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‘Scratch’ and works-in-progress
are a blight on theatre.

July 12th, 2017

In early May we spent a week working on a new show called The Capital which is planned to open in 2018. It has a big cast and ambitious set, so it’s going to be expensive. This means it seemed sensible to check the ideas are going to work.

We need some people to commission the show, so we wanted these ‘some people’ to see it in the hope they would be inspired to invest. So, at the end of the week, we performed some things to an invited audience. I think this may officially have been classified a ‘work in progress showing’ which unfortunately may make me a massive hypocrite. Why? because I have just written a whole essay explaining why such things are a blight on the world theatre.

You can read the full essay here, gather your thoughts and then tell me why I’m wrong (or not). I spent a bit of time on it so please do read it and decide which side of the fence you’re on.

One Response to “‘Scratch’ and works-in-progress
are a blight on theatre.”

  1. I’m in general agreement with this 3 months after you wrote it! ( I’m not a regular visitor to these shores ).

    I’ve heard stories of artists at the BAC finding the famous Scratch nights completely unhelpful and questioning the premise that these occasions help shape a show. I think that happens when you perform a piece of work rather than at a Q+A afterwards. if a piece is meant to be funny the audience reaction will let you know immediately.

    I also think the scratch night systems benefits venues more than the artists. They get a show on the cheap, have the “I’d like to see the show when you’ve worked on it more” option to hand and .they get kudos for supporting and developing work.

    My company ( Whalley Range All Stars ) has always presented work that is as finished as we could make it at the time. What we ( and every other performance company ) need are opportunities to perform the show so that it develops further and we get better at performing it. 10 years ago we’d have 25-30 dates of a new show in its first year. Our latest piece of work Ye Gods got 13 dates which felt pretty good in the current climate but it’s also an indicator of the touring circuit both outdoors and indoors not being what it was.

    The Scratch system has resulted in a few successful shows but I know groups who are constantly being held at arm’s length by this approach. Maybe they shouldn’t allow themselves to be drawn into this way of presenting work.

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