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Dream Plays (Scenes From a Play I'll Never Write) – Traverse 4 stars


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 series of 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' 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.

The Herald, August 23rd 2012

ends

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