50 plays to be performed in one night to celebrate birthday of Traverse

FIFTY plays are to be performed in one evening at the Traverse Theatre to mark its half century.

FIFTY plays are to be performed in one evening at the Traverse Theatre to mark its half century.

In September, theatre bosses challenged writers to come up with a play connected to, or inspired by, Edinburgh to mark the anniversary, with one proviso – the script had to number 500 words or less.

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After receiving more than 600 plays, a rigorous reading process saw entries whittled down to 50, with writers ranging from absolute beginners to more established bards.

Now the works are to be performed in one bumper evening of entertainment to mark the theatre’s 50th birthday.

Traverse associate director Hamish Pirie, 32, said: “We wanted to do something interesting and unique to mark our 50th birthday and we felt the best way we could celebrate and discuss all that the Traverse has stood for and striven for in the past would be to invest in the next generation of writers.

“It’s an idea the city council have given us a lot of support for. However, we did wonder how we would find all these up-and-coming talents, and that’s when we came up with the idea of the 500-word play. We were also very lucky that writers Kieran Hurley and Zinnie Harris helped us out by creating two example plays for people to look at online.”

He continued: “We received 630 entries, which was extremely humbling. Then the plays were all read several times by myself, other members of the artistic team and directors throughout Scotland. It was a difficult process, but I’m extremely pleased with the final 50.”

Along with the performance of all the plays, which will take place on January 26, the chosen writers will be taking part in other events connected to the theatre, culminating in a New Writers Festival later in the year.

Mr Pirie said: “Writing is generally quite a lonely business, but we’re hoping by bringing these people together that they will inspire each other. Having a peer group is a very important thing.”

James Ley, 35, of Leith, who has had a work performed at the Fringe and as part of the Glasgay festival, is one of the 15 Edinburgh-based playwrights to have been chosen for the project. His play, A Flat in Leith, deals with the transitions caused by moving home and the past ghosts it can stir up.

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He said: “This project is a really exciting opportunity – anything could happen! It’s great to be working with such an amazing group of writers and a fantastic artistic team.”

The list also includes theatre reviewer and contributor to the Traverse’s 2012 Write Here festival, Dave Fargnoli, whose play Heartlands tells the story of an attempted chat-up at the bar of an Edinburgh pub.

Mr Fargnoli, 28, who lives in Leith, said: “I probably spent ten times longer trying to edit the play down to the word count than I did writing the first draft. It’s a great exercise though, and I’m hoping to get down to see some of the rehearsals. You learn so much about your own work by seeing how others interpret it.”

It is not yet known how long the performance will take. However, it is expected to take place with a number of intervals. It is also not known if the performance constitutes a world record. Tickets cost £6 and £4.

Small beginnings

THE Traverse has come a long way from a small beginning.

It originally began life in 1963 as a 60-seater theatre club located in an ex-brothel in the Lawnmarket. It put on 110 productions in its first three years, before moving to a larger space in the Grassmarket at the end of the 1960s.

It arrived in its current home in Cambridge Street in 1992, following a £2.2m spend.

Its name rose out of a mistake made by first artistic director, Terry Lane, who referred to a staging arrangement as a “traverse”, not a “transverse” as it is actually called. Stars such as Tilda Swinton, Alan Cumming, Simon Callow, and Timothy Dalton have all trod the boards over the years.