My year with the Traverse 50

“a unique theatrical experience” ★★★★★EdinburghGuide

“slightly mind-blowing, and endlessly fascinating” ★★★★ – Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman

In 2013 Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre is 50. Happy birthday, many happy returns, etc.

Amongst its celebrations is The Traverse Fifty – a year-long attachment to the Theatre for 50 new and emerging playwrights. (I spy a ’50’ motif here)

The call went out far and wide, with over 630 writers applying with their 500 word ‘Plays for Edinburgh’.

In December 2012 the final 50 were announced, and I am delighted to be amongst them. In case you don’t believe me, here’s a poor quality photo I took of my name on a blackboard in the Trav bar…

DECEMBER

I’m delighted to be amongst the Traverse 50 writers whom the Theatre have commissioned to develop full-length plays, headed for performance in 2014. Click [here] for an article in The Herald.

OCTOBER

The Write Here Festival kicks off – read about it [here]

“you cannot put a price on the integrity of the Traverse and the quality of its work, it is beyond value” ★★★★★ – EdinburghGuide

SEPTEMBER

I deliver my Headset Play Noise and Hidden Play You Too? Noise and its pitch differ quite substantially, but as I was writing it it became something else. And I know You Too? is a terrible title – it sounds like a kids TV programme – but I panicked, ok.

My Headset Play and Hidden Play are going to be part of the Autumn Festival, which is frickin’ awesome. Now I just have to write them …

AUGUST

We are invited to pitch Headset Plays and Hidden Plays for the Autumn Festival. The Headset Plays are five-minute shorts that audience members listen to on individual headsets in different parts of the building. The Hidden Plays are tiny bursts of theatre that will be scattered about the building. I pitch for both. Gotta be in it to win it!

The Fifty Plays for Edinburgh return to the Traverse, split over two nights this time so it’s less of a theatrical marathon!

JULY

I am delighted that my short Fat Alice has been selected to be part of the Autumn Festival, to be performed as a rehearsed reading directed by Zinnie Harris. I’ve got a month to deliver the re-write based on my feedback session, let’s hope it doesn’t go all “mashed potato” on me.

JUNE

I head up to Edinburgh for a meeting with Zinnie Harris about the play I submitted for the Autumn Festival. It’s a short play and a short meeting, but it’s not every day you get the chance to have 1-1 feedback with a writer of Zinnie’s calibre and experience, and getting the most out of the opportunity is what this year is all about. My play opens with the downstairs neighbours. We then leave them and go upstairs to the action. Zinnie suggests a re-write that involves telling the whole story from the downstairs neighbour’s perspective. I am unsure if I want to. I am unsure if I can. She says it “might all go to mashed potato” but to try it.

I meet up with professional photographer Ian Forsyth to take the photos for the Writers Pictures exhibition of the 50 – read about it [here]

MAY

The Traverse announce their line-up for the 2013 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, including another outing for the 50 Plays for Edinburgh.

MARCH

A 2-day workshop this month. Day #1 spent with writer Tim Price dissecting various well known films and talking about structure. Thanks to a landslide = bus replacement service for part of my journey I was regrettably late, so all of the prep we had been tasked with – WHICH I DID – was wasted as that bit of the session was over by the time I got there. Fuming. I got a bit of an attitude on, thinking ‘yes, yes, I know about structure’, but once back in my B&B I actually sat down and applied Tim’s ideas and methods to a pitch I was working on. Lo and behold, it improved it no end. Turns out I don’t know everything. Who’d have thunk.

Day #2 spent with Zinnie Harris who ran an imagery workshop. Right up my street and even though she didn’t like my ‘what happens next in the suitcase story’ idea (sob) it was really interesting and got some ideas sparking.

FEBRUARY

We’ve all be paired up with our photographers. Your photographers? I hear you cry. Yes indeed. Writer Pictures, who specialise in literary portraits, are collaborating with the Trav50 to produce portraits of each of the writers and they’ll be displayed later in the year. ‘My’ chap is a very talented documentary photographer called Ian Forsyth. I opened my introductory email to him with the words “I hate getting my photo taken” … we’re yet to meet but plans are afoot and I just hope he doesn’t end up feeling he pulled the shortest of short straws.

JANUARY

The whole thing kicked off with our first get together (it had a very first-day-of-school vibe about it and there were name badges).

