THE TRAVERSE FEATURE
a gymnasium, I’ve always felt it would be a good place to put on a show. If you’d have walked into it not knowing what it is, you would say, “wow this would be a good theatre." ’
Brown is confident that the development will bring about vast improvements in terms of audience comfort and creative theatre-making. ‘Until we’re in there and we’ve got the building blocks to play with and the instruction manual to try and wade through, we can’t say what all the possibilites will be,’ he says, ‘except that it’s a magic box in which anything could happen.’ Purely coincidentally, the first season’s shows in the main theatre have
opted for the same U-shaped audience plan.
but the specially designed seating-banks are uniquely ﬂexible and can be easily manipulated into many other positions and heights. Current licensing allows for eight configurations from traditional proscenium to theatre-in-the-round, and one wall is peppered with doors that come in and out of use according to the position of the seating. The smaller theatre, the same size as the old main space, uses similar stepped-seating modules and will be ideal for rehearsals, workshops and dance performances.
Next door at the Royal Lyceum, Artistic Director Ian Wooldridge welcomes the
trai n i ng ACTOR SIMON DONALD REMEMBERS THE OLD TRAVERSE: The tirst show I did at the Traverse was Roonday Demons by Peter Dames. We were there as a visiting company, using the downstairs studio theatre. lioonday Demons is the scruttiest, most painful and smelly play in existence. Nightly, Kim Fenton and i had to smear each other's naked bodies in cold crud and bash each other round the head for an hour-and-a-hail.
Graham Johnston designed the set. it included a pyramid of old porcelain toilets which we rescued from 8am Dums’s Yard. When the theatre heated up, all the stall which had gathered in the toilet s-bends over the years was reactivated and produced a remarkably authentic evocation ot iOOO-year-old unwashed desert tlagellant.
We had real chains wrapped around our pathetic pigeon chests and quite often we'd forget the lines because we were in so much pain. ilamlsh Glen, the director, held special pain-inﬂicting workshops and warm-op classes. i always came oti better than Kim because I could think up nastier things quicker. I remember a
‘ particularly fiendish nipple-tweaking passage that Hamish made us rehearse
lots. During Fenton’s big speechibit leading toa dramatic exit to hospital. +- ‘ My, his gonads and crammed turd into his I Balls 1967 was the kind of year ‘ MIMI! when you could cast two tennis balls 4 tr»
i would like to hope that the new building will build on the great tradition oi theatrical experimentation and uplllting spirituality that we struggled to create then.
Simon Donald appears in Columbus: Bleeding the Ocean, and his own play, The Lite oi Stuti, opens at the Traverse on Soil Aug.
arrival of the final piece of Edinburgh’s culture triangle, and recognises that the Traverse’s increased capacity will make
transfers to the 800-seat Lyceum more of a
possibility. In the past, big hits at the
Traverse have had no life beyond their first
run, having been designed for so specific a space. Transfers can be difficult to administer. but Edinburgh theatre-goers
‘It’s a magic box in which anything could
Mark Fisher picks out ten shows that helped furnish the Traverse’s reputation.
I Huis Olos Jean-Paul Sartre’s play was the ﬁrst Traverse production in i I I the original premises in St James
Court in January 1963. It might not 1 have caused such a stir had leading .
lady Colette O’Neil not been H _. g. _g_,_l__ accidentally stabbed with a , ‘ paperknife-on the second night
as sole performers and get them to swing above an empty stage. A Daily Express editorial followed.
I Mass In F At the start of 1968, Edinburgh Experimental Theatre ' nearly got the place closed down for performing a monologue about the sexual exploits of a topless young woman.
will certainly be seeing more ofthe
medium-scale companies from Scotland and
abroad which hitherto found the Traverse
uneconomic and impractical. while suitable
city-centre alternatives were thin on the ground. A case in point is Communicado
which will open its adaptation of Cyrano de
Bergerac at the Traverse in August as part of a Fringe programme that is as ambitious and
busy as ever despite the uncertain demand
created by the new building. ‘I programmed the way I always programme,’ says Brown of
a line-up that includes two new in-house shows and plays from Scotland, England, Canada, Valencia and Singapore. ‘1 don’t think I’ve changed the mix. It’s all new to
Britain and a range ofwork, so if you come
I The Story at Oiica-Mesh, King oi Uruk, His Friendship with Enkidu, The Death of Enkidu and the King’s Search for Everlasting Lite In the 805, all they could muster was A ble Barebone and the Humble Company against the ‘ Great Mortality, but back in 1970 they knew how to write titles.
I Great Northern Welly-Boot Show Billy Connolly was put on the road to stardom in this 1972 celebration of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders’ work-in. It also marked the start of Tom McGrath’s playwriting career. I The Hardman Based on the life of Jimmy Boyle, Tom McGrath’s 1977 play was one of the Traverse’s greatest successes, but raised eye-brows with its closing images of the naked prisoner smeared in his own excrement to ward off attacking officers. For McGrath’s 1979 Traverse play, Animal, a huge hit in the International Festival, the author invented a special ape-language for his actors
I The Slab Boys Long before Tutti Fruttt' and Your Cheatin’ Heart, artist/designer/playwright John Byme developed his 505 Paisley
and see four or five shows you’ll get a taste of different things.’
The inaugural production is Michele Celeste’s Columbus: Blooding the Ocean, directed by Brown himself. and written to mark the 500th anniversary of the West’s ‘discovery’ of the New World. Showing Columbus in an impossible situation, the play takes an open-minded look at the explorer’s achievements and failures, while questioning his claim to a God-given mission and condemning his actions on arrival in the Americas. ‘1 think it’s a fitting play to open with,’ says Brown. ‘Columbus didn’t turn back from the people who said, “Don’t cross that sea, you don’t know what’s on the other side.” Whatever you think about what Columbus achieved, he did actually find the New World. We’re setting out on a similar sort of voyage.
‘The Traverse will always do what it feels it has to do,’ he continues. ‘It‘s a matter of personal taste, so you can’t be all things to all people. The Traverse isn’t going to just play safe, it’s still going to be the theatre where you see things that you can’t see elsewhere.’
Columbus: Blooding the Ocean, Traverse Theatre, Cambridge Street, Edinburgh, Fri 3—Sat25 July and in the Edinburgh Fringe.
trilogy from 1977— 1982 directed by David Hayman.
I Rooting Robert Holman’s 1978 drama featured live pigs on stage, which was. at least, a step up from tennis balls. One spin-off from the show was that the seats were re-covered immediately afterwards. I Losing Venice John Clifford established a playwriting career that since this 1983 hit has taken him though a series of Traverse plays - Lucy ’s Play, Playing With Fire. Ines de Castro, Light in the Village- as well as work with other British theatres includingthe National. He is just one of many playwrights- Howard Brenton, David Edgar, Trevor Griffiths, Liz Lochhead, Michael Wilcox, Chris Harman and many others —- to have passed through the theatre on the road to
I Hanging the President Tough language and brutal acts of homosexuality in Michele Celeste’s last Traverse play in August 1989, E l were made to seem even more i I shocking by The Daily Telegraph’s ! ‘ persistent belief that the defecation j
Ranging The President
I was real.
The List lethality 1662- 13