Traversing the Fringe
With Traverse Theatre's Fringe programme launching this week, here's an overview of what's in store this August
The beginning of the summer months in Scotland means only one thing: festival season. The Traverse theatre, home to exciting festivals throughout the year such as Manipulate and Imaginate, has long been dubbed Scotland's 'new writing' theatre and this spirit is never more alive than during the Edinburgh Fringe festival.
With their programme launch on 2 June, the Traverse are this year bringing ten premieres to the festival, including four world premieres, with a particularly international flavour to their programme. Speaking about the festival programme, artistic director Orla O'Loughlin, who is undertaking her fourth Fringe with the Traverse said: "We present the work of a number of thrilling international companies and writers all of which add to a timely examination of the complex times in which we live and what the future may hold. It is a privilege to curate such an exciting and eclectic mix of work from artists and companies who I trust will challenge, move and inspire our audience in true Traverse Festival style.”
This is clearly apparent in the Traverse Breakfast Plays series, set to return with six plays from six different countries: Canada, China, Egypt, Scotland, Turkey, and Ukraine. The plays have been commissioned by recently appointed associate director Zinnie Harris, and will each have a two-performance script-in-hand reading in the final two weeks of the festival.
Also presented by The Traverse Theatre Company is the world premier of Swallow, written by Olivier Award winner Stef Smith, and Crash, returning after a successful run at A Play, A Pie And A Pint and having just been nominated for a CATS Best New Play award, the winner of which will be announced on 14 June. Swallow, which will be performed as part of the Made In Scotland series, is directed by Orla O'Loughlin and headed by a cast of three women. Dealing with the everyday demons people must face and with music from LAW, this is set to be an exciting new production with women and women's issues front and centre. Crash will star Jamie Michie of HBO's Game of Thrones, and tells the story of a trader who tries to rebuild his life in the aftermath of a traumatic event.
Also in the Made In Scotland showcase will be Glasgow based company Vanishing Point's new show Tomorrow in Traverse One, exploring dementia and the concepts of needing care and needing to care, as well as Gary McNair's A Gambler's Guide To Dying in Traverse Two. It is an intergenerational tale, telling the story of one boy's grandad who won a fortune betting on the 1966 World Cup, then chose to gamble it all on living to see the year 2000 after being diagnosed with cancer. Offsite, the Made in Scotland showcase brings us Zinnie and John Harris's operatic version of The Garden, originally commissioned by the Traverse as a short play in 2009. This dystopian tale of a couple at the end of their tether was commissioned by Sound and premiered in Aberdeen in 2012.
In addition to this Scottish series, the National Theatre of Scotland are bringing their new musical adaption on Alan Warner's novel The Sopranos, in a co-production with Live Theatre. Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour is adapted by Lee Hall, author of Billy Elliot, and tells the tale of six single teenage girls on the cusp of a national choir competition, and much much more.
Traverse One will also play home to Tim Crouch's An Oak Tree, which is returning to the Traverse after 10 years. This Obie and Herald Angel award winning show has played worldwide. In each performance, Crouch invites a professional actor who has never seen the script or the show before. It follows a similar formula to Fringe success White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, but in addition to the text, each actor must explore the emotion in the piece which examines themes of loss and suggestion on a personal level.
Also returning to the Fringe are Gate Theatre who are bringing new play The Christians, an exploration of faith and community. The company will be reflecting this spirit using a community character from Morningside. After success at this year's Dublin Fringe, Irish company Corn Exchange in association with Cusack Projects bring their adaption of Elimear McBride's hugely successful novel A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing. Audiences who have not yet read the tale can be surprised, whereas those who have can enjoy the intricacies of the adaptation. Rough Magic presents the UK premiere of How To Keep An Alien by Sonya Kelly.
Over in Traverse Two, artist Bryony Kimmings brings her new work Fake It 'till You Make It as part of the British Council Showcase. Made in collaboration with her partner Tim Grayburn, following a theme of working with family after the hugely successful Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model with her niece, this new piece provides an honest look at clinical depression and being in love.
Writer, director and performer Valentjin Dhaenens returns with Pardon/In Cuffs, unraveling the complex relationship between criminal and judge. The audience's allegiance comes into question through staging as well as performance. Also hailing from Belgium, Ontroerend Goed return to the Traverse with A Game Of You. This experimental theatre piece takes six audience members through a series of rooms, asking them questions about themselves and each other. It is people watching in the extreme and with few spaces and a five day run, likely to sell out fast.
Australian company One Step At A Time Like This bring show Forever Young, inviting one audience member to take a seat in the Traverse foyer, awaiting a phone call. With a cast of teenage Irish actors the play looks at youthful idealism, taking one audience member at a time on an outdoor adventure.
Unlimited by the late night slot, Unlimited Theatre present the Scottish premiere of Am I Dead Yet? performed by Jon Spooner and Chris Thorpe. Inspired by research into contemporary developments into resuscitation science, and made in collaboration with emergency care professionals, this play offers an insightful look into death and why we don't talk about it. Spooner and Thorpe hope to change this with stories and songs, hopefully bringing some light to this dark matter.
It is a season for returns at the Traverse, as well as premiering new work. From Crouch's An Oak Tree to possible best new play Crash to the mind games of Ontroerend Goed, there is something to pique the interest of every Fringe theatre-goer at Traverse as they stand confidently behind their performers and their programme. O'Loughlin calls it a "bold and dynamic programme that once again marks the Traverse Festival out as the home of compelling, contemporary drama" with pride. It is clear to see the boldness and diversity ahead from the theatre and its artistic director, both confident in their work.