Theatre review: Theatre Uncut, Traverse Theatre (Venue 15), Edinburgh

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IF YOU want to see 21st century live theatre at the raw peak of its powers, doing exactly what it does best, then head to the Traverse Bar, on Monday morning at 10am, grab a seat on a sofa or bar stool, and just revel in the sheer improvisatory brilliance and eloquence of the latest Theatre Uncut season.

Theatre Uncut

Traverse Theatre 
(Venue 15)

Star rating; * * * * *

Inspired by last year’s protests against public spending cuts in Britain, and pulled together by directors Hannah Price and Emma Callendar, Theatre Uncut is as much an idea as a show; a series of short ten-minute dramas by writers known and unknown, performed script-in-hand by scratch groups of actors, and all designed to reflect with wit or fury on the current state of the global economy.

So in this week’s first programme we were treated to short dramas by American superstar Neil LaBute, Lena Kitsopoulou of Greece, London-based Anders Lustgarten, and – in the weekly “rapid response” slot – fast-emerging Scottish star Kieran Hurley.

Despite a stray member of the audience taking a seat on the sofa beside one of the characters, Jimmy Chisholm and Scott Fletcher acted the hell out of LaBute’s terrific dialogue between a middle-class dad and a son involved in the Occupy movement, while Iain Robertson and Julia Taudevin grasped the Dario-Fo-like heart of Kitsopoulou’s The Price, about an ordinary Greek couple increasingly expected to pay for everything, including a child, and – in the end – their own bodies.

As for Hurley’s brief instant drama London 2012: Glasgow, about the Korean flag mix-up at Hampden as the Olympic football got under way, and the ambiguities and tensions of 21st century Scottish, British and London identity – well, to see that performed with such explosive early-morning energy, by comedians Phill Jupitus and Thom Tuck, was something like a privilege.

The idea is to repeat that mix of recent international material with an instant response from a Scottish-based writer each week – and if the results are anything like what was achieved on Monday, every theatre-lover in Edinburgh will want to be there.

Two shows only, 13 and 20 August, 10am.