Review: Plays for Edinburgh by the Traverse Fifty

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
Traverse Theatre Company
Orla O’Loughlin and Hamish Pirie (directors), Jo Rush, (assistant director), Gemma Turner (company stage manager), Kevin McCallum (production manager), Tom Saunders (lighting and sound technician), Gary Staerk (head of stage)
Colin Bell (Edinburgh); Kate Bowen (Glasgow); Michael Burnett (Edinburgh); Alison Carr (Newcastle upon Tyne); Colin Clark (Glasgow); Grace Cleary (Livingston); Giles Conisbee (Pitlochry); Robert Dawson Scott (Glasgow); Jack Dickson (Glasgow); Sylvia Dow (Linlithgow); Dave Fargnoli (Edinburgh); Sophie Good (Edinburgh); Alan Gordon (Edinburgh); Caroline Gray (Putney); James Green (Newark on Trent); Kris Haddow (Paisley); Mose Hayward (Paris); Molly Innes (Edinburgh); Emily Jenkins (Meysey Hampton); Denise Keane (London); Najma Khanzada (Edinburgh); Deborah Klayman (Southall); Jamie Laing (Dundee); James Ley (Edinburgh); Jennifer Makie (Edinburgh); Bethan Marlow (Cardiff); Stuart Martin (London); Katy McAulay (Glasgow); John McCann (Edinburgh); Martin McCormick (Glasgow); Nicholas Mcgaughey (Pontypridd); K S Morgan McKean (Glasgow); Tara McKevitt (Dublin); Iain Mitchell (London); Uma Nada- Rajah (Edinburgh); Eva O'Connor (Edinburgh); Michael O’Neill (Glasgow); Dino Pesut (Zagreb); Lachlan Philpott (Sydney); Frances Poet (Glasgow); Tim Primrose (Edinburgh); Matthew Ramagge (Glasgow); Mark Robson (Edinburgh); Helen Shutt (London); Sam Siggs (Edinburgh); Ellie Stewart (Bathgate); J.A. Sutherland (Edinburgh); AJ Taudevin (Glasgow); Drew Taylor (Glasgow); Adam Usden (Cheadle).
Scott Fletcher, Paul Thomas Hickey, Lewis Howden, Anne Lacey, Gabriel Quigley, Pamela Reid
Running time

Shakespeare wrote that brevity is the soul of wit and there could be no better set of examples than in the Traverse Theatre’s 500 word Plays for Edinburgh by the Traverse Fifty, an Edinburgh Council funded project that celebrates the theatre’s 50th anniversary this year.

While 500 words does not seem much to make a play, this unique exercise in concision, arguably a kind of theatrical haiku proved otherwise and also proved that 50 small bites make for a gargantuan meal.

Over three and a half hours-worth of quality theatre, in fact.

The 50 writers, whose work was chosen from 630 entrants from Britain and beyond, are winners of a playwriting competition back in September 2012 whose performance took place on Burns’ birthday 25 January and extended due to high demand to 26 January 2013.

The writers will also take part in a series of tailor-made writing events, including panel discussions, workshops and one-to-one dramaturgy with the project culminating in a new writing festival in Autumn 2013, featuring work the 50 writers have developed throughout the year. At the end of 2013, three of the writers will be offered seed commissions.

The evening was opened by the Traverse’s associate director Hamish Pirie and the Traverse’s new director Orla O’Loughlin, whose joint directorial expertise steered this once in a life time and challenging undertaking with skill.

Established writers Zinnie Harris and Kieran Hurley had their 500 word plays ‘top and tail’ the event and were used as a kind of benchmark for the colossal job of choosing from the array of entrants. What was really interesting about the experience was the common themes that had emerged in the wide variety of styles of writing and particularly the overall sense of the surreal in much of the work.

There were a lot of boundaries, walls, sieges (like Edinburgh versions of the Ealing comedy Passport to Pimlico) there were flat viewings, pregnant women, virtual sex, death, politics, history and of course, trams. And more trams!

There was lots and lots of humour, maybe just as well for such a theatrical marathon, and some great uses of the Scots language scattered throughout. With so many writers of such diversity and quality it is well-nigh impossible and also a bit unfair to single anyone out as each came with their own strengths and qualities.

Personal choices could easily be over ridden by a reminder of a piece that has simply slipped among this cornucopia but the ones that worked best in this rehearsed reading context were the ones that focussed on dialogue. Likewise, the cast of weel kent and experienced Scottish actors all deserve enormous praise for carrying out this unique and mammoth undertaking with the use of just one prop (a table) in the second half.

It a wonderful affirmation of the Traverse’s continuing commitment to new writing; an exercise in the ability to find the essence, not just of an idea but of good writing. The audience tumbled out of the theatre, and what Hamish Pirie described as ‘a bar full of writers’, into raw January night enriched by a unique theatrical experience.

25 and 26 January 2013 7.30pm