The Traverse Theatre Company is spending the next fortnight showing breakfast-time script-in-hand readings of pieces of specially commissioned new writing. As Orla O’Loughlin, Artistic Director of the Traverse, explains, a group of the UK’s best writers have been asked to write scenes from a play that they shouldn’t, wouldn’t or couldn’t ever write in full. Plays that cannot be staged, that would be too emotional to write, that no one would come and see. Throw in a breakfast roll and a coffee and you’ve got a very interesting morning in store…
9am is very early, inhumanly so, but what this programme offers – and we have to call it a programme as no two shows are the same – is a chance to witness exceptionally unique and well-directed rehearsed readings, whilst also being offered an unusual and rare insight into the mind of the playwright. The programmes include an interview with each writer - in the case of the show I saw David Ireland, writer of “Most Favoured” – that detail the responses to questions about inspiration, reasons not to write the whole play and other fascinating trivia that in combination with a live reading reveal a great deal about your specific writer and writing in general.
“Most Favoured” itself is a brief modern-day retelling of the story of the angel Michael and his encounter with the (in this instance not-so) Virgin Mary, which takes place in an Edinburgh Travelodge. Ireland’s writing is casual to the extreme, wonderfully static and at moments profound; the occasional topical reference to the Edinburgh Festival a huge hit with the audience. Gabriel Quigley as Mary, even script-in-hand, is an immense comic talent, giving voice to both Ireland’s weighted and the more mundane lines with a relaxed naturalism and bounds of confidence.
It is true that the play that the scene would fit into would be impossible, and potentially a little too niche to captivate an audience longer than thirty minutes. That said, having seen “Most Favoured”, I’ll look out for Ireland in the future – as I’m sure other audience members will be tempted by the rest of the “Dream Plays” writers – as it is certain that he is a new writing talent.