Traverse programme Spring to Summer 2014

Jan 7 2014 | By More

New Writing at heart as Trav builds on 50th year

The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler (Vanishing Point and National Theatre of Scotland) 29 April – 3 May

The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler (29 April – 3 May). Photo © Katrina Lithgow

By Thom Dibdin

Ultra-new writing and new touring shows are combined with recent favourites in the Traverse’s January to June 2014 programme, announced today (Tuesday 7 Jan).

If there are many productions which had their genesis at the theatre, what is missing are any major new productions from the Traverse theatre company itself. However a total of 27 different productions, two festivals and a series of participatory projects are on offer.

In their introduction to the new programme, artistic director Orla O’Loughlin and executive producer Linda Crooks say: “Having honoured the past we now renew our determination to usher in the next 50 years of ground-breaking creativity, opportunity and inspiration. The essence of the Traverse ethos remains a pioneering spirit and a lust for creative adventure; a place where new talent and work begins its journey.”

In terms of ultra-new writing and creative adventure, the arrival of the Village Pub Theatre at the end of March for a week-long residency is a major coup. While the introduction of a bevy of directors to make their individual marks on a new ten-minute script by Morna Pearson (Feb 15) in Director’s Cut has got to be a fascinating evening.

As for new Scottish work, Edinburgh’s Stellar Quines bring Dare to Care (Mar 19-21) about women in the prison system, with Muriel Romanes directing. The major new show of the season is the NTS/Vanishing Point collaboration in The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler at the end of April. Local company Plutot la Vie finish off the season with La Tragedie Comique, and Dogstar bring their new work Factor 9 in May.

Other new work includes Never Try This At Home (Mar 26-29), an homage to wacky Saturday morning kids TV from Told by an Idiot, a timely political piece about the NHS from Out of Joint called This May Hurt a Bit (Apr 8-12), the searing 2012 piece by Vivienne Franzmann for A Clean Break, Pests (May 22-24) , and Zendeh’s latest: HEART (May 29/30). Another returning company is Blue Raincoat – previously seen with smash hit versions of Flann O’Brien’s books – who have First Cosmonaut, the story of Yuri Gagarin (June).

The big returning favourite has to be a new season of A Play, A Pie and A Pint for a five week run of new plays throughout April and into May, with new work by Tony Cox, Johnny McKnight, Amba Chevannes, Gerda Stevenson and Iain Heggie. It would be brilliant to find a way to lengthen that run, but we have to make do with what we have, for the moment. Also returning are the Manipulate and Imaginate festivals.

There are over half-a-dozen shows seen at last year’s fringe, including the PPP-commissioned Banksy: The room in the Elephant. Directed by Emma Callander, the Traverse’s new Associate Director, it will be a chance for audiences to get a measure of her work. A pair of Traverse-born hits return, with the fantastic pairing of A Respectable Widow Takes to Vulgarity and Clean at the end of March, both of which have also been part of PPP and are then on their way to New York.

Fans of young stars of Scottish theatre, Kieran Hurley and AJ Taudevin, will be thrilled to see the return of their Chalk Farm (Mar 20-22), while there is a clear Scottish connection of a different sort with The Confessions of Gordon Brown (Mar 11-15).

Other shows seen at last year’s fringe include the breathtaking and heart-rending Dark Vanilla Jungle at the end of Feb, for which Gemma Whelan just missed out on a Stage award. There’s also Gym Party (Mar 4/5), Made in China’s interactive game show that thrilled audiences at Summerhall, and Live Theatre’s Captain Amazing (Apr 3-5).

Back again – a hit at the fringe of 2012 – is nabokov’s Blink (Feb 20-22). While Clare Duffy’s MONEY the Game Show started life as a Platform 18 Award winner, this incarnation from Unlimited Theatre was wowing audience’s at London’s Bush theatre last Spring.

This year’s Platform 18 Award winners are Rob Jones and Michael John O’Neill’s Enormous Yes with The Forbidden Experiment (May 1-3), an intriguing piece about language, forbidden thoughts and forbidden acts on Inchkeith Island in the Firth of Forth.

