Last year Morley College held their first ever scratch night, inviting external theatre companies to perform their works in progress for members of the public and a panel of judges, with the winner getting the opportunity to come back and preview the full show in the summer on the way up to Edinburgh.
Following the success of last year’s event, Morley held its second scratch night this week, featuring four companies selected to share their work. Covering everything from the life of an egg to the death of two goldfish, each excerpt was very different and showcased some fantastic talent.
The evening began with Egg, from Theodora van der Beek. A voice-over explains the cultural significance of the egg while Theodora herself stands on stage wearing an egg costume. We then follow her as she hatches, emerging from her peaceful shell and discovering that life’s very different out in the world. It’s all very surreal – the egg gets a job, then ends up as a pole dancer before taking to the stage as a cabaret star – but that only makes it more interesting to see how the piece develops.
The Scattered Mind of the Incurable Dreamer, from Room 39, is another intriguing piece, performed by Anna Soboleva and Jay Walker. In it, the world and our very existence is represented by a gradually unravelling ball of string, which forms a web preventing us from moving forward to find meaning in life. A recorded interview provides some context to the movements on stage, which become at times almost violent in their desperation. This is quite an unsettling piece of work, exquisitely choreographed, with a particularly striking final image.
Next up was Goggles, by This Egg. Two friends – Gemma and Josie – have accidentally killed their goldfish, Sunny and Boo, and to make up for it, they’ve put together a show for them. In doing so, they’ve explored the relationship between the two fish, and begun to better understand their own. It’s a light-hearted show; the two girls are likeable and fun, and anyone who’s ever owned a goldfish can relate to their sorrow over their deaths, but it touches on some deeper issues too, like friendship and what it really means to be unhappy.
The final show of the evening was Wonky Two Pocket’s Schmatte, a haunting depiction of the day to day experience of being homeless. A largely silent piece, Schmatte is all about the visual impact, and while it’s true that without any dialogue or voice-over, it’s not always clear exactly what we’re looking at, one thing that does come through powerfully is the almost tangible sense of hopelessness that accompanies each daily task. In a world where homelessness often goes unnoticed, the show is a timely reminder of the struggles faced by so many people on the margins of society every single day.
It’s always rewarding to see new work, and particularly covering such a range of themes and styles. I’ve enjoyed following the journey of the companies who performed at Morley’s first scratch night, and look forward to doing the same with this year’s performers.
Review by Liz Dyer