'Anti-Islam' sex tourism book takes to the stage at Festival

A CONTROVERSIAL novel about sex tourism in Thailand which landed its author in court accused of stirring hatred against Muslims is to be turned into a new play for the Edinburgh International Festival.

Catalan director Calixto Bieito, who is renowned for his X-rated productions, will work with novelist Michel Houellebecq to adapt his explosive book Platform for the stage.

The production is being billed as one of the highlights of this summer's Festival.

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The novel caused uproar when it was published in 2001 and infuriated Muslim fundamentalists.

Platform tells the story of a French tourist who sets up a Thai travel agency specialising in sex tourism. In the book, the business meets the wrath of Islamic fundamentalists, who murder his girlfriend and more than 100 others in a terrorist attack on a leisure centre.

The book features embittered diatribes against Muslims from the bereaved businessman character.

The author, now said to live as a virtual recluse in Ireland, went on to be sued, unsuccessfully, in the French courts for inciting racial hatred. He was quoted in an interview at the time as describing Islam as "the most stupid of religions".

Sir Brian McMaster today hailed director Bieito - who has been dubbed the "the Spanish Quentin Tarantino" after featuring necrophilia and torture in previous Edinburgh shows including Hamlet, Il Trovatore and Celestina - and described Platform as a masterpiece.

He said: "Bieito is one of the great directors in the world today and he's going to be adapting a very popular book, which has made a huge impact so far."

The show, which will get its world premiere at the Royal Lyceum Theatre this summer, is likely to be the most controversial in Sir Brian's final Festival, full details of which were unveiled today. Other big Festival shows this year include Mozart's The Magic Flute, to be conducted by Claudio Abbado, Chekov's The Three Sisters, which will be performed by the American Repertory Company, Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida and a ballet production of Don Quixote, by choreographer George Balanchine.

Joint productions are being staged with the National Theatre of Scotland, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal Opera House.

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The Festival - the 60th to be staged - will give people under the age of 26 the chance to snap up unsold tickets on the day of the performance for just 6, while 50 tickets priced 10-a-head will be kept back for sale until just one hour before the performance.

Sir Brian, who will be succeeded after this year's Festival by Australian impresario Jonathan Mills, added: "The Edinburgh International Festival is one of the most exciting places in the world to experience the performing arts and enables us to present world-class performances to the widest possible audience."

Ticket for all shows at the Festival, which runs from August 13-September 3, will go on sale on April 8. Further details are available on www.eif.co.uk or from the box office on 0131-473 2000.

Evening News arts critic Thom Dibdin said: "It's a classic Brian McMaster programme.

"The only thing I would say is that the theatre programme isn't as strong as I'd like it to be. There needs to be more plays than there is in there at the moment.

"Bieito is nothing if not controversial and the book is all about the sex industry. But he is so perverse that it wouldn't surprise me if there wasn't any sex in this production."

Highlights of a feast of culture


The Festival's classical music programme will feature appearances from the Budapest Festival Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the Orchestra of St Luke's.

The Festival finale, the Bank of Scotland Fireworks Concert in Princes Street Gardens, will feature Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, performed by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.


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Along with Platform, other highlights in the programme are set to include Realism, the new work Anthony Neilson is writing and directing in conjunction with the new National Theatre.


Dance fans are in for a major treat when Brazilian street dance guru Bruno Beltrao brings his renowned breakdancing troupe to the city for two major shows, while two superstars of Indian dance - Alarmel Valli and Madhavi Mudgal - will be joining forces for the show Samanvaya. Scottish Ballet will be teaming up with the orchestra of Scottish Opera for a series of shows at the Playhouse.


Among the operatic highlights is expected to be the opening concert performance of Strauss's Elektra, with the title role being tackled by American soprano Jeanne-Michele Charbonnet, and a brand new opera created by Scottish composer Stuart MacRae.

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