Theatre of the Month > Traverse Theatre

Theatre of the Month > Traverse Theatre
The Traverse is Scotland's new writing theatre.

Formed in 1963 by a group of passionate theatre enthusiasts, the Traverse was founded to extend the spirit of the Edinburgh festivals throughout the year. Today, under Artistic Director Orla O'Loughlin, the Traverse nurtures emerging talent, produces award-winning new plays and offers a curated programme of the best work from the UK and beyond, spanning theatre, dance, performance, music and spoken word.

The Traverse has launched the careers of some of the UK's most celebrated writers - David Greig, David Harrower and Zinnie Harris - and continues to discover and support new voices - Stef Smith, Morna Pearson, Gary McNair and Rob Drummond.

With two custom-built and versatile theatre spaces, the Traverse's home in Edinburgh's city centre is a powerhouse of vibrant new work for, and of, our time.  Every August, it holds an iconic status as the theatrical heart of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Outside the theatre walls, it runs an extensive engagement programme, offering audiences of all ages and backgrounds the opportunity to explore, create and develop. Further afield, the Traverse frequently tours internationally and engages in exchanges and partnerships - most recently in Quebec, Turkey and South Korea. 

History and Origins
The Traverse Theatre began life in 1963 as a theatre club in an abandoned brothel in Edinburgh's Lawnmarket. The theatre is so named because its first Artistic Director, Terry Lane, mistakenly believed that the staging arrangement is called 'traverse'. He later realised that it is 'transverse' but it was already too well known to change it.

In its first year of operation, a theatre conference was organised by director Jim Haynes, John Calder and Kenneth Tynan. Within three years of existence, the tiny theatre club had produced 110 productions, including 28 British premieres and 33 world premieres.

At the end of the 1960s, the Traverse moved to a larger space in Edinburgh's Grassmarket, with flexible seating configurations. The first performance in this venue was on 24 Aug 1969. In its early days the theatre included exhibition space for the visual arts, until 1966 when it was taken away to establish what became the Richard Demarco Gallery.

In 1992, the Traverse moved to its current location at Cambridge Street. A £3.3 million purpose-built two theatre space with bar café was created as part of the Saltire Court development on Castle Terrace. The theatre's first performance at this location was on 3 July 1992.

Outreach and Engagement
We work with playwrights at every stage of their career, reading and feeding back on scripts, hosting play development workshops, commissioning new work, and providing one-to-one meetings between writers and a member of our Artistic team.

As well as writers' groups like Traverse Young Writers and The Playwrights' Toolkit, more informal writers' events take place at the Traverse throughout the year. We invite people to get under the skin of new writing in all of its forms.

Traverse Hothouse showcases home grown emerging theatre companies and artists, giving artists a supportive environment where they can experiment, explore and discover. Over one week, selected companies share the seedlings of their newest creations at varying stages of development, through rehearsed readings and scratch performances.

Class Act is the Traverse Theatre's flagship education project, challenging senior pupils from across Edinburgh to become playwrights; creating brand new scripts to be premiered on the Traverse stage. Since the project began in 1990, Class Act has helped over fourteen hundred young people in over 70 schools write 816 plays. The project has involved playwrights such as Stef Smith, David Greig, Nicola McCartney, Douglas Maxwell and Gregory Burke. The plays have been brought to life by actors including Molly Innes, Colin McCredie, Kevin McKidd, Ryan Fletcher, John Kazek, Cora Bissett and Katrina Bryan. This year, the Traverse Theatre celebrated 25 glittering years of bringing young peoples' voices to the stage, with Class Act Silver.

Each month, we interview a well-known theatre-maker about their art and practice, and the role it plays in their lives. You can subscribe to this podcast through iTunes, or listen and download through SoundCloud.

Festive Shows 2016
This year we are incredibly excited to welcome two festive shows to the Traverse Theatre:

Black Beauty: Sat 3 – Sat 24 Dec
Join the Traverse Theatre Company and Red Bridge Arts this Christmas as they bring an energetic new production, inspired by best-selling book Black Beauty, cantering onto the stage. From the cosy horsebox they call home, Andy and Andy take the bit firmly between their teeth and tell the classic tale of Black Beauty as you've never seen it before. So saddle up, jump on and gallop headlong into a story where loneliness gives way to hope, friends become heroes, and courage saves the day! Blending storytelling, music and puppetry, this vibrant re-telling of Black Beauty offers fun and adventure for fans of the book, classic TV show and those brand new to the tale, and is sure to warm your heart during the coldest of winter nights. Performed by the ‘Christmas show dream team’ (The List) Andy Manley (White, Mikey & Addie) and Andy Cannon (Tales of a Grandson, Labyrinth), with design by Shona Reppe (White, Huff).

Last Christmas: Tue 13 – Fri 23 Dec
The office Christmas party is in full swing. Glitter abounds, cheap booze is being necked and someone’s trying to crash the DJ booth. It’s the high point of the year. Tom would rather be anywhere else on earth. Reeling from unexpected events in his personal life, Tom can’t avoid returning home for Christmas – and all that he’s left behind. The directionless old friends, his fragile mother, even the sticky pub carpet. Nothing seems to have changed, but everything has. Forced to confront the demons he’s been running from, it’s time for Tom to face his family and his future head-on.  A hit at the Edinburgh Fringe festival, award-winning Welsh theatre company Dirty Protest bring you this funny, heart-breaking and uplifting play. Forget panto and that dreaded office Christmas party, this one-man show from Matthew Bulgo will make you laugh, cry and leave the theatre wanting to call your loved ones.

A full list of events can be found on our website at and tickets can be booked online, in person at the box office or over the phone on 0131 228 1404. We are open six days a week from 10am – 6pm (Mon – Sat) or until performance start times.  We look forward to welcoming you to the Traverse Theatre soon!