Traverse on Radio 3

Mar 17 2013 | By More

50 Years of the Traverse Theatre

Radio 3 Traverse Theatre Joyce McMillanBy Thom Dibdin

A documentary marking Traverse Theatre’s 50th anniversary is to be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Sunday 17 March at 7.45pm as the station’s Sunday Feature.

Scotsman theatre critic Joyce McMillan follows the theatre’s rise from a a tiny first floor room, in what had been a brothel in the Lawnmarket, on to the Grassmarket and to its current purpose-built, twin auditoria complex.

Joyce McMilland told Æ: “It was a great experience making this programme with Julian May. The story will be familiar to many, but in the middle there’s a fantastic piece of archive that Julian found of Jennie Lee, the then arts minister, opening the new Traverse in the Grassmarket in August 1969

“Just listen to what she says, and compare it with the language of arts ministers today – so relevant to all the Creative Scotland debate of the last year.”

According to the BBC: “The Traverse is one of the two most important theatres for new writing in Britain (the other being the Royal Court). It was founded by the artist Richard Demarco, publisher John Calder and producer Jim Haynes, to provide ‘the fringe all year round’.”

Famously, it’s name came out of a mistake. Terry Lane, the first artistic director, thought that seats arranged on either side of the acting space was called ‘traverse’ rather than ‘transverse’. By the time he realised his mistake the name had stuck.

Joyce McMillan has been reviewing Traverse shows for three decades and wrote The Traverse Theatre Story (1988). In the Radio 3 feature, she interviews several of the writers, directors and actors who have passed over the Traverse stage. The programme includes location recordings and excerpts from famous productions.

McMillan considers, too, the role of the theatre in the light of recent developments, such as the founding of the National Theatre of Scotland and the forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence.

50 Years of the Traverse Theatre Radio 3, Sunday 17 March, 7.45pm on BBC Radio 3:
The programme will be available on demand from the Radio 3 Website:


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