Note: This review is from the 2015 Fringe

‘Cut us and we bleed.’ No mistaking the message in Executive Producer Linda Crooks’ opening speech at tonight’s Traverse Festival launch. Even as a programme with an international outlook is announced, it’s clear that keeping the good ship Traverse at the forefront of the country’s theatrical fleet is no easy matter in the current financial climate. But none of that deflects from the shows that Artistic Director Orla O’Loughlin unveils tonight, with the help of guest spots from writers, directors and performers.

A show that she directs fronts the printed programme, but it’s left to writer Stef Smith, arriving straight off a plane from Brazil to introduce it. Swallow examines the lives of three strangers with different demons they are trying to confront, and features music by Young Fathers collaborator LAWholt who tonight performs a strange and intense piece which sets a brooding tone for the play.

A couple of Festival shows have graduated from the A Play, A Pie And A Pint series. Crash, written by Andy Duffy and directed by Emma Callander, was seen as recently as last autumn. It is the tale of a city trader who falls on hard times, although the opening car scene we are treated to tonight hints that’s not the only reason behind the title…

The Garden, written and directed by Zinnie Harris, was also once a PPP show, but this dystopian tale of ecological doom has since transmogrified into an opera and is set to take place in a ‘domestic space’ somewhere beyond the bounds of the Traverse itself.

Irish writer/performer Sonya Kelly talks a good game for her show How To Keep An Alien, a tragi-comic tale that does ‘all the feelings.’ It’s an autobiographical piece about trying to keep her new Australian partner in Ireland once her visa runs out and from the short sketch she performs tonight it looks sharp, witty and highly watchable.

Some trailers pose more questions than they answer though. ‘I know I’m a pervert,’ says a bearded man in a photo booth, trailing Belgian theatre company Ontroerend Goed’s A Game of You. It gets a laugh and piques curiosity, but we’re none the wiser as to what we’ll be letting ourselves in for if we take the suggested ‘1 hour for the full experience’ recommended in the programme.

Valentijn Dhaenens returns to the Traverse after his success with acclaimed solo shows, BigMouth and SmallWar ( from us last year). A slick trailer for Pardon / In Cuffs offers snippets of a prosecutor and criminal trading verbal blows across a room. It whets the appetite, but it remains to be seen what it’s like in the flesh.

On the subject of flesh, death is something of a theme in this year’s programme. Unlimited Theatre’s Am I Dead Yet? has been developed in collaboration with emergency care teams and will be the Trav’s late night show. At an hour when A&Es are crammed with over-indulgent revellers requiring resuscitation, this piece will be showing what it takes for our overstretched medical services to bring someone back from the brink, and how the point of death becomes a greyer area with each scientific advance. It’s not all heavy – the promo pic is a pair of middle-aged men in their undies.

Death is also central to A Gambler’s Guide To Dying, Gary McNair’s one-man piece remembering his grandad, whose response to a cancer diagnosis was calculating the odds on his reaching the new millennium.

With more shows, including international works from China, Ukraine, Egypt, Turkey and Canada as part of the Breakfast Plays series, there’s much to get your teeth into. The full programme is at the Traverse website.

Traverse Festival runs from Fri 7 Aug until Sun 30 Aug 2015