Traverse Theatre take on Linda McLean's Any Given Day

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Traverse Theatre take on Linda McLean's Any Given Day

The Traverse has assembled a dream cast and director for Linda McLean’s new play about love and forgiveness, as Kelly Apter discovers

When you’ve spent time and energy creating something new, you don’t hand it over to just anybody. Fortunately for Linda McLean, her new play Any Given Day is being looked after by what she herself calls a ‘dream team’. Performed by the Traverse Theatre Company, the play has director Dominic Hill at the helm, and actors Kate Dickie, Phil McKee, Kathryn and Lewis Howden among the cast. When asked what she thinks of them, McLean’s superlatives come thick and fast – ‘Fantastic. All first choices. Brilliant.’

McLean’s reaction is understandable. Red Road star Dickie is always a force to be reckoned with, while, surprisingly, this is the first time brother and sister Kathryn and Lewis have worked together, despite their prolific careers on the Scottish stage and screen. ‘It’s fantastic because they’ve got an absolute shorthand in rehearsal,’ says McLean. ‘Sometimes you have to be careful when you start working with another actor, but Lewis and Kathryn immediately know what each other is thinking. And Phil and Kate, well they’re just legends.’

Not that we’ll see them all on stage together, because Any Given Day is in fact two plays in one. Performed one after the other, but set during the same period of time, the plays have two different casts that are related – although quite how is only revealed during the second play. Tantalisingly little has been written about the show’s content, but as McLean says, ‘There’s a really good reason for that.’

What we do know, is the first play features Sadie and Bill, a couple waiting expectantly in their flat for Bill’s niece Jackie to arrive. The second focuses on Jackie herself, sitting in a bar with Dave in a nameless city. ‘They’re written in completely different styles in terms of language,’ says McLean, ‘and address two themes – that caring for someone is a profound experience, and forgiveness of one’s self and others is absolutely necessary.’ She also warns that the audience should ‘be prepared to be uncomfortable.’

The man charged with helping that happen, is director Dominic Hill. What was it like to work with two distinct scripts in one play? ‘Rather fun, actually,’ he says. ‘They’re very different worlds. The second one seems more naturalistic and connected to the world we know. Whereas the first has two people who operate at their own pace and live their lives in a rather beautiful, ritualistic way.’

For Hill, getting beneath the skin of Sadie, Bill et al was imperative, leading to some lengthy discussions with McLean. ‘There are a lot of autobiographical influences in the play,’ he explains. ‘So Linda knows the characters better than anybody, not just because she wrote them, but because they’re based on people she knows. So it was important for me to understand who she felt these people were.’

Despite McLean’s warning about discomfort, as Hill says, the play also captures some of life’s good things: ‘On one level it’s a celebration of life and love, so there’s a lot of joy. But what the play also says is that those situations can be very fragile and sometimes it can be hard to hold on to the nice things in a world that seems bent on destroying them.’

Any Given Day, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Tue 1–Sat 19 Jun.

Any Given Day

A new work written by Linda McLean about responsibility and set on the day Sadie and Bill are expecting a visit from their favourite person.

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