Edinburgh Fringe: Traverse theatre may move dates

The Traverse says the move may happen as early as next year. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The Traverse says the move may happen as early as next year. Picture: Ian Georgeson

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ONE of the leading Fringe venues has revealed it may alter its dates to avoid a direct clash with the Edinburgh International Festival in future.

The Traverse has admitted the “radical” move may happen as early as next year after the surprise may by new EIF director Fergus Linehan to bring his event forward.

Venue bosses admit they have been left “perplexed” by the EIF’s move, which was introduced for this summer to avoid its last week being isolated when the other major festivals have ended.

Mr Linehan said he wanted to ensure audiences were no longer left “short-changed” by their experience in the city if they happened to visit during the last week of performances.

But the switch has left the Traverse’s shows going into direct competition with two major plays at the EIF, as well as a new opera by a leading Irish playwright, Enda Walsh. Its opening weekend includes the first performances by Oscar-winning Juliette Binoche, who is starring in Greek tragedy “Antigone” at the King’s Theatre.

There are concerns that the EIF’s move will leave Fringe shows struggling to secure media coverage unless they open earlier in future.

Many Fringe insiders believe the EIF’s dates change will prompt other venues to start operating earlier than they have done in previous years as early as next year.

Fringe venues usually programme one or two days of previews, accompanied by discounted ticket prices, before the official opening day.

The Traverse, the venue dedicated to new theatre work at the Edinburgh Festival, traditionally starts running previews the weekend before the Fringe starts, but says it is unwilling to allow critics into these performances as shows are still being tested out technically.

An alternative for future years may involved running previews two full weeks before the start of the Fringe and the EIF, which will both run from 7-31 August this summer.

Orla O’Loughlin, artistic director of the Traverse, said: “There’s no doubt it’s going to be different this year.

“It’s going to be kind of suck it and see this year with the international festival’s dates sitting right in line with the Fringe. We just don’t know how it is going to be, but we’re hoping for the best.

“We’ll have to see how it goes this year. Things might be radically different next year, they might have to be.

“The previews are really vital for us to get the work right before we are ready for the press to see it.

“For them to become anything other than us sharing the work, learning about the work and what it needs once it needs an audience becomes tough.

“We need the previews to give the work the best shot it has once it is officially ready and out there.”

Linda Crooks, the theatre’s executive producer, added: “It has perplexed us.

“As our programme is so tightly packed, we right a very tight operation to get all the shows properly teched in that tightscale.

“It is difficult at the moment to see how it could be otherwise.

“But we will go with the spirit of the Fringe and see what happens.

“The drama programme that Fergus has brought to Edinburgh is fantastic and it exciting for all of us. Let’s hope that it raises the bar.”

This year’s Traverse programme includes a musical theatre version of the cult Scottish novel The Sopranos, about a group of Catholic schoolgirls from the west coast of Scotland running wild in Edinburgh.

The National Theatre of Scotland will be reunited with former artistic director Vicky Featherstone for the play, which is being adapted from Alan Warner’s book by Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall for the show “Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour.”

The impact of the banking crash on Britain will be tackled in a one-man play featuring former Game of Thrones and River City star Jamie Michie as a traumatised stockmarket trader in “Crash.”

Glasgow playwright Stef Smith, who had a huge Fringe hit for the Traverse with human trafficking play Roadkill five years, will unveil a brand new work about three female strangers facing their demons.

A full-scale choir drawn from the Morningside area will be taking part in London-based Gate Theatre’s new play The Christians, which promises a modern-day exploration of faith and community through the story of a pastor whose sermon promises to shake the foundations of his followers’ beliefs.

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