This was followed by the not inconsiderable task of staging all 50 tiny plays to ‘introduce’ us and the project to the wider-world. Clearly the ‘wider-world’ were interested to have a look as the original one-nigher had to be extended to two to meet demand.

“theatrical pockets of joy” – Orla O’Loughlin

“Rich, imaginative, theatrical. A glimpse of the future” – @ZinnieH

The project has attracted quite a lot of attention so far, including a spot on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row which you can listen to [here]

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Traverse Write Here – Fat Alice

I spend quite a lot of time on my own. More so since I recently left seven years of flat sharing in favour of solo living. I’ve named my plants (Nick, Tiggy and Valerie) and spend a fair amount of time looking out of the window from my desk watching the cat over the back (who I have named Seymour) in lieu of being allowed a pet of my own. This is not a bad thing, by the way. I like it. And I need to be on my own, in the quiet, to write. I’m not one of these who can have the telly on or music blaring.

I am my work. If I don’t sit on my own at my desk in the quiet then it doesn’t get written. The reward is having the play done – in the hands of a director, in the mouths of actors, an audience there watching and enjoying it.

I’ve been doing a lot of writing this year. So it was with much excitement that I peeled myself away from my desk to head up to Edinburgh for the Traverse Write Here Festival.

As one of the Traverse Fifty I’d had the opportunity to pitch various ideas and was delighted to have my play Fat Alice amongst the lunchtime readings, my audio short Noise in the Headset Play line-up and my Hidden Play secreted somewhere in the building.

I only had two days up there – 28 hours to be exact – so I was going to have to make the most of everything going on. It’s safe to say I spent the time up to my eyes in theatre and I frickin’ loved it.

High points included finding all of the plays around the building – scribbled on the walls to scrolling across the till displays – the Lunchtime rehearsed readings by some of my fellow 50 and hearing my audio short Noise performed by Gabriel Quigley. Because you listen on an individual headset but can see other people around you listening too and hearing the same thing at the same time, it’s both a collective and personal experience. Not an unpleasant one, just different.

“super charged with energy and invention …
… small audio plays – including a superb foyer piece called Noise, by Alison Carr, brilliantly performed by Gabriel Quigley …
Among the hightlights so far … Carr’s extreme comedy Fat Alice in which the obesity crisis suddenly and literally intrudes into the new love-nest of an adulterous couple …
… explosion of creativity” ★★★★ – Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman

The day rounded off with the unveiling of the Writer Pictures exhibition. The photos had been hanging in the bar since the previous day, I’m not sure if people had to walk around with their eyes closed until the ‘official launch’ but anyway, here’s mine …

The highest high point, though, was rehearsing Fat Alice.

This is why I do what I do. This makes all the worry and self-doubt and solitude worthwhile – to be in a room with the director Zinnie Harris and two superb actors, hearing and working on my play which I wrote at that desk by the window in-between naming my plants and watching the neighbours cat.

Whether it be a development day, a reading, a fully blown production or anything in-between, I love this bit – the process, the chat, hearing the characters, seeing it getting up on its feet for the first time. There were questions and some cuts and small re-writes on the hop, and bits that weren’t working and bits that were – but that’s the point of sessions like this. Three hours to rehearse a script-in-hand performance of a twenty-minute play, you’d think it would be more than enough time but it flew by.

Fat Alice was a bit of a risk. It’s a black comedy in which a lot of physical things happen. This can be tricky in a rehearsed reading as those things aren’t going to happen. The event that kicks the whole thing off, for example, the foot that comes through the couple’s ceiling – well the audience are just going to have to use their imaginations.

So while it was a reading, Zinnie got the actors on to their feet as much as possible. She also got them up on their chairs and down on their bellies, so hats off to Gabe and David for being so game. And when it came to the audience watching the performance the following day it all paid off, they got right with the story and the characters – they also laughed lots and said nice things afterwards, which never hurts.

So I head home. And back to my desk. I wonder if Seymour’s missed me …

I nearly forgot, my Hidden Play. Very hidden!

For those of you without super-sonic vision, it reads thus …

YOU TOO? by Alison Carr
I sometimes feel, you know …
I know.
Do you?
Yes.
And do you feel …?
All the time.
Me too.