SF:<br/>Scotland's new writing theatre has a new artistic director. Although it's too soon for Dominic Hill to have made an impact, the first full season under his charge will be the most keenly watched in more than a decade. Traverse Associate Producer Laura Collier lays out the full Traverse Spring Season 2008 exclusively for The Skinny<br/>PQ:<br/>if there's one thing that binds this very diverse programme together into a cohesive whole, it's these little connections that make up a sort of extended Traverse family

Feature by Hugo Fluendy | 06 Jan 2008
There's a lot on, so let's get straight into it. Centrepiece to this Spring's offering at The Traverse is John Byrne's long-awaited Nova Scotia, the so-called fourth part of the classic Slab Boys trilogy. Commissioned by The Traverse way back in 2002, the play has been some six years in the gestation. But 2003's smoking ban almost put the kibosh on the play seeing the light of day – at least in Scotland – altogether. Byrne has described main characters Phil McCann and Spanky Farrell as 'young, sharp and bored – they do as little work and as much smoking as possible', and the thought of using talc fags was too much for the great man. In a sharp rebuke to what he perceived as censorship, Byrne threatened to ban any Scottish performances of his work. Thankfully, the difficulties of a smoke-free stage have been overcome and we can look forward to the work's premiere at The Traverse on 29 April.

Written in the aftermath of the revelation that his mentally disturbed mother had been sexually abused by his grandfather, the play continues the series' thinly veiled autobiography. Like Byrne and his partner, the actress Tilda Swinton, who live there, the play is set in the Highlands and the central character's mother is also schizophrenic. The play is yet to be cast and Collier is tight lipped about who will be invited to read for the two main parts. However, previous productions since the series premiere in 1978 at The Traverse have featured some of the biggest names in Scottish stage and screen such as Robert Carlyle, Robbie Coltrane and Alan Cumming. And with one acclaimed off-Broadway production starring Val Kilmer, Kevin Bacon and Sean Penn, the expectation that this latest might feature the odd celebrity is not unfounded. Quality is one thing that is for sure however. Quite simply, Collier gushes, "This is a wonderful, wonderful play."

Another keynote production will be disabled actor company Graeae and Graham Eatough's Suspect Culture collaboration Static. As with all of Graeae's work, the performances will be fully signed and audio-described. But more than guaranteeing access, the techniques resonate neatly with a plot that revolves around recorded sounds, in this case from beyond the grave. A young widow discovers a compilation tape made by her husband, and Dan Rebellato's plot details her obsessive quest to decode some kind of message from the cassette. The audio-visual theme to the evening will be developed with the screening of a short film Missing, also directed by Eatough. "The audience will be buying a ticket not only for Static but for the short film as well which is a piece which I saw at the Edinburgh International Film Festival this summer. And whilst they're not connected in terms of characters, they're both very much about loss and grieving, so it's interesting seeing film and theatre in one space," she explains. Interestingly, the connection with the Film Festival is precursor to a full-blown collaboration with a series of co-curated events during its new time slot this June.

Among other highlights, Max Stafford-Clark's new writing company Out of Joint return in February with the premiere of a David Edgar-penned piece called Testing The Echo. "This is going to be very interesting indeed," enthuses Collier. "The last time they were here was with a studio piece [November 2007's Flightpath]. This time they've gone big and gone into Traverse 1. We have a longstanding relationship with Out of Joint because the [Artistic] Director Maxwell Stafford-Clark used to be Artistic Director here, many, many years ago before he went on to run The Royal Court." Edgar, fresh from the RSC's recent triumphant adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby, uses the often fraught interactions of a group of people preparing to become British citizens as a lens with which to examine the way we define ourselves as a nation. Young Vic Associate Matthew Dunster directs a cast which includes 2007 TMA-nominee Kirsty Bushell.

Completing the flagship dramas for Spring is Birmingham Rep production The Mothership. Somewhat unusually for a headline production in the main theatre Traverse 1, the play is written for a young audience. Collier takes up the story: "It's an absolutely joyous play which I read several months ago now. It's by a writer who's well known to us, Douglas Maxwell. He's written masses and masses for The Traverse and is absolutely a Scottish institution. The humour in his writing is wonderful, particularly in this piece which is aimed at a slightly younger age group of around 14 plus."

Dance too is well served with choreographer-of-the-moment Hofesh Shechter reprising his energetic Uprising, that first wowed Traverse audiences back in October 2006 but is this time paired with Southbank Centre and Sadler's Wells-commissioned In Your Rooms. Again, this is the product of an ongoing collaboration with Scotland's national centre for dance, Dance Base. Indeed, if there's one thing that binds this very diverse programme together into a cohesive whole, it's these little connections that make up a sort of extended Traverse family.

"Those connections happen all the time," agrees Collier. "The very fact that Douglas Maxwell is doing his new production with Birmingham Rep for instance – Douglas has worked with us for years now as part of his journey. Now he's very much a developed artist and he's gone onto work with Birmingham Rep. We were with Douglas from the very early days and we also have a longstanding relationship with Birmingham Rep, so that's just one little connection."

Highlights from the Traverse Spring Season 2008
Testing The Echo, 6-9 Feb
David Edgar's new play about Moslems preparing for UK citizenship for Out of Joint

Palmstar Poppy, 14-16 Feb
Valentine's Day special, David Paul Jones' 'th