Surprisingly, there is not a huge amount of dance in this programme, with a lonely visit from Scottish Dance Theatre at the end of February standing out. Besides Yama/Kingdom, a double bill of pieces by Damien Jalet and Jorge Crecis, the company bring Fleur Darkin’s splendid Innocence, a piece for 0-7 year-olds which uses William Blake’s ideas as its starting point.

Traverse Theatre listings, January – June 2014:

Class Act (Traverse Theatre Company)
22 – 23 January
Two evenings of new work from the Traverse’s flagship schools project. Now in its twenty-third year, Class Act challenges senior pupils from schools across Edinburgh to create scripts which are then premiered in Traverse 1. This year professional playwrights; Peter Arnott, Catherine Grosvenor, Nicola McCartney, Stef Smith and Gerda Stevenson have been working with pupils from Broughton High School, Craigmount High School, James Gillespie’s High School, Trinity Academy and Wester Hailes Education Centre.

Manipulate Visual Theatre Festival #7
31 January – 8 February
Full programme  at:

Directors’ Cut (Traverse Theatre Company)
15 February
What do you get when you give one ten minute play to a handful of different directors? Very contrasting performances of the same text. A journey of discovery as they explore how the choices a director makes can often profoundly shape what we see on stage. For this inaugural event award-winning Channel 4 Writer-in-Residence, Morna Pearson, has written a mini world premiere.

Blink (nabokov and Soho Theatre)
20 – 22 February
Against the backdrop of lonely London, the worlds of two shy individuals collide, and a charming, delicate and darkly funny story unfolds before your eyes. Directed by Soho Theatre Artistic Associate and nabokov Artistic Director Joe Murphy, Blink was a sell-out hit at Soho Theatre and at the Traverse in 2012.

Dark Vanilla Jungle (Supporting Wall)
27 February – 1 March
A beautiful, breathtaking drama about one girl’s craving for family and home – and the lengths to which she’ll go to achieve them. This Fringe First Award-winning smash hit is the latest acclaimed work by Time Out, Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle Award winner Philip Ridley. Starring Gemma Whelan (Game of Thrones, One Man Two Guvnors), Dark Vanilla Jungle takes the audience on a sweeping, intimate journey that draws on themes of gang culture, female objectification and the impact of trauma on young people.

Yama/Kingdom Double Bill (Scottish Dance Theatre)
28 February – 1 March
Two compelling works by international choreographers performed by Scottish Dance Theatre’s exceptional dancers. Expect passion, energy and boundary-pushing dance.
Yama by Damien Jalet
Created with the dancers of SDT, this takes as its starting point the mythology associated with mountains and is a mysterious yet visceral metaphor of collective ascension. Costume Design: Jean Paul Lespagnard. Lighting Design: Emma Jones. Music: Winter Family.
Kingdom by Jorge Crecis
This isn’t about a journey, it is a journey. Starting with 52 bamboo sticks, 120 ropes, the company of 10 dancers are challenged to become a group and to effectively transform the raw materials into a 6 metre human shelter. Inspired by Crecis’s participation in the Madrid Occupy movement, Kingdom is brutal, delicate and political. Costume design: Carys Hobbs. Lighting Design: Emma Jones. Music: The Artist.

Fleur Darkin’s Innocence (Scottish Dance Theatre)
1 March, 12 noon
A unique playroom performance, Innocence invites 0-7 year olds (and their adults), to explore William Blake’s imagination. A magical theatrical journey led by Scottish Dance Theatre’s captivating dancers, with live music, songs, giggles and animal noises by Paul Bradley.

Gym Party (Made in China)
4 – 5 March
Chris, Jess and Ira will do whatever it takes to win. For themselves. For you. It’s all the same. A razor sharp, darkly comic exploration of our universal desire to win. Our three intrepid contestants compete in a series of games, from the hilariously stupid to the arbitrary and downright heart-breaking. Anarchic, thoughtful and ultimately moving, Gym Party speaks to anyone who frets about the state of the world and how we treat each other – then gets distracted by a dumb celebrity tweet.

International Women’s Day Event (Women in Theatre Scotland)
8 March
Join Women in Theatre Scotland as they present an evening of readings and discussion to raise funds for Women’s Fund for Scotland and Womankind Worldwide.
Discussion & Open Forum, 6pm
A panel of distinguished guests invite you to discuss with them the role women theatre makers are playing in Scottish Theatre today.
Staged Readings, 7.30pm
Created to mark International Women’s Day, come and watch this wonderful array of short, script-in-hand performances created by some of the most exciting names in Scottish contemporary theatre-making. Includes new work from, amongst others, Clare Duffy, Catherine Grosvenor, Jules Horne, Nicola McCartney, Stef Smith and Isobel Wright.

