A MAJOR SERIES of gigs in the Leith Theatre, performances with conductor Sir Simon Rattle and choreographer and dancer Akram Khan, a trial run of a revival of an ancient Scottish play, and a free opening event mark the 2018 Edinburgh International Festival programme.

This year's festival (EIF) is making a major move in Leith, with a series of alternative music concerts at the Leith Theatre, the first visit by the festival to the venue in thirty years.

Marking an ever-increasing focus on new and contemporary music, the 2018 EIF will stage a series of concerts, events and gigs at the venue, which is in the process of a major scheme to revamp and once again become a significant platform for music and the arts in the city.

It will stage a season at the EIF called Light on the Shore and will include Mogwai, Django Django, Karine Polwart, Lau, Neu! Reekie!, Hidden Door and Celtic Connections, with a more complete line-up announced in May.

Scottish artists and ensembles featured in the EIF programme, which will run from August 3 to 27, include the Dunedin Consort, Hebrides Ensemble, Nicola Benedetti, Stewart Laing and Pamela Carter, and David Greig.

There is also a presentation of the 16th century play Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis, by Sir David Lindsay, directed by Joe Douglas, a work performed at the 1948 Festival.

READ MORE: Keith Bruce's verdict on the shows to see

The "workshop" presentation could go on to be a full scale work in coming years, the festival's director, Fergus Linehan, said.

The festival also features Scotland’s national orchestras – the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and rising star Mezzo soprano, Catriona Morrison.

The programme features a series of notable names from the cultural world, including Sir Simon Rattle, the soprano Christine Goerke and violinist Nicola Benedetti, leading choreographers Akram Khan and Wayne McGregor, and the acclaimed theatre maker Peter Brook.

There are new plays directed Katie Mitchell and Geoff Sobelle, the former with the play La Maladie de la Mort, which comes with a warning about explicit onstage sexual imagery.

There will be a staging of Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett, by Irish company Druid, directed by Gary Hynes.

Sir Simon Rattle will conduct the London Symphony Orchestra on August 10 and 11 with programmes featuring Bernstein, Dvorak, Janacek and Mahler's 9th Symphony.

The Playhouse will see concerts by singer song writers St. Vincent and John Grant.

Operas include The Barber of Seville, Rossini's La Cenerentola, and The Beggar's Opera.

Overall the festival features 2,750 artists from 31 countries.

It will once again open with a free but ticketed public performance, this time staged outside the Usher Hall, entitled Five Telegrams, and will feature the music of Anna Meredith: the work will also open the BBC Proms on July 13.

READ MORE: Keith Bruce's verdict on the shows to see

Paris’s Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord will be the "resident company" at the festival with three new works, and there are also shows by the Théâtre des Champs Elysées and Opéra de Lyon.

Orchestras include the London Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Oslo Philharmonic and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Mr Linehan, who has extended his contract to 2022, said: "We are going back to Leith.

"We have this very robust programme in the Usher Hall, and one of the best chamber music programmes in the world at the Queen's Hall...and those have been built in amazing ways over the last 70-odd years but we sense there is a need for a home for another seam of programming.

"I don't know if Leith Theatre is it, but we'll find out....for all of Edinburgh's amazing old venues and halls, there are very few that are of the scale, have the acoustic capacity, have the stage size, and Leith Theatre has all that."

Mr Linehan credited the Leith Theatre Trust and the Hidden Door Festival, which used the venue last year, as crucial in the re-emergence of the theatre, whose main auditorium has been closed to the public since 1988.

He said Leith Theatre is acoustically "excellent", and "has a really nice relationship with the audience", and he added: "It could possibly really change things for us, structurally change the programme a bit.

"I'm hoping this will reveal a lot about what we can do and what we cannot do in that venue, and who comes down and who doesn't come down."

Of the contemporary music in the programme, Mr Linehan said: "It's the most detailed yet, it is more complex and larger from a programmatic point of view."

On the Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis, he said: "The National Theatre of Scotland haven't done it, and it is there and available and no one is doing it, so why? So it was interesting to ask the question and Joe Douglas has a very interesting view of it.

"This year is the 70th anniversary of the 1948 production....this feels like a nice way to have a conversation about how it may be done.

"Maybe if its great, we'll get our get our heads together and get a production up."

The National Theatre of Scotland returns to the International Festival with a new production of David Greig and Gordon Macintyre’s musical, Midsummer.

It will be at The Hub throughout August.

There will also be a staging of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, and, the festival says "Druid Theatre’s staging, directed by Tony Award-winning Garry Hynes, has been hailed as one of its greatest contemporary productions."

ANALYSIS: Does the 2018 programme plot a course to a new kind of Edinburgh International Festival?

The Festival also features Handel's Samson, performed by the Dunedin Consort - the acclaimed Scottish ensemble which was initially part of the group of companies cut from Regular Funding by Creative Scotland in the recent controversial funding round.

Subsequently, the group was re-instated on regular, three year funding.

Mr Linehan said: "I didn't get at all. The Dunedin Consort are pretty much world class.

"You can argue the toss on all sorts of things, and one of the things people have to do in funding is make subjective decisions.

"They are absolutely world class.

"They are genuinely internally recognised, they are recognised at that level. I was very happy to see them reinstated. The Samson we are doing is a very good example of how we work together."

He added: "I said that to Creative Scotland when that happened, I said: 'Huh? Run that by me.'

"There are those subjective bids, and you have to be very careful about banging the drum without knowing what's going on.

"But with Dunedin, I couldn't see it. I am very happy they are back on track."