In times of fear and uncertainty, the Traverse's Festival programme celebrates reaching out to each other
- Alex Johnston
- 6 June 2017
A feast of new work features eight world premieres, three European premieres and five Scottish premieres
At a time when each week seems to bring some new crisis, nobody needs to be told that today's world is an unpredictable and frightening place. At moments like this, it's worth remembering Brecht's great saying: Art is not a mirror with which to reflect reality, but a hammer with which to shape it. Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre announces its Festival programme today, and artistic director Orla O'Loughlin says that the programme aims to combat the forces in modern society that threaten to divide us from each other, declaring 'This year's carefully selected and proudly international lineup represents a timely opportunity for our audience to gather and bear witness and feel part of a community that believes change is possible.'
A change is certainly possible within the Traverse itself, since the festival programme features a record five Traverse productions, four of them world premieres and the other a Scottish premiere. Zinnie Harris's Meet Me At Dawn (Sun 6–Sun 27 Aug) is inspired by the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, and is about two women who wash up on a shore after a boating accident. The Whip Hand, by Douglas Maxwell (Sun 6–Sun 27 Aug), is about a middle-aged man who wants to serve a good cause, even at the risk of harming his daughter's future. Gary McNair's Letters to Morrissey (Fri 4–Sun 27 Aug) is performed by the author, and is the third in the author's trilogy of plays exploring what it was like to grow up in working-class Scotland. Breakfast Plays: Birth (Tue 15–Sun 27 Aug) are four plays performed at 9am (the ticket price includes a breakfast roll and tea/coffee), all by women writers from India, Syria, the UK and the USA, each exploring their countries' respective approaches to birth practice; it's also the only one of these shows that isn't a world premiere. Locker Room Talk (Mon 21 Aug) sees Gary McNair explore men's attitudes to women, in a piece of verbatim theatre performed by women and inspired by the President of the USA's oh-so-hilarious banter and his casual dismissal of it.
The visiting productions are not all about crossings of one border or another, but it's a frequent theme. Unity Theatre's Nina – A Story about Me and Nina Simone (Sun 9–Sun 13 Aug) sees actor/director Josette Bushell-Mingo, who created the role of Rafiki in the original West End production of The Lion King, bring together tales of her own career and that of the great singer-songwriter and activist. The National Theatre of Scotland presents two plays about trans lives: Adam (Sun 6–Sun 27 Aug), by Frances Poet, is the true story of a young trans man who travels from Egypt to Scotland, while Jo Clifford co-writes and performs in Eve (Fri 4–Sun 27 Aug), about a child who was raised as a boy but who felt that things were not as they seemed.
Three female performers of seriously high voltage, Ursula Martinez, Zoe Coombs Marr and Adrienne Truscott, discuss the critical reaction to their work in Wild Bore (Wed 9–Sun 27 Aug), a show which we're told may or may not include bare bottoms, since 'they, too, are not afraid to talk out of their arses.' The Bush Theatre presents the world premiere of Nassim (Fri 4--Sun 27 Aug) by Nassim Soleimanpour, in which every night a different actor will take the stage alongside the playwright, and perform a script they have never seen before.
Sisters Grimm's Lilith: the Jungle Girl (Fri 4–Sun 27 Aug) is an award-winning Australian production about a wild girl captured in jungles of Borneo in the 19th century. Zoe Cooper's Jess and Joe Forever (Fri 4–Sun 27 Aug) is a highly-acclaimed coming of age tale with a difference, which premiered at London's Orange Tree Theatre. An Evening with an Immigrant (Mon 21–Fri 25 Aug) is written and performed by Inua Ellams, telling his own story of being born to a Muslim father and Christian mother in what is now Boko Haram territory in Nigeria, and leaving for England in 1996 aged 12.
Kneehigh director Emma Rice directs her swansong production, The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk by Daniel Jamieson, a highly physical portrait of Marc and Bella Chagall (Wed 16–Sun 27 Aug). There's also the world premiere of curious directive's Frogman (Sat 6–Sun 27 Aug), a theatre performance using VR headsets set in the Great Barrier Reef, and bluemouth inc's Party Game, an immersive theatrical experience about surprise, loss and celebration (Wed 9–Sun 20 Aug).
For full dates and performance times of the 2017 Traverse Festival programme, check our listings for details.