The Confessions of Gordon Brown (Many Rivers Productions)
11 – 15 March
Gordon Brown hilariously exposes the darkest secrets of being Prime Minister – the stab-in-the-back plottings, the betrayals and most importantly – the hair gel. In a candid portrait of life inside Downing Street Gordon at last reveals what it takes to knife your way to the top and rule a nation. He also discloses how his dream of power went awry. A brand new one-man play by acclaimed Emmy-nominated writer and director Kevin Toolis, starring Ian Grieve as Gordon Brown.

Pronoun by Evan Placey (Lyceum Youth Theatre)
13 – 15 March
Josh and Isabella are childhood sweethearts. They were meant to spend their gap year together. They were meant to be together forever. But Isabella has now become a boy. A powerful love story about transition, testosterone, and James Dean, directed by Christie O’Carroll.

Before each performance of Pronoun, members of the Lyceum Youth Theatre will also be showcasing work created by the Traverse Theatre Scribble Group.

Dare to Care (Stellar Quines & Fife Cultural Trust)
19 – 21 March
Arriving for a spell behind bars, where there are no secrets or boundaries, a group of women tell their stories in a sometimes crazy, often poignant insight into their lives and the price they’re forced to pay. Christine Lindsay joined the Scottish Prison Service in 1976 and spent the equivalent of two life sentences behind bars. Some of her time was spent at Cornton Vale Prison which inspired her to write this play.

Chalk Farm (ThickSkin)
20 – 22 March
Award-winning playwrights Kieran Hurley and AJ Taudevin join forces with highly acclaimed ThickSkin (Blackout, The Static) in this explosive new play about love and blame in the aftermath of the 2011 London riots. Through a mother’s desire for safety and acceptance, and a young boy’s need to be recognized and excepted as part of something, Chalk Farm offers an uncompromising and ultimately heartbreaking examination of a fractured society.

Never Try This At Home (Told by an Idiot)
26 – 29 March
Shushi was a programme so anarchic in its time that adults and children alike watched it in their millions. Until one fatal transmission where the female presenter was pushed over the edge, an obsessive fan resorted to desperate measures, and Phil Collins was locked in his dressing room.

Inspired by legendary Saturday morning shows such as Tiswas and Going Live, Never Try This At Home re-unites the remaining survivors of an infamous TV show, Shushi, and throws the spotlight on those presenters who are soon to realise the insidious side of fame.

Double Bill: A Respectable Widow Takes to Vulgarity / Clean (Traverse Theatre Company)
26 – 29 March
A Respectable Widow Takes to Vulgarity by Douglas Maxwell: Mourning her husband’s death, Annabelle strikes up an unlikely relationship with his potty-mouthed employee, Jim. As she enters into Jim’s un-finishing school, Annabelle finally finds her own voice and gets herself heard. This riotous explosion of expletives addresses how we express and process our grief.

Clean by Sabrina Mahfouz: Welcome to the world of London’s top female underground criminals on their biggest job yet, an international heist. Zainab, Chloe and Katya are three fast-talking, no-nonsense criminal heroines who mean business. Clean, by poet and playwright Sabrina Mahfouz, is razor-sharp and effortlessly slick.

Developed from readings as part of Dream Plays series during the 2012 Fringe Festival, and a sellout during the Fringe Festival 2013, Clean and A Respectable Widow Takes to Vulgarity will transfer to New York later this Spring.

Best of The Village Pub Theatre (Village Pub Theatre)
31 March – 5 April
Director Caitlin Skinner with writers: Colin Bell, Sophie Good, Catherine Grosvenor, James Ley, Louise Knowles, Morna Pearson and special guests.

For one week, Traverse 1 will be the home of the lo-fi, writer-led theatre collective based in the Village Pub in Leith. Throughout the week the collective will be developing pieces and will present these each evening. These intimate evening readings, Monday – Friday, will give the audience an opportunity to see work taking shape. On the final night, Saturday, 5 April, the company will present an evening of the best pieces from the VPT repertoire, past and present, written by the collective as well as special guest writers.

