I’m going to admit something I’ve never even told my closest friends before. I really love scratch nights. Going into a theatre to see a series of short one act plays with nothing but a title to go on always makes me nervous with excitement. The latest group to put these nights on is Actors Awareness – a campaigning group run by Tom Stocks that is trying to raise awareness of the problems working class people have in joining the theatrical industry. They have so far held two previous scratch nights, the first themed around plays with a working class setting and the second around women. Their latest night, held at the Bread and Roses in Clapham was a series of five short plays around the theme of LGBT.
The night started – and indeed ended – in spectacular style due to the wonderful hostess for the evening Helen Scott who I have to say looked absolutely stunning. She welcomed everyone and made them feel very relaxed and at home and did a fantastic job throughout the evening of not only keeping the audience entertained whilst the stage was reset for each play but, thanks to her cheeky closing number, making me think it was time for a visit to her dentist. Helen was the perfect hostess and I thoroughly enjoyed her parts of the overall night.
The first play was Tofurkey written by Allie Costa and directed by Antonella Cossu. Moira is returning home for Thanksgiving with her girlfriend. Now, Moria comes from a traditional family, her father is the latest in the long line of butchers and her mother and grandmother are nice all-American ladies. However, all that is going to change as Moria has some news which will rock the family to the core.
Tofurkey was a nice little coming out story with a difference that got the evening off to a fine start by getting the audience thinking one way whilst the reality was going another. I enjoyed it but, and this is my own opinion, I think the script could do with a bit of tightening up, just to keep the flow moving slightly more effortlessly. A great effort from playwright Allie Cost.
Next up, was Starman a really interesting play concerning John and the relationship he has with his trans/drag queen father who is obsessed with the works of David Bowie. This play by Dave House was quite fascinating. I know of men that have got to a certain point of their lives and have finally admitted to their wife and children that they are gay but this is the first time I’ve considered what the effects on a child could be if their father turned out to be trans. A fascinating and thought-provoking piece of writing superbly delivered.
Ending the first half on a high note – literally – was No-one Cried Over a Split Condom, written and directed by Toms Stocks. On an underground train, two lads (Tom Stocks and Robert Gosling) are heading into the heart of london for a night out. One is a bit down in the dumps and his friend is trying to cheer him up. However, once he finds out why his friend is down, he manages to find a solution which just may satisfy them both.
Another great play, although the title threw me a bit as I’m sure many, many people have cried over a split condom however, the play itself is nicely observed and the relationship between the two lads works really well and feels believable from an audience point of view. The ending was a bit of a shock but actually worked really well and, like the title was something that made sense when viewed from a variety of angles.
After the interval we were back with Remus Brooks’ contribution, Venus and the Clerk where back in 1880 – when being gay was completely illegal – a young Clerk (Remus Brooks) has a problem with attraction and believes his best answer is to try to cure his urges with a visit to local prostitute Venus (Stephanie Silver). She however is a practical and worldly wise lady and together they work their way through the lad’s problem.
Another really strong play going back to a time when people would take extreme measures to cure themselves of their illness – Remember Mr Barrow in Downton? The sad truth is that there are still countries in the world where these sort of cures still take place, and they aren’t necessarily as far away as you might think.
And finally we come to my favourite piece of the night, written directed and performed by Oliver Retter, the evening ended with Love and All That Crap. A combination poem, monologue and song that traces the life of a young gay boy from the age of thirteen – when he made the realisation that he really was a glitter boy – through his teens and into his twenties using his dating story to discover more about himself and the men who share the LGBT+ world with him.
This was such an excellent piece of writing and performing that I was hooked at once. Oliver is young so those reminiscences of his first awakening were probably still fresh in his mind and I have to say they triggered memories for me as well. Oliver is a consummate storyteller really brought his character to life beautifully. Although I was never unlucky enough to go on some of the dates that he did – and hopefully neither did anyone else – we’ve all had bad dates and seeing someone else’s, especially in this case where ‘date from hell’ doesn’t even begin to cover it, made me feel so much better that my worst was never that bad. A lovely piece to end the show on.
And that was it. Five very different pieces written around a central theme once again go to show just how many talented young writers, directors and actors there are out there. This Scratch Night went really well and each of the plays were enjoyable in their own way, leaving me at the end wishing there had been some more and being reminded once again that there are some very talented new writers, directors and actors out there securing the future of the Theatrical profession.
Review by Terry Eastham
The Actor Awareness monthly scratch nights are here to give a platform to actors, writers and directors who wouldn’t normally get the chance to showcase new work. The scratch nights have set themes every time, to tackle a range of issues within the arts industry. So the LGBT night includes six shows filled with incredible new writing.
Produced by Tom Stocks and Stephanie Perry