Dream Plays (Scenes From a Play I'll Never Write), Traverse


While Theatre Uncut occupied a 10am slot each Monday morning of the Fringe, the other six days of the week were equally occupied with immediacy.

Taking place at what in Edinburgh terms is a bleary-eyed 9am, this compendium of brand new works by largely established writers allows them to run away with their imaginations in a series of script-in-hand presentations, with half coming under the directorship of Traverse artistic director Orla O'Loughlin, and half with playwright David Greig.

The first week opened with Most Favoured, a look by David Ireland at how the second coming might work out if it involved a KFC-obsessed angel and a far from virgin Mary in a cheap hotel room where a one-night stand suddenly becomes bigger than both of them. With Gabriel Quigley's desperate singleton a priceless foil to Jordan McCurrach's junk-food obsessed angel, Ireland has penned a scurrilously sacrilegious bite-size sketch that one could imagine being developed further into a fully fledged sit-com.

Catterline was Bondagers writer Sue Glover's meditation on the very singular artistic life led by painter Joan Eardley while living on the east coast of Scotland in the early 1960s. With lover Lil Neilson and kindred spirit Angus Neil rewinding the years, a languid and somewhat ethereal portrait emerges of a free spirit getting by with her visions as best she can. Anne Lacey has the perfect blend of fire and toughness as Joan in an impressionistic piece of imagined history that might also benefit from further development.

If Glover provided the voices of experience, Clean, by Sabrina Mahfouz, was a genuine Fringe find. O'Loughlan saw Mahfouz's play One Hour Only still playing at the Underbelly as part of the Old Vic New Voices strand and was smitten, immediately commissioning Mahfouz to pen a Dream Play.

Some-time performance poet Mahfouz rose to the challenge, not with a piece of TV-style naturalism, but by putting a trio of gaming avatars onstage in an adventure that finds the feisty trio speaking in rhyme before embarking on an adventure that will see them become action heroes in a way that's normally left to little boys.

With Mahfouz herself topping and tailing the play, Clean is a tremendously energetic diversion exposing a rich new voice steeped in pop culture mores as much as theatrical ones.

While Rachel's House is an equally upfront work by Nicola McCartney, who sees life through the troubled eyes of three women ex-cons, all with a story to tell before they embark on the path of freedom, things only take a truly fantastical turn in Alan Wilkins's My Loneliness is Killing Me. This at times hilarious litany of daily grumbles riffs on its theme via a trio of voices, a ukulele, some tins of ravioli and a title lifted from a Britney Spears song. In form, Wilkins has created a kind of comic tone poem knee-deep in existential ennui even as it becomes aware of its own ridiculousness.

The week ended, as it should, with sex and drugs and rock and roll, Janice Galloway's look at a trio of would-be suicides in a psychiatric ward. Like Wilkins, Galloway, whose stage adaptation of her novel The Trick is to Keep Breathing might well have formed the template for Dream Plays, fully embraces the opportunity to run riot on page and stage. As a body of work, all this adds up to a refreshingly audacious exploration of theatrical language. While some are works in progress, others exist solely for the moment.

Such quick-fire immediacy is a very telling calling card too for O'Loughlin, who, in her first Fringe season since her appointment, is here putting her artistic cards on the table, as well as exploring her own relationships with actors and writers she may not have worked with before.

With the ever inventive, ever curious Greig at her side, O'Loughlin is effectively mid-way through a crash course in Traverse Theatre culture, past, present and future which she is also reinventing as she goes.

With a cup of tea and a bacon roll to help you along, Dream Plays thus far has been a delicious concoction to wake up to.