Traverse Theatre

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Traverse Theatre
Traverse Theatre.JPG
Traverse Theatre
Traverse Theatre
Address10 Cambridge Street
Location Edinburgh, Scotland
Coordinates 55°56′51.43″N3°12′17.25″W / 55.9476194°N 3.2047917°W / 55.9476194; -3.2047917
Capacity T1: 214 (end-on) & 284 (festival configuration). T2: 99 (end-on) & 115 (horseshoe).

The Traverse Theatre is a theatre in Edinburgh, Scotland. It was founded as The Traverse Theatre Club in 1962 [1] by John Calder, John Malcolm, Jim Haynes, Richard Demarco, Terry Lane, [2] Andrew Muir, John Martin and Sheila Colvin. [1]


The Traverse Theatre company commissions and develops new plays or adaptations from contemporary playwrights, and also presents productions from visiting companies. [3]

The Traverse produces shows under its banner and acts as a host venue for Edinburgh Fringe shows in August. [4] It is also the home of the Edinburgh International Children's Festival, [5] previously known as the Imaginate Festival.[ citation needed ]


The Traverse Theatre Club, originally opened by Cambridge Footlights as "The Sphinx Nightclub", began at 15 James Court, Lawnmarket, Edinburgh, on 20 August 1962. The location was a former doss-house and brothel also known as Kelly's Paradise and Hell's Kitchen.[ citation needed ] It was "a long, low-ceilinged first-floor room barely 15ft wide by 8ft high" [6] with 60 seats salvaged from the Palace Cinema placed in two blocks on either side of the stage. The theatre is named because 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. [7] The first performance was on 2 January 1963, with the production of Orison, by Fernando Arrabal. [8]

Following a surveyor's report in March 1969, which stated that the internal floors of James Court were unsafe, the Traverse moved to a former sailmakers's loft at 112 West Bow in the east end of the Grassmarket.[ citation needed ] This larger space had a 100-seat theatre with flexible seating configurations.[ citation needed ] The first performance in this venue was on 24 August 1969.[ citation needed ] In its early days, the theatre included exhibition space for the visual arts, until 1966, when the administrators for that space – including Richard Demarco – moved away to establish what became the Richard Demarco Gallery. [6]

Current Traverse Theatre building

Cambridge Street, with the Usher Hall on the right Traverse Theatre, Cambridge Street.JPG
Cambridge Street, with the Usher Hall on the right

In 1992, the Traverse moved to its current location, 10 Cambridge Street, a £3.3 million purpose-built two theatre space with bar café created as part of Saltire Court development on Castle Terrace. The theatre's first performance at this location was on 3 July 1992. [7]

Traverse 1 is the larger space with flexible seating that can be moved to create many different configurations (e.g. transverse, end on, in the round, etc.). The most common configuration is 'end on' and has 214 seats. Traverse 2 is the smaller studio space - with new flexible seating was installed in September 2005 to allow for different staging configurations, the standard capacity is approximately 115 seats. [9]

The Traverse and the Edinburgh Festivals

Founded in 1962, the mission of the Traverse was to continue the spirit of the Edinburgh Festivals all year round. [1]

During the Festivals in August, the Traverse continues to present cutting edge new writing, as well as new work of all kinds to an international audience. The Traverse is occasionally referred to as 'The Fringe venue that got away',[ citation needed ] reflecting its current status as a permanent and integral part of the Edinburgh arts scene throughout the year.

Today August remains the busiest time for the Traverse. In 2010, in a first for Scottish theatre, a series of specially commissioned rehearsed readings by Enda Walsh, Linda McLean, David Eldridge, Simon Stephens and Marina Carr were broadcast live on 23 August 2010 to cinemas across the UK. One third (two of six) of 2010 Scotsman Fringe First Award winners were shows performed at the Traverse. [10]

Theatre critic Lyn Gardner has described the Traverse's programme as "the backbone of theatre on the Edinburgh Fringe." [11] "What you see there will often set the tone and tenor of the rest of the Fringe."[ citation needed ]

Notable associations

From its beginning in 1963, the Traverse Theatre has launched the careers of many of Scotland's best-known writers including John Byrne, Gregory Burke, David Greig, David Harrower and Liz Lochhead.

During the 1960s Richard Wilson was a regular performer. Throughout the 1970s the Traverse Theatre hosted actors including Timothy Dalton, Billy Connolly, Robbie Coltrane, Ann Mitchell, Simon Callow, Bill Paterson and Steven Berkoff. In 1978 David Hayman famously directed John Byrne's Slab Boys which featured Robbie Coltrane.[ citation needed ]

Tilda Swinton and Forbes Masson memorably performed during the 1980s and Steve Unwin directed Alan Cumming in a 1988 production of The Conquest of the South Pole. Ashley Jensen and Bill Nighy began their acting careers at the Traverse.[ citation needed ]

Many of the theatre's sponsored seats have personalised plaques, including Robbie Coltrane's "This is a no farting zone" and Tom Conti's "In memory of my longest dry".[ citation needed ]

Artistic directors


See also

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  1. 1 2 3 McMillan, Joyce (1988). The Traverse Theatre story 1963–1988. John Carnegie, Traverse Theatre. London: Methuen Drama. ISBN   0-413-19250-4. OCLC   59189259.
  2. Terry Lane. Terry Lane website.
  3. "About Scotland's new writing theatre". Traverse Theatre Edinburgh. 2012. Retrieved 16 May 2012.
  4. "Traverse Theatre - Venue number 15". Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Retrieved 16 May 2021.
  5. "Edinburgh International Children's Festival". Traverse Theatre. 16 May 2021. Retrieved 16 May 2021.
  6. 1 2 Dean Gallery (2008) Focus on Demarco. Edinburgh: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
  7. 1 2 "Our history". Traverse Theatre. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  8. Haynes, Jim (2010). "Jim Haynes Web site". Retrieved 16 May 2012.
  9. "Hire". Traverse Theatre. Retrieved 22 June 2023.
  10. "12 Aug 2010 - Fringe First Awards". Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Retrieved 22 June 2023.
  11. Gardner, Lyn (6 August 2007). "Edinburgh festival 2007 | Other stuff we saw". The Guardian.
  12. Hill, Dominic (12 August 2008). "My Edinburgh: Dominic Hill, artistic director, Traverse theatre". The Guardian. ISSN   0261-3077 . Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  13. "Artistic Director: Dominic Hill | About". Citizens Theatre. 9 January 2017. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  14. Pollock, David (4 December 2018). "Orla O'Loughlin interview | Guildhall | re-imagine theatre training". The Stage. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  15. Wild, Stephi (9 November 2018). "Gareth Nicholls Appointed Interim Artistic Director of the Traverse Theatre". Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  16. "Actress returns to frightening scene of stabbing". HeraldScotland. 19 April 2000. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  17. McMillan, Joyce (1988). The Traverse Theatre Story 1963–1988. Methuen ISBN   0-413-19250-4

Further reading