The Traverse Theatre has revealed a programme of eight world premieres, three European premieres and five Scottish premieres for this year’s Edinburgh festival.
The world premieres include Meet Me at Dawn by Zinnie Harris, directed by the Traverse’s artistic director Orla O’Loughlin, exploring everyday love and unexpected loss, inspired by the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.
Another world premiere will be The Whip Hand by Douglas Maxwell with Birmingham Repertory Theatre and National Theatre of Scotland. Directed by Birmingham Rep associate director Tessa Walker, it is a family drama set in Glasgow, exploring themes of power, privilege, blood ties and our inescapable past.
In association with Glasgow’s Tron Theatre, another world premiere will be Letters to Morrissey by Gary McNair, part of the Made in Scotland showcase. Performed by McNair, the solo show is the third in a trilogy about growing up in working-class Scotland after his sell-out festival hit A Gambler’s Guide to Dying. It reunites him with director Gareth Nicholls, the Traverse’s new associate director.
McNair will present another world premiere with Traverse Theatre Company in a one-day, two-performance event, Locker Room Talk. It promises to be a provocative and confronting piece of theatre inspired by Donald Trump’s leaked sexually aggressive comments, later dismissed as “locker room banter”. McNair has gathered hundreds of conversations with men and boys about women, relayed via headphones and performed verbatim by a cast of women. It will be directed by O’Loughlin.
The theatre’s Breakfast Plays will this year be under the banner of Birth in a co-production with Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre. Four leading women playwrights – Swati Simha from India, Liwaa Yazji from Syria, Stacey Gregg from the UK and Kirsten Greenidge from the USA – aim to provoke debate as they examine the vast inequality in healthcare across the world, focusing on their respective country’s approach to birth practice and the cultural pressures that surround it. Presented as script-in-hand readings (with breakfast included), they will be directed by Traverse associate artist Emma Callander.
Kneehigh and Bristol Old Vic will bring The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk to the Traverse, directed by Emma Rice. Daniel Jamieson’s critically acclaimed play is drawn from the early life of the artist Marc Chagall and his wife Bella as they navigate the pogroms, the Russian Revolution and each other, woven throughout with live Klezmer music inspired by Russian Jewish folk tradition.
The programme also sees the Scottish premiere of Nina – A Story About Me and Nina Simone from Unity Theatre and Sweden’s Riksteatern in association with the Young Vic where it had a sold-out debut run last year. Josette Bushell-Mingo mixes story and song to tell a tale at once personal and political, connecting her own life with that of the legendary jazz singer.
Another visiting show from National Theatre of Scotland will be the world premiere of Adam written by Frances Poet and directed by Cora Bissett. From Egypt to Scotland, it is the remarkable true story of a young trans man and his journey to reconciliation – performed by Adam Kashmiry, the real person on whom the drama is based, as well as a 120-strong “virtual” choir, bringing together trans and non-binary voices from around the globe.
Alongside Adam will be Eve, the world premiere of a National Theatre of Scotland show written and performed by Jo Clifford – the first openly “out” transgendered woman playwright to have had a play produced on London’s West End stage. Eve is a deeply personal work reflecting on one trans woman's life, from an oppressive 1950s boyhood to the present day. It has been co-written by Chris Goode and is directed by Susan Worsfold.
Soho Theatre and Australia’s Malthouse Theatre bring together three masters of smart, spiky, political performance – Zoe Coombs Marr, Ursula Martinez and Adrienne Truscott – for the European premiere of Wild Bore. This international, intellectual supergroup will delve into the torrent of critical fury that has been aimed at baffling, misunderstood and sometimes downright awful works of art.
The festival programme will also include the world premiere of the Bush Theatre’s Nassim which follows Iranian theatre-maker Nassim Soleimanpour’s experimental approach of “no rehearsals, no preparation”. Each night a different actor will take to the stage, performing with the playwright himself, presented with a sealed envelope containing a script that they have never seen before.
Australian independent queer theatre-makers Sisters Grimm will present the European premiere of Lilith: The Jungle Girl, mixing theatre, lo-fi animation and live art. In its story of a wild girl found in the rainforests of Borneo and brought to Holland in 1861, it explores colonialism, individualism and assimilation.
Farnham Maltings in association with London’s Orange Tree Theatre will present the Scottish premiere of Jess and Joe Forever by Zoe Cooper. This tender coming-of-age tale invites the audience – through direct address – to invest in the lives of two seemingly very different young people as they try to find their place in the world.
The Traverse is also offering An Evening with an Immigrant, the Scottish premiere of Inua Ellams’ autobiographical show. Born to a Muslim father and a Christian mother, he left Nigeria in 1996 for England aged 12. Expanding on his autobiographical Fringe First award-winning play The 14th Tale, this new show is littered with new poems, stories and anecdotes.
Cabaret artists Dive Queer Party will hop on their “Rainbow Soapbox” for a series of live party political broadcasts celebrating queer history, identity and spaces. Hosted by “chief weirdo” Miss Annabel Sings, it will feature a selection of special guest performers and speakers from across the Fringe including international cabaret star Le Pustra, drag queen Alice Rabbit and queer cabaret writer, critic and academic Ben Walters.
Independent theatre studio China Plate will present a one-performance-only rehearsed reading of Status, a new play by writer and performer Chris Thorpe and director Rachel Chavkin tackling the topic of nationality.
Off-site shows from the Traverse will include the world premiere of Frogman with theatre makers Curious Directive and Hull UK 2017. It is a coming-of-age thriller, told through live theatre and 360 degree film in virtual reality, submerging the audience deep into the Great Barrier Reef. It has been created by artistic director and founder Jack Lowe with designer Camilla Clark and sound designer Pete Malkin.
After the success of 2011 festival hit Dance Marathon, Bluemouth Inc return with Party Game, a co-production with Necessary Angel, which promises to advance the boundaries of multidisciplinary theatre with an immersive experience. Every audience member becomes a party guest – some might help hang some lights, while others play party games – and all will leave looking at life a little differently. Integrating dance, theatre, music and video, no two audience experiences will be the same. It has been written in collaboration with Jordan Tannahill and director Jennifer Tarver.
Also in the Traverse’s festival programme is Pre-View, presented by the University of Edinburgh and Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland, featuring readings from five new plays by Sonia Hayden, Andy Mosely, Catriona Scott, Brandon Shalansky and Carolyn Yates.
The Traverse will also host the award ceremony for the James Tait Black Prize for Drama 2017 – the £10,000 prize for the best new play worldwide.
The Traverse’s festival programme runs from July 30 to August 27, 2017.