A Play, A Pie and A Pint (Orán Mór presented by The Traverse Theatre)
1 April – 3 May
Lunchtime favourite A Play, A Pie and A Pint is back for its seventh season with a tasty array of treats, so choose your brew, pick a pie and feast on the finest theatre around.

Love With a Capital ‘L’ by Tony Cox
Tue 1 – Sat 5 Apr, 1pm
When Hilda Matheson, Head of Talks at the BBC, commissioned her lover, Vita Sackville-West, and her homosexual husband, Harold Nicolson, to speak on the subject of ‘marriage’, it was a step too far for Director-General John Reith.

Perfect Stroke by Johnny McKnight
Tue 8 – Sat 12 April, 1pm (also 7pm Fri 11)
A lively cat and mouse chase ensues between Ms Stone and errant schoolboy Tommy as an innocent flirtation escalates to a struggle for power in the classroom. A nerve-shredding insight into what happens when lines are crossed.

The Last Bloom by Amba Chevannes
Tue 15 – Sat 19 Apr, 1pm (also 7pm on Fri 18)
A heartwarming and powerful drama following two headstrong nursing home residents, Cynthia and Myrtle, as they battle for dominance over their shared space and memories.

Skeleton Wumman by Gerda Stevenson
Tue 22 – Sat 26 Apr, 1pm (also 7pm, Fri 25)
Skeleton Wumman gives a classic Scandinavian folktale a haunting twist for the 21st-century, as told by a young disabled Scots teenager. A contemporary drama with live music.

Queen of Lucky People by Iain Heggie
Tue 29 Apr – Sat 3 May, 1pm
A delicious black comedy unfolds as newlyretired Patrice French discovers the joys of social networking. Iain Heggie’s bang up-to-date new comedy finds human nature wanting in old familiar ways.

Captain Amazing (Live Theatre)
3 – 5 April
This Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013 sell-out hit is a funny and poignant one-man show that thrusts us into the life of Britain’s only part-time superhero. Struggling to balance his family responsibilities and more conventional job with defeating super villains and rescuing families from burning buildings, Captain Amazing explores how all parents strive to be heroes in the eyes of their children.

This May Hurt A Bit (Out of Joint and Octagon Theatre Bolton)
8 – 12 April
A month after stating “we will stop the top-down reorganisation of the NHS that has got in the way of patient care”, the government launched the biggest top-down reorganisation the service had seen in its 65-year history. With characteristic wit, tenderness and surrealism, Stella Feehily’s new play explores one family’s journey through the digestive system of the NHS and asks: what is the prognosis for this much-loved, fiercely-debated institution?

Factor 9 (Dogstar Theatre Company in association with Profilteatern and Umea 2014 European Capital of Culture)
24 – 26 April
Set against the backdrop of the tainted blood products scandal affecting thousands of haemophiliacs worldwide, Factor 9 is a visceral horror story of human survival and a cry for justice in the face of a medical industrial nightmare. From the brutal Arkansas penal system to the isolated voices of survivors in Scotland, this searing piece uses a bold theatricality, reaching into the roots of the tragedy and the outbreak of the AIDS epidemic in America.

The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler (Vanishing Point and National Theatre of Scotland)
29 April – 3 May

“You are the centre of your little world and I am of mine.
Now and again we meet for tea, we’re two of a kind.
This is our universe, cups of tea.
We have a beautiful cosmos, you and me.”
Ivor Cutler

The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler is a musical and visual journey based on the songs, stories and poems of one of Scotland’s most iconic exiles. A Jewish, Scottish, Londoner, Ivor Cutler was a wholehearted eccentric whose music and words range from the whimsical to the disturbing; had he been born in Russia he’d perhaps be a Daniil Kharms or a Gogol. Here, Mr Cutler stands alone.

The Forbidden Experiment (Arches Platform 18 Award Winner)
1 – 3 May
In 1493 a young King James IV of Scotland ordered that two infants be left on the island of Inchkeith in the Firth of Forth to be reared by a mute woman. He hoped to uncover humanity’s original language; the words Adam shared with his God. What James did became known as The Forbidden Experiment.

