The Village goes to Town

Mar 31 2014 | By More

VPT takes over Traverse One

By Thom Dibdin

VPT at home: Pussywhipped by Tim Primrose. Photo © Jonathan Ley

VPT at home: Pussywhipped by Tim Primrose. Photo © Jonathan Ley

Traverse One is being taken over all this week by the Village Pub Theatre – Edinburgh’s pop-up new-writing company whose natural habitat is the Village Pub in Leith.

And in an unprecedented move, the company are performing on Monday – the evening Traverse One is traditionally dark, even during the fringe. Opening night is Monday 31 March, 7pm, with a rehearsed reading of The Happiest Day of Brendan Smillie’s Life by Catherine Grosvenor.

Caitlin Skinner, the VPT’s artistic director, told Æ about the company’s sojourn in town, pointing out that since the first performances in June 2012 the company has presented 73 short plays from 34 different writers in the side room at the Village Pub in Leith. Not to mention the groundbreaking Twitter Plays at the Lyceum.

“We’re ready to stretch our wings and grow what we’re doing,” Skinner said. “We’ve been given the perfect opportunity to move into Traverse One for a week with a whole programme of fantastic new writing.

“Over the last few months I’ve been working with the six core VPT writers to develop six new full length plays, many of which started life as short pieces performed in the pub.

“One of the best things about making work in the pub is we have a direct relationship with our audience and we’ll be looking to continue that in the Traverse too by finding different ways to ask the audience what they think of what we’re creating.”

Those six core writers whose full length plays are being performed Monday to Friday are Catherine Grosvenor, Louise Knowles, Sophie Good, Colin Bell, Morna Pearson and VPT’s founder and producer, James Ley. On Saturday the evening looks back over the history of VPT, with some guest writers added to the mix.

“We’re bringing back our favourite short plays from all our work so far,” says Skinner. “We are going to share them in a gloriously chaotic evening of great writing – with beer and cake of course!

“If you’ve never seen our work before this’ll be like our Greatest Hits album.”

Here, then, is the low-down on this week’s productions from the writers themselves.

Catherine Grosvenor
The Happiest Day of Brendan Smillie’s life: Monday 31 March, 7pm.

“The idea for the play came from a brainstorming session I was having with other writers. We were chucking ideas about to try and catch the attention of some radio producers who insisted they would only consider something for broadcast which was totally original and different. We were scraping the depths of our creative barrels when I came up with the idea of a man who falls in love with a llama. ‘It’s been done before,’ the radio producers said, but the idea stuck with me…”

Louise Knowles
Listeners Beware: Tuesday 1 April , 7pm.
“The piece gives the audience a chance to experience visually something which is primarily an auditory experience – through characters such as a foley artist who creates sound live on stage, often in unexpected and comical ways.
“In its shortened form the play had an element of sketch comedy about it so one of the challenges in lengthening the piece has been to create a more complex world for the characters outside of the play’s four walls, while trying to retain the simple slapstick comedy which the audience responded to so well in the original.”

Sophie Good
End of the Line: Wednesday 2 April, 7pm.
“Why did I decide to write a play about a woman waiting for a tram?
“I guess I started with the fact that a woman waiting for an infinitely long time for a tram is inherently funny, especially if you live in Edinburgh where it has taken on a Godot-like quality. It also felt like it had strong metaphorical qualities.
“There’s only so much you can do sitting in a room with a laptop. Theatre is a live experience so I want to get a sense of how it works, what people felt about it and maybe some ideas on how to take it further.”

Colin Bell
Samson: Thursday 3rd April
“Samson is brutal, intense and kind of like Kouros.
“There’s nothing like having a script read for an audience- listening out for shuffle in seat moments and immediate responses. I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing how far we can go with Samson’s story and the particular aspects that are most commented on.

Morna Pearson
Walking on Walls: Friday 4th April 7pm (Double bill with Q4F)
“I’m always attracted to characters that are quiet and slightly odd, the type that would be easy to ignore or laugh at in real life. But, as with this character, if you spend enough time with them they will reveal their rich, and usually obsessive, inner lives.
“In the pub the relationship between audience and performer is a very intimate one. I suppose that has influenced the piece, for once I want the audience to really lean in, like they’re being told a secret, whereas I’m usually more comfortable keeping them at arm’s length.”

James Ley, founder and producer of VPT
Q4F: Friday 4 April, 7pm (double bill with Walking on Walls)
“I’m interested in what the past tells us about the future and how we can use that information. What do we discard and what do we keep? How can we be free of the past? I would like the audience to piece together the information from the four monologues as characters pull apart the past. I’d like the audience to find it funny and to feel like they’re getting the inside scoop on a load of gossip and to get into the heads of characters working in bank that they might either have preconceived ideas about or not really thought about before.

“I think sharing work at the Village Pub Theatre has often been about sharing very early work and taking a risk and that’s paid off. Although I’m nervous that won’t work at the Traverse I hope that our crazy cocky confidence will pay off and that these scripts will come to life. For Q4F I think it will be interesting to see the corporate world (or a small abstracted corner of it) come to life in a space that tries to separate itself (understandably) from corporate Edinburgh. Be really interesting to hear what these characters have to say and how it sounds on the Traverse stage. I think.”

Village Pub Theatre Take Over the Traverse
Monday 31 March – Saturday 5 April 2014.
Daily, 7pm.
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge Street EH1 2ED
Full details and ticket details on the Traverse website:


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