Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
THE Traverse used to take a break after the Edinburgh Festival Fringe , but not any longer. Just a few weeks after the curtain fell on the theatre's last festival season show, the Traverse is back in action with exactly the kind of mix that makes it's programme such a magnet in August.
Vox Motus has been attracting big crowds for Bright Black (now on tour); Traverse artistic director Dominic Hill is already in rehearsal for The Dark Things and, in the studio for three days, the RSAMD's One Academy company has been staging works in progress by Linda McLean, Douglas Maxwell and David Harrower.
These three plays are something of a mid-term report both for the student actors making their first steps towards a professional career, and for the writers who, thanks to a collaboration with the Playwrights' Studio, have been able to give their unfinished plays an early airing. The programme recalls the exciting The World Is Too Much series of early-morning readings during the Fringe, which gave audiences a first-draft insight into the creative process.
In Reminded of Beauty, Linda McLean is in the same troubling territory of traumatised children and dysfunctional adults she established in Riddance and Strangers, Babies. Here she juxtaposes scenes of violent child abuse with the story of an estranged couple haunted by the death of a daughter. At this stage, we don't know the connection between the two, but the answer could be in the strange sock puppet whose benign presence brings comfort to her distressed characters.
David Harrower's Ashes Blood, by contrast, is unlike anything he's done before. The author of Knives in Hens and Blackbird switches between narration and straight drama to tell a compelling story of a young man desperate to do right by his father in the family coach-hire business. It'll take another act before we find out what led to the suicide attempt that opens the play, but the very promising first half certainly leaves us wanting more.
Which is also the case with Douglas Maxwell's The Fever Dream: Southside, a funny, hallucinatory thriller with an apocalyptic atmosphere, set in a present-day Glasgow where a serial killer is at large. The only one of the three plays that appears to have been written with the cast in mind, it shows promise for the future – and is also a thoroughly accomplished hour of theatre right now.
© Mark Fisher 2009