The Traverse is a venue whose identity is centred around a commitment to promoting new writing and nurturing emerging talent in theatre. Last week’s double bill from the Lyceum Youth Theatre and the Traverse Young Writers Group demonstrated this commitment at a grass-roots level, showcasing theatre produced and performed by young people.
The first half was comprised of a rehearsed reading of two pieces of new writing from the Traverse Young Writers Group, a group for 18-25 year olds focusing on honing playwriting skills and introducing a new generation of talent to the creative community of the Traverse. The evening began with ‘Upstage, Dorothy Porter’ by Sarah Thewlis, a lucid but wordy absurdist piece in which three characters vie for the spotlight, and for control of script and stage alike. Thewlis’ prose is admirably constructed, a winding discourse on the nature of protagonism which leaps back and forth over the fourth wall in a way which is both funny and thoughtful. The second piece of the night was ‘Please Pac a Mac’ by Mel Rozel Brayford. A tale of growing up and waterproof clothing, the play chronicles the friendship between a young boy and a personified manifestation of his bright yellow pac-a-mac. During the turbulent teenage years, the mac is tragically relegated to the back of the wardrobe, where it meets a cast of woebegone garments, including a pair of shoes who take the form of a bickering pair of husbands, and a defiantly cheerful luminescent green jacket. The bright cast of characters make the play absurdly fun, Brayford has a sturdy grasp of comic tone which comes across even in the slightly stifling context of a rehearsed reading. Both pieces display more than just a sparkle of promise and highlight the enduring importance of bringing new voices into the arts.
After a brief interval, we return for the second instalment of the night, Simon Armitage’s ‘Eclipse’, performed by members of the Lyceum Youth Theatre and directed by Rachael Esdale. The stage of Traverse 2 was transformed into a windswept beach scene, a stark square of yellow sand framed by the blackness of the auditorium, fragments of electric fence and sea-softened rocks jutting up from the stage. To the back of this scene, five actors are seated on a raised platform, awaiting interrogation by the police. It is an eclectic line up; there is Midnight (named for his blindness) Tulip, (a reformed tomboy), Jane and Polly (twin sisters), Glue Boy (probably intoxicated) and Klondike (the leader). They stand up one by one and give their testimonies, and we begin to piece together what has led them to this exact moment. We learn that they are being questioned over the disappearance of Lucy Lime, a self proclaimed ‘walking universe’, who went missing seven years ago after meeting with the five during a strange cliff-side ritual to herald the arrival of a total solar eclipse. What follows is a strange tale which winds delicately between traditional schoolyard tribulations and bizarre occultism, violence and drug abuse, a juicy text for any young company to attempt. Prose often breaks into a canter of intricate and playful rhyme, in a manner which is to be expected of Armitage, and the actors seem to have an excellent grasp of his potentially cumbersome metre, conveying both sense and beauty in complicated turns of phrase with commendable professionalism. The play is double cast, the stage split between the five actors on the platform and the five who play their younger counterparts. It is a strong ensemble overall, with standout performances from Hannah Sweetnam who brings to life the indecipherable Lucy Lime with clarity and charisma, and Rachel Nicholson as the convincingly guilt-wrung elder Tulip.
In a climate where the arts are devalued on the curriculum and in the commons, it is heartening to see young performers and writers given prestigious platform, and it is a platform which they ascend with grace and enthusiasm.
Image credits to Aly Wight
Alice Bethany Markey
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