Traverse Theatre is currently hosting rehearsed readings of pieces from graduates at the University of Edinburgh’s Playwriting Masters course. The work of the emerging writers is performed and directed by professional directors and actors bringing the scripts to life – excellently. It is a powerful reminder of the raw power of a group of people telling a story simply.
If the other graduates work is as strong as the two I saw, you will be rewarded for taking a chance.
Each night consists of two scripts that had been cut down from their full length into 45 minute pieces. These pieces were made up from a selection of scenes from the script. This allowed you to get a sense of their overall style, atmosphere and feel, whilst also conveying the majority of the plot. Each night has a different pair of scripts so it will be a totally different performance than the two I saw. You may not know what you are going to see - I would totally recommend taking the risk. The evening achieved its aim making me immediately want get my hands of full versions of the script, or to see a full scale production.
The directors had done an excellent job with the readings. One of the performances was a much more traditional style reading – actors in chairs, scripts on laps. The other contained scenes that were almost fully acted out with scripts in hand. It resulted in two lovely intense minimalist performances that still packed one hell of a punch. The actors really helped bring the characters to life seamlessly. It is always a treat to get to see actors demonstrate their versatility as they switched between the roles of the two plays. Today we were treated to two plays – Fecund by Carolyn Yates and The Skin of A Man by Brandon Shalansky.
Yates is attempting to reject the label of a history play with Fecund. Her protagonist Brigid wants to control when she has a child, and on her wedding night goes to the local wise woman, Trotula, to attempt to delay her becoming a mother. Yates explores risks and dangers that often befall women who want education, control and autonomy to make their own choices.
Meanwhile, Shalansky’s entirely gender blind casting of The Skin of A Man raises questions about how we handle the messy collection of genders, sexualities, and societal roles we navigate as we grow up and every day. Inseparable in childhood, clarinet playing Rowen and Sound of Music loving Bear struggle to find who they are and who they love. Shalansky makes use of a more experimental and disordered scene progression than Yates’s more traditional chronological narrative. Jumping from scene to scene of various different lengths, meant that, just like Rowan and Bear, the audience was disorientated and attempting to piece things together.
I would send everyone and anyone who is into new writing, or possibly looking for work to put on. It was a fantastic insight into the big questions bothering the up and coming generation – what has got them putting pen to paper to write. If the other graduates work is as strong as the two I saw, you will be rewarded for taking a chance.