our society and question whether we have lost its value.

With a panel including choreographer Akram Khan and Joanna Baker (Edinburgh International Festival), the topics ranged from the importance of culture to identity and the importance of early years access to the arts, with Professor Chris Breward concluding that “culture’s value is liberation – it inspires and opens you up to the riches of the world.”

As the curtain fell on the last performance and fireworks marked the end of another Festival, RCS can look back on another amazing year in Edinburgh … and start to plan for August 2019.

Want to know more about what RCS will be offering at next year’s Edinburgh Festivals? Check out our dedicated #RCSEdFest website to be the first in the know: rcsedfest.co.uk

Legacy: The Book of Names has no weak elements. A simple but staggering surprise of considerable beauty and talent.”

Broadway Baby

“Everything from the set decoration, to the music, to the quality of the acting is excellent – on a par with anything you would pay £50 to see on the London stage.”

The Wee Review on Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

There are student shows and then there are Royal Conservatoire of Scotland student shows, and each year at the Fringe, the difference is marked.”

Kelly Apter, The List