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Brief Encounter with... Traverse artistic director Orla O'Loughlin

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Orla O'Loughlin is the new artistic director of the Traverse Theatre. Prior to joining the Traverse she was artistic director of Pentabus Theatre company and an international associate at the Royal Court.

Her previous work includes Kebab (Dublin International Festival/ Royal Court Theatre), How Much is your Iron? (Young Vic), The Hound of the Baskervilles, Blithe Spirit, Black Comedy and A Dulditch Angel (National Tour).

Here she talks to Whatsonstage.com about her first Fringe at the head of the Traverse, the series of new plays she is curating alongside David Greig (Dream Plays), and other programme highlights.

It's your first Fringe as AD of the Traverse; how has it been putting the programme together?
I'm really excited by our programme and I'm looking forward to my first Festival as artistic director. I've felt a huge responsibility really, daunting but overwhelmingly exciting. There's so much talent to engage with and it's such a privilege to be in a position to present it, and also to invite so many exciting writers, companies and performers in.

And your programme's not quite finished, is it? You've said previously that two of your Dream Plays series won’t be written and commissioned until after the festival starts.
We have indeed, we came up with the idea of showing twelve world premieres over twelve days of brand new work by writers. We've announced who the first ten writers will be, but we're not announcing on what day you can see their show. The idea is you can come to see a play rather than a writer. Two of the writers we've yet to commission - because we don't know who they are.

It's part of our commitment to seeking out, promoting and finding talent, trying to get out there to see as much new work as we can and commission people in a very brief period of time to write us a Dream Play. It's a specific brief which is to write something that they've never had an opportunity to write before so it's really an invitation to writers to let their imaginations run wild.

Would you say this is a response to an increasingly commercialised Fringe?
I think it's a gesture, a very public gesture. It seems a bit of a unconventional idea and a huge risk but it's important. At the moment people are buying tickets for a play that they don't know who's written it or what the play's about but they've bought into the idea of taking that risk. I think there is an audience that are looking for an adventure and there's no place that gives that opportunity like the Fringe.

This is where we're in a position where we're able to make the Fringe fringier.

Tell us about the return of Simon Stephens for Morning
We're absolutely delighted to be continuing our relationship with Simon Stephens, and Sean Holmes as well. When we read Morning we were not only struck by the power of the writing but by the fact that the cast are young people. It feels like a moment, one of Europe's most important playwrights has written something for young people and we're putting it on the main stage of the Traverse.

It's a difficult piece of work, it's dark and it's provocative and hard going, and for that to be presented by a company of young people. It feels like something exciting is happening.

How would you summarise all of the work the Traverse is putting on this Fringe?
We're just so proud of our programme, placing the writer at the heart of theatre. It's a celebration of theatre; it's a celebration of the most exciting, compelling theatrical voices from the UK and beyond. It's a real mix of established and emergent voices, writers, performers and a real mix of what new writing is.

And I think our programme very much is in line with what our policy is really, not to be too wound up with what the definition of a writer is, to be inclusive.

- Orla O'Loughlin was speaking to Kieran Corcoran


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