When are we gonna stop scratching and make a proper show

Convener(s): Laura Eades

Participants: Ilana Winterstein, Barry Wilson, Adrian Gillott, Becki Harris, Shakera Louise Ahad, Alice Massey, Gloria Girdz, Christina Elliott, Li E Chen, Anna Tobert, Alison Goldie

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

The producers’ insight

Complaint that one can get stuck circulating in the scratching eddies and never moving to the next level. There were some producers in the room who asked why our work was not going to a full run.

People from Fuel talked about using scratches as part of a wider strategy – and that it’s easier to get grants for that early development stage.

They say it gives something to film, and that the audience understand the scratch process, and the artist is forced to make decisions which can really accelerate the creative process.

They said they have organized their own work-in-progress showings at the studio space in the Roundhouse, that not many people know about.

They invite industry people and general audience separately.

A marketing person says: You need to meet people and generate interest in advance of your scratch. You need to articulate what you do easily.

At this point, some of us realized we were truly ignorant of the producing process, need a producer, and are naively trusting in the scratch process to ‘provide’ a natural development path for new work rather than having a plan already in place. We called to the ceiling and to the ether: Where are all the roving producers? If they could call me on 07946 458699 that would be awesome.

The merits and zmerits of the scratch system as it stands

Is scratching an artist-led process or a venue-led programming tool?

It provides a level of publicity and therefore there’s also the pressure of display, which is at odds with the instruction to experiment.

We do scratch because it sounds achievable.

To move from a scratch to a show you have to work out what you want from your audience, you have to approach the nights with appropriate expectations.

It’s a bit like Britain’s Got Talent – the hope that luck, money, producing may follow from a scratch.

You can build a network.

You can use scratch as audience development – use the gigs to publicise your work (if it fits into a scratch slot).

It changes the kind of work that’s made, because you make work to fit into designated slots.

You can build up strength this way.

It feels risky but is it a bit insecure to need all this feedback? You can get stuck there because it feels safe.

The feedback and presentation mode are limited by the venue’s specifications. You can’t contextualize your work by explaining.

You can scratch somewhere and then scarper

Oh god, maybe we are stuck in the scratch circuit because we are actually frightened of a real show, because it feels bitesize and we can handle it, because it’s reinforcing to have all the feedback but ultimately disempowering, because it’s free, because we are ADDICTS

Some places that you can scratch and what people said about them:

BAC – no feedback from audience you don’t know

The Space-Isle of Dogs – Theatre of Inspirations –mainly physical theatre

Pulse Festival – great feedback from an after-show discussion

Brockley Jack – audience want to see a nice little show for not much money

Shunt Lounge – good chances of your interests chiming as 10 curators

One coming up at Lyric run by Shane Silankey who made Last Mango in Paris

Young Vic – very good useful feedback

Chinese venue in Manchester – very useful

Nightingale Theatre, Brighton – don’t produce but very structured feedback

Arch468 –audience intimidated by open discussion feedback format, but they do want to produce and develop work they like

Berlin – HAU – has 3 spaces

Berlin – Sophiensaele

Berlin – Dock II

Berlin – Tanfabrik

Scenepool at Camden People’s Theatre run by New Work Network – very good experience but have to drum up your own audience to some extent

What is a proper show?

A 3-week run, or more than just a night

Where you can get reviews

That you get paid for

Or that you don’t have to pay for

But just because you may not be paid for it doesn’t mean it’s not a proper show for everybody

It’s whatever you put on and say: This is a proper show. Pay for it. If you like it or don’t like it, it’s what I’ve chosen.

A proper show has a feedback process that’s not in the bar afterwards (where everyone’s pretending to be theatre critics) but where you adjust the show as you go along from the very truthful real feedback that you get from people’s attention shifts. That’s why you should dare to put up shows that are not yet ready, so the audience can finish them.

It creates the idea that a finished show is ‘frozen’ 

How is the scratch phenomenon changing our theatrical cultural landscape?

Used to be called work-in-progress and was dreamt up to put the risk back into the process – but some feel it’s risk-aversion dressed up as risk-taking: it’s a process that allows everybody to check and see things and check with the audience every step of the way. It allows venues not to take a risk and you not to take a risk with your audience not liking it.

Scratch nights have become a genre in their own right, and the audience is its own audience.

Someone tells of seeing a rehearsed reading and just liking the rough presentation, not wanting to see the whole show. Someone else was banned from using video and had to draw, and so then the audience said they didn’t want to see a video at all they just wanted drawing. These are not bad outcomes, but the medium actually alters the process and the product too

Possible solutions and alternatives

Artists teaming up to make scratches of their own kind, making their own models

Making 15-minute work for the cabaret and scratch circuit in its own right, like the open mic circuit works

Making work that uses a scratch aesthetic and playing it in working men’s clubs and old people’s homes

Putting your show on and having the courage to do that without all of the verification (this requires money and no guarantee of audience)

More venues which actually produce and develop the work they scratch rather than just scratching it for the sake of it

The ultimate aim is to put on proper shows that never stop scratching

Stop fighting against our inevitable inability to reproduce performances identically

Let’s have a load of premieres rather than scratches

Go to small drama festivals – Buxton fringe, Henley fringe

Make shows in squats

Deal drugs

Get a producer, get a producer, get a producer