Traverse Theatre

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
©2021 Gazetteer for Scotland

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Part of a cultural triangle lying next to Lothian Road, which includes the Usher Hall and the Royal Lyceum Theatre, the Traverse Theatre is a rather more recent building than the others, built in 1992. It is located in Cambridge Street, incorporated into the rear of the Saltire Court luxury office complex.

The Traverse has been described as one of the most important theatres in Britain. It began as a theatre club in 1963 in tiny premises in Edinburgh's Lawnmarket, which had previously been a brothel. The audience were seated around a double-sided stage and the opening night made the headlines in an unexpected manner when the leading lady was accidentally stabbed. In 1969, the theatre moved to larger premises in a converted warehouse and sailmaker's loft in the Grassmarket. Reaching the limits of these premises the management spent ten years finding this new, much larger, location.

When the Traverse opened its doors it was the first studio theatre in Britain. Since then new work has been the cornerstone of its artistic policy. The Traverse has an unrivalled reputation for producing contemporary theatre, commissioning and supporting writers from Scotland, such as Liz Lochhead (b.1946) and Iain Crichton Smith (1928-98), and from around the world, as well as holding readings, script development and public writing workshops. The theatre has a significant educational function, concentrating on the process of playwriting for young people.

The theatre also provides a notable venue for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and the Traverse Bar Cafe provides a pleasant and airy environment, which has become a popular year-round meeting place in the city.

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