THE Traverse Bar is packed, for this first of two nights of script-in-hand performance and discussion presented by the Village Pub Theatre of Leith; and that’s perhaps no surprise, given the strength of the network developed by VPT over several years of evenings of bite-sized new plays down in Fort Street.
Village Pub Theatre LGBT Innovators | Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh | Rating ****
And if you add the fact that this event is presented as part of LGBT History Month, then networks start to collide, with interesting results.
The core of the evening is a 20-minute performance by playwright-performer Jo Clifford of a monologue fragment from the 1990s, a modern Dante’s Inferno called Night Journey, in which a traveller lost in the pain of a long-suppressed transgender identity descends to an underworld where she receives guidance from the gentle spirit of her muse, the playwright and poet Lorca. This is a powerful, charismatic dramatic poem, and the most complete work on view in an evening that also includes two thoughtful short plays by Helen Shutt and Giles Conisbee, both featuring trans-generation conversations between women that insist we challenge our assumptions, not least about sexuality and age.
Then, before the evening ends, we have the chance to hear a tentative first part of VPT co-founder James Ley’s forthcoming play about the legendary 1980s Edinburgh gay bookshop Lavender Menace. And when the shop’s real-life founders, Bob Orr and Sigrid Nielson, step up to join the post-show discussion, the sense of generations coming together is complete; in the kind of rich creative celebration – with cake – that VPT regulars take for granted, but that is still something of a revelation, to those coming to it for the first time.