What is a Scratch Night?
In case you don’t know, a scratch night is an evening of performances that are usually from a developing piece of theatre. Performers usually get given a set amount of time for them to perform in and they are shown to a select group of audience members. For this scratch night, each company or performer had 15 minutes to showcase their work.
Why was it happening?
Three of the four performances are going to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, as part of a programme of working class shows produced by Bradford-based theatre company Bloomin’ Buds. The scratch night took place in Bradford arts hub Kala Sangam.
Who was performing?
A Young Girls’ Guide to Madness, Charlotte Ellis
Charlotte, playing the character Jess, enters wearing a leather jacket, white top, white joggers and white trainers; her hair is tied up in a long slicked back ponytail, immediately telling us her age. As she settles centre stage, she asks “Do you like me?” I was intrigued; who was she talking to? Why is she asking? Who is she? In her 15 minute slot, we watched Charlotte verbalise a stream of consciousness as she tells us about her crush on this guy called Jay; how her friends are struggling with loving who they are; and the struggles of being a girl in this century. Each sentence hooks you further into her struggles as you lean in to hear what’s happening in her head.
Photo taken from promo shoot for AYGGTM
The writing starts in this thought process style, beautifully transitioning to a stylised spoken word form. It takes a second for you to realise she’s changed her pattern of speech, and when you do it’s a satisfying moment. Using this rhythm and style of speech makes it more relatable; you can follow her thoughts as though they are your own. The direction of this piece is very to the point with Charlotte pacing the stage as she works out her thoughts and takes moments to stand and look directly at us. We follow her rollercoaster of emotions through both the written word and the lighting. It starts with a yellow/white wash across the stage highlighting the middle section and switches to a gentle, sad blue when she begins to talk about her friends heartbreak with themselves. This adds greatly to the sadness in the audience; a tangible feeling you take on yourself.
Written by Charlotte herself, you can see her words hang in the air and feel the connection she has to the story she tells. As a young woman myself, I identified strongly with a lot of her words and could see myself and my friends in her stories. A beautifully raw vignette of life as a young girl today, A Young Girls’ Guide to Madness is one to watch.
To keep up to date with the plays progress follow @AYGGTM on Facebook.
A Mighty Fall From Grace, Jake Thompson
The second piece of the night was Jake Thompson’s A Mighty Fall from Grace. The play explores an avid Bradford Bulls Fan with undiagnosed schizophrenia and depression through several years of his life. In his 15 minutes, we watch several scenes from the play starting with Andy in the pub discussing the latest game. Jake’s miming skills shine in his smooth movements from depicting his Dad, to demonstrating the moves of the game. At this point, they’re playing strong and his mental health is in a good place. We watch this character unfold more as we see his job life, and his depiction of a news channel dubbed “The Bradford Bull Shitshow.” Cartwheeling into the scene to the sound of the BBC announcement sound, Jake lands centre stage and tells us the beginning of the decline of the club.
Photo taken from a previous performance of AMFFG at Kala Sangam, Bradford.
To best display the switch in scenes, there’s a conscious choice to use music rather than lighting. This play has been performed in a previous form to different audiences from 2019 to present. In these versions, the technical choices differed, perhaps due to the play being performed in its entirety? No matter the reason, using sound really added to the feel and atmosphere of the piece. The most striking of this was the transfer into the most hectic scene, where we see his mental health deteriorate as he walks us through the vandalization of a car and the office building of the people who ‘destroyed’ his club. The song choice here is Gorillaz’ Clint Eastwood, a slightly disturbing song that greatly reflects the characters mental state at this point in time. For this performance, he wore a Bradford Bulls rugby shirt and black joggers, a stylistic choice further demonstrating his deepened faith and intoxication with the club.
The play tells a very striking story in a way that respectfully represents how a fan’s wellbeing can be affected by their club’s success in a very extreme circumstance.
To keep up to date with the plays progress follow @amightyfallfromgrace on Facebook.
Assigned, Inner Triangle Productions
Assigned, written, created and performed by Inner Triangle Productions features performances from Gina Jovanovich, Bradley Pattison and Corin Ward. The actors set the scene by bringing on a stool and three cardboard boxes, placing themselves on the stage as though in three different spaces. All three performers wore company logoed t-shirts and black trousers creating a neutral setting. The stage was lit up with a gentle yellow wash, creating a light and warm atmosphere. Bradley sits SR inspecting a cardboard box that sits on the floor in front of him; Gina sits in the middle on her stool and contemplates the floor; Corin sits down on one of the boxes they brought on and contemplates another, seemingly full of things on the ground in front of them. This further separates the three of them whilst also connecting them with this distance they create between themselves and the audience.
Automatically, our eyes are drawn to these boxes, we collectively ask ourselves what do the boxes mean? Different from the rest of the performances, their 15 minutes consists of a monologue read and performed by each of the actors in a different way. As one actor speaks, the others continue to ruminate in their own thoughts. Gina begins the time, performing with the air of knowledge and wisdom, almost in a teacher to student way, telling us what it was like for her at school, getting C’s and not being given a chance by their teachers. This contrast furthers our interest and we listen in closely. Bradley then holds our focus. The audience turns to listen to him as he performs the same monologue, but this time with a comedic tone.
