Venue of the Month: Traverse

The Traverse proudly boasts that it is the home of new writing. However, even more lurks behind the elegant foyer...

Feature by Michael Cox | 01 Oct 2009

"So much of theatre, for me, is about the experience for the audience, and I’m very keen we offer as many different experiences as possible: not in just the sort of plays but in the way that we present them." So says Dominic Hill, the artistic director of the Traverse Theatre, one of Scotland’s flagship theatre companies. In describing the Traverse, Hill says that it is "possibly the only presenter and producer of new work in Scotland. It’s a place to go to if you want to see the latest that’s going on in Scottish performing arts. So, it’s about the new. New work."

The Traverse is home to two theatre spaces. "Traverse 1 is very flexible. It can operate as a proscenium theatre, but it can be reduced to something intimate but still remain grand," explains Hill. "Traverse 2 is a great limited space. What’s good is that between the two you can present all kinds of work on whatever scale you want." Hill has now been in the post for just over a year, coming in from Dundee Rep. "Now I’m developing new plays, working with writers and presenting new companies. Before, it was about working with old texts with a particular group of people. It’s a much wider, more open remit." In speaking about the past year, Hill is obviously pleased. "Lots of really exciting things have happened. One of the things that I was really keen to do when I started was to increase the amount of activity in the building. We’ve done that massively. We have lots of different things, whether it’s lunchtime drama or theatre in the bar, introducing new kinds of music or scratch performances. We’ve presented a season of debut plays with the NTS. Those have all been very exciting." And the work continues. Hill is in rehearsal for a new play: The Dark Things. Written by Ursula Rani Sarma, it follows a group of survivors from a serious road accident. "It’s about guilt and loss and survival. And it’s an extraordinary and wonderful play." Hill initially read a draft and knew he wanted to do it. "Sarma is a poet, and it’s a very haunting, poetic piece full of imagery. It’s wonderfully funny. It has a strange, quirky David Lynch-esque quality to it, which I really enjoy."

Future work at the Traverse includes an eclectic mixture of companies and styles. Vox Motus returns with Bright Black before heading out on a Scottish tour. A partnership with Tramway brings An Argument about Sex, a production that will use both theatre spaces. And Visible Fictions bring their Christmas show Zorro, which Hill calls "a mad enough idea for me to go with." "What really excites me,’ concludes Hill, "is that, for Scotland, the Traverse is unique. We are the only theatre that develops and commissions work and puts it on. But something that excites me, particularly this autumn, is that we’re producing such a range of work. We’re doing new music. We’re doing contemporary dance. We’re doing a new opera. And that’s what makes the place so exciting: the huge variety of work that’s going on year round."

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