In 2009 Rob Jones and Michael John O’Neill issued a Freedom of Information request for data on the British Army’s activities on Inchkeith during the Second World War. The pair wanted to know about the MoD’s interest in language deprivation, and about the forbidden thoughts that became forbidden acts once again on that lonely island in the Firth of Forth. It’s taken some time, but Rob and Michael have found something. Something they think you should know.

Imaginate Festival
5-12 May
Scotland’s international festival of performing arts for children and young people.

Banksy: The Room in the Elephant (Tobacco Factory Theatres and The Sum)
16 – 17 May
In 2011, UK graffiti artist Banksy spray painted ‘This Looks A Bit Like An Elephant’ on the side of an old water tank in Los Angeles. The disused tank was home to a man called Tachowa Covington who, in his seven years there, had furnished it with carpets, a stove and even CCTV. The tank instantly became a work of art and was taken away to be sold. Suddenly, Tachowa was homeless again…

Starring Gary Beadle – best known as Eastenders’ Paul Trueman – Tom Wainwright’s sell-out play is about creating something from nothing and then having it taken away, in the name of art. Directed by Emma Callander, the Traverse’s new Associate Director.

Pests (A Clean Break, Royal Court Theatre and Royal Exchange Theatre co-production)
22 – 24 May
“Share equal da child-care? When done you get so f*ckin’ middle class? What, you gonna get a nanny next? Gonna start quaff quaffin’ red wines an’ chattin’ sh*t ‘bout dem rocketin’ house prices?” Pink loves Rolly. Rolly loves Pink. And Pink loves getting bombed off her face. Sisters from the same nest. Both trapped in a tiny rotting world. Both cuffed to a past that refuses to release them. One wants out. The other needs her in. Trouble is, when you complete each other, you’re nothing on your own.A searing new play from Vivienne Franzmann.

MONEY the Game Show (Unlimited Theatre and Bush Theatre)
23 – 24 May
Casino and Queenie used to be hedge fund managers. Before the financial crisis of 2008, that is. Now, in an inspired – or desperate – career move, they’ve turned to performance art to share their stories of how to make (and lose) billions from the economic downturn. Playing with £10,000 in real pound coins, Casino and Queenie challenge you to play a series of high stake games that demonstrate how the world’s economic system came to the brink of collapse.

HEART (Zendeh)
29 – 30 May
Set between Durham and Tehran, an Iranian woman, her English husband and her Syrian lover experience love in all its complexity against the backdrop of the 28 Mordad Coup d’Etat in 1953. Inspired by the epic love poem Leili and Majnoun, HEART excavates obsession, madness and betrayal on a personal and global level. Pleasure lingers in the dark violence and desires move between the shadows.

CHORALE – A Sam Shepard Roadshow
(Presence Theatre Limite d & Actors Touring Company in association with Belgrade Theatre Coventry)
30 – 31 May
A rare opportunity to experience America’s most adventurous living playwright through this unique roadshow. Three Plays. Two Films. A night of music and a workshop.
Friday Double Bill, 7.30pm
Screening of the film Savage/Love and a new play The Animal (You), based on Shepard’s short stories
Saturday Afternoon Workshop, 2.30pm
A workshop on the collaborative theatre of Sam Shepard, centred around a screening of his film Tongues.
Saturday Evening Double Bill, 7.30pm
Two plays – The Holy Ghostly and The War in Heaven.

First Cosmonaut (Blue Raincoat Theatre Company)
5 – 7 June
Having brought The Third Policeman, The Chairs and The Poor Mouth; the award-winning Blue Raincoat Theatre Company return to the Traverse with their new production, First Cosmonaut by Jocelyn Clarke. The story of Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space and the first human to see Earth. This is a tale told through the eyes of a Russian fit-up company, travelling to venues in the West and performing the story of one of Russia’s great heroes.

La Tragedie Comique (Plutôt la Vie in association with Howden Park Centre)
6 – 7 June
A bare wooden stage, a sumptuous red curtain and … an audience. The Character appears… An epic story unfolds as great characters of literature wait to be born to this world… brought to life by authors and incarnated by actors. For generations, our Character waits for his Actor to be born, to weather the storms of childhood and ultimately bring him to life… not without difficulty! In return, the Character entices, cajoles and emboldens his Actor not to be afraid to step out from behind his mask and… live.


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