Nurturing talent

October 23, 2014 | By | Reply More

Traverse Hothouse response to explosion of local productions

This August, almost 90 Edinburgh-based productions appeared at the fringe – more than ever before.

While the amateur, professional and youth companies were present as usual, it was in Edinburgh’s unfunded, shoestring companies that the real growth was obvious.

Mara Menzies in Nzinga, Warrior Queen. Photo: Papajgun Photography

Mara Menzies in Nzinga, Warrior Queen. Photo: Papajgun Photography

This week, the first fruits of that explosion of new talent begin to appear, as the Traverse stages Hothouse, a three night mini-festival of six productions. Two are works in progress, but four are from the kind of unfunded company which is making Edinburgh’s theatre scene so exciting.

Hothouse might not have reached all parts of the scene – none of the major players in Discover 21 are included for example – but it shows a commitment from the Traverse to nurture the talent it first recognised in its Trav 50 new writers project and its ongoing directors programme.

Orla O’Loughlin, artistic director of the Traverse, is clearly thrilled about the prospect. Pointing out that the project is part of the ongoing tradition of talent development at the theatre, she said the organisation had also noticed the growth of home-grown and grassroots talent at this year’s fringe.

“It is hard during the the festival to programme emerging artists and work: the pressure the work is put under in those two spaces is kind of phenomenal,” she says. “Hothouse is a way of supporting, providing a launch pad and a resource for that emergent work. We are committed to it and interested in it, but festival doesn’t feel like the most appropriate place to programme it.”

Not that the companies are unknown to the Traverse. Opening night, Thursday 23, kicks off with Lace Up by Mikey Burnett and Joseph McCann, both Trav 50 writers. It continues with Safeword, written by another Trav 50 writer Dave Fargnoli with Amy Gilmartin, who is part of the Traverse Directors Programme, at the helm.

Bridging a gap

On Friday, there are two works in progress. Elspeth Turner’s Strom Og is staging extracts and ideas from Spectre Town, directed by Emily Reutlinger who has worked with O’Loughlin as an assistant and is part of the directors programme. The second work-in-progress is How You Gonna Live Your Dash by Jenna Watt, whose Flaneurs was a minor fringe hit in 2012.

How You Gonna Live Your Dash

How You Gonna Live Your Dash

Saturday night sees another Trav 50/directors programme combo with Becky Hope Palmer directing Alan Gordon’s Buffer. It is followed by Toto Tales’ powerful Nzinga Warrior Queen, written and performed by Mara Menzies and directed by her sister, Isla.

For the six pieces, the Traverse is going to create a small studio space on the stage of Traverse One, similar to the one created for the Village Pub Theatre residency last year. The space has only 39 seats, but the objective is to provide a supportive environment which still has the experience of being in the Traverse.

O’Loughlin says the whole project is about bridging a gap for the artists involved, giving them a hand-up from being unfunded companies to ones which could tour shows that appear in Traverse Two.

“It is very much an industry-focussed event for them,” she says. “It is not just about our audience – who we want to get to know their work and come back when they do get funded to tour and we can put them in Trav 2 – but also it is for them to invite the people along who didn’t see it in August or who can help get them to the next stage: Funders, artistic directors, programmers, producers, potential collaborators.

“What we have done is declare a serious interest in them. We have devoted time and resources in terms of seeking them out, meeting with them, providing marketing, production support and setting them the challenge. So they kind of feel like they are part of our story, of our tag. It only makes sense to want them to be the best that they can be.

“I do feel that we have a responsibility to support these artists that are on our doorstep.”

Listings and links to previous reviews

The four shows which premiered in the fringe have all been reviewed by All Edinburgh Theatre, while previous productions by the two companies presenting works in progress has also been reviewed.

Thusday 23 October 2014

Laceupreview here
✭✭✭✭✩  Drama with punch – Expect blood, sweat and tears in this searing drama looking at the price a young boxer from Edinburgh is asked to pay on his way to the top,” said Martin Gray.
Details on the Traverse website: www.traverse.co.uk

SafewordReview here
✭✭✭✭✩ Intriguing insights – In a witty, original and thought-provoking production of Dave Fargnoli’s new play. Urban Fox Theatre Company show that things aren’t always black and white,” said Susan Lowes.
Details on the Traverse website: www.traverse.co.uk

Friday 24 October 2014

Work by the creators of the two works-in-progress has also been reviewed on Æ.
Elspeth Turner’s The Idiot At The Wall is reviewed here.
Details of Spectre Town on the Traverse website: www.traverse.co.uk

Jenna Watt’s Flaneurs is reviewed here
Details of How You Gonna Live Your Dash on the Traverse website: www.traverse.co.uk

Saturday 25 October 2014

BufferReview here
✭✭✭✩✩ Buff enough – There’s huge fun to be had in Thrive Theatre’s Buffer at The Space on North Bridge and some deeply felt emotion too,” said Hugh Simpson
Details on the Traverse website: www.traverse.co.uk

Nzinga Warrior QueenReview Here
✭✭✭✭✩ Well woven tale – Entertaining and thought-provoking, Toto Tales’s premiere of Nzinga – Warrior Queen has overcome serious setbacks to become a thoroughly successful piece,” said Hugh Simpson.
Details on the Traverse website: www.traverse.co.uk

ENDS

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