Poster for Assigned
The new spin on the words makes us consider the different ways these teaching attitudes affect their students; when we laugh, we ask why this is funny when the topic is very serious. Bradley ends his performance delivering the line, “how are we supposed to fit that all in one box?” by stepping inside his box, clearly not fitting fully in. Our attention then moves to our final performer of the trio. Corin performs the monologue again, with a more tense and frustrated tone and attitude to the words. They move around their third of the stage, gesturing their frustrations, ending it in a flurry of anger; they pick up their box and scatter the many, many labels all over the stage.
The audience are left stunned viewing this image of dozens of labels makes us reflect on the pre-show interaction with the company. Before we entered the auditorium, we were invited to write on a label three ‘labels’ either we’ve given ourselves or that someone has given you. At the time we didn’t know why, but this ending image brought the piece full circle.
Safe Light, Dario Ricordo.
The final performance of the evening showed scenes from Dario Ricordo’s new play Safe Light. For his 15 minutes, Dario chose two three scenes for his actors to perform. The first scene we see shows a couple half arguing about their son’s future and a past that we are not let in on. To set the scene, two chairs are placed centre stage. Gina Jovanovich plays the mother, wearing all black, her hair tied up in a loose bun; Terrence Rae plays the Dad, wearing a long sleeve top, black jeans and a plaid shirt. We lean in to listen to the two, feeling a strong tension between them through their body language and the tone of their deliverance. The stage is set with a wash of white and yellow adding to the tension.
To set the next scene, Terrence brings out a table sitting in between the chairs, centre stage. We see Noah, played by Connor Wood enter the stage wearing a dark hoodie and black jeans, with a rucksack swung on one shoulder. He mimes trying to open the door as Kieran, also played by Terrence, crosses the stage to help ‘open the door’ and let Noah in. For this character change, Terrence now no longer wears the plaid shirt. This, on top of his change in physicalization (more open and youthful body language) helps to solidify his change in character. The scene plays out to show that this is the characters first meeting, that Kieran is a photographer and Noah wants to go on a placement with him. There’s a discomfort felt from the way that Kieran looks towards Noah in this scene and the next, especially in scene three when they enter the dark room.
The stage is devoid of sets, removed after the pair’s first interaction. They re-enter mid-conversation. After an initial tour of the photography studio, Kieran invites Noah into the dark room, distinguished by the lighting; the middle of the stage is now flooded with red, a simple yet effective design choice. This both sets the scene and the atmosphere, creating an intimate feeling and a sense of vulnerability from Noah. The rest of the play explores their relationship and the change in power dynamics as Kieran begins to take advantage of his position. Due to the nature of the piece, the choice of scenes for the scratch night felt right; they were able to display a hint of the themes without giving us too much of the play. They also gave us enough power shifts as we saw the pair interact, through both the direction of the actors as well as the subject of the conversation; from Noah trying to prove himself, to his reaction to Kieran’s choice of photography.
The line-up for the evening was supposed to have two more performances, but unfortunately due to Covid cases within the cast and crew, these were unable to perform. Below, I have attached their descriptions to give you a sense of their plays.
Doll, Common People Theatre
Created and performed by Leah Hand and Morgan Scriven.
Cassie, a young twenty something from the Northwest of England, has moved to the “arse end of London”, looking for better opportunities and new beginnings. She finds herself however, riding out the hours with her ‘meals on wheels’ eating landlady or avoiding the gaze of the creepy Chris at her local green-king. That is until she meets Harley. Handsome, adventurous and a charming seller of…sex dolls. Harley brings the excitement back into Cassie’s dulled evenings…but at what cost?
Doll is a comedy drama inspired by real crime, incorporating themes of manipulation, power dynamics and loneliness. How blind can infatuation make you?
Poster for Doll
To keep up to date with the plays progress follow @commonpeopletheatre on Facebook.
Broke her, Steel Harbour
Written & Directed by Luke Mosley.
Performed by Liam Duggan, Megan Dexter and Drew Noon.
Broke Her is a new and original 3 person script created by Steel Harbour Productions that is being Produced by Bloomin’ Buds Theatre Company. We are excited to bring this intense and mysterious thriller to the stage in 2022. The premise of the play is Isobelle wakes up in her own house tied to one of her dining room chairs with a well suited gentleman at her table drinking tea, he seems to know everything about her life and is unsure how or why. The play is set over 40 mins of what is essentially a hostage situation where the kidnapper is playing cat and mouse mind games until the play reaches its climax in the ending as the audience are blindsided with a huge plot twist. Things are never as they seem.
To keep up to date with the plays progress follow @SteelHarbourProductions on Facebook.
To help support these artists take their plays to Edinburgh Fringe Festival, please consider donating to their go fund me’s: