Saturday, 29 July 2017

Only Dramaturgy: Only Skin @ The Poetry Club

Only Skin brings SCRATCH back to The Poetry Club with a fresh line-up of new and in-development theatre and performance.
Featuring work from:

Katie Armstrong
Annaliese Broughton
Alexandra Halterman
Zoe Katsilerou
Craig Manson & Conner Milliken
and Chris Owen!

SCRATCH is an opportunity to test ideas and show work-in-progress material, and to receive generous and constructive audience feedback. There are no restrictions on the genre, style or current state of performance, experience or current educational status. SCRATCH is open to students and non-students, established makers and first-time performers. We ideally look for around 15-20 minutes of performance material, though we are open to working with artists whose work might go beyond this duration.

What was the inspiration for this event?

Cairan: When we started out over a year ago, SCRATCH was really inspired by the Arches’ scratch
night, and that’s a formula we’ve actively tried to emulate, as it was a great space for artists to test out ideas. Heading into our 8th event, I think we’ve struck a good rhythm and balance in terms of how we run the event, when we do so, the atmosphere we create and the variety of work we programme. It’s become self-sustaining, which is what a number of folk said a scratch night couldn’t do back when we first started.

Nicole: For me, it was getting a bit scary that opportunities for new artists, such as the Arches’ scratch nights, were being taken away before we’d even had a chance to use them, so being able to create a like-minded space for artists in the city felt really important.

Bron: Glasgow has never been short of creative activity, but there was a point after the Arches’ closure that made it feel like there was gap in connectivity and community in the performance scene. Especially for artists that were just getting on their feet! We wanted to facilitate an event that was accessible for everyone and as a result develop a network of performance makers within the city and beyond! One that can share, collaborate and support one another, encouraging the production of performance together.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas?

Cairan: Something I’ve recognised of late is how performance never quite ends. Nic Green’s Cock and Bull has been performed a few times now, in a number of different configurations, and it’s really exciting to see the performance continue to adapt and respond to its environment, and to be a site of continued discourse. Works that have debuted at SCRATCH like The Doing Group’s Rain is Liquid Sunshine and Andy Edward’s In Burrows, have then gone on to perform in a number of different spaces, responding to their new environments in really unique ways. SCRATCH works because our audience know that the performance on offer is still in an experimental place, which I think lets them tap into the ideas the performers want to explore a lot easier, because you’re not critiquing a full piece of work. SCRATCH operates as a really nice first place to start a conversation with an audience.

Nicole: Definitely, and I think that SCRATCH has sort of made me believe in this even more. We’ve had artists present/explore/discuss a whole range of topics through their performance, and audience members always find ways to engage with the work even if they had no prior knowledge of what they’re seeing. It doesn’t mean everything always works, but the conversation can still take place and that’s better than nothing.

Bron: Without doubt. This really comes through with the audience's feedback in particular. People feel encouraged to share ideas on theories and offer research pointers to one another. We’ve managed to create a safe space where people feel open to discuss any topic they have been drawn to. I have always been interested in the historical purpose of performance in society, delivering a message to it’s audience by a never ending range of mediums across the world. It’s so important to create spaces that allow us to share and communicate with one another in.

How did you become interested in making an evening like this?

Cairan: We saw an absence of opportunities for recent graduates and new performers to get their work seen by audiences, and we wanted to plug that gap a little. We also recognised the importance of having a space to make mistakes, and to be able to respond to and develop from those. I’d done some work before in The Poetry Club, and knew it was a great venue for work like that, rough work. It’s intimate and atmospheric, and malleable to the diverse work we program. A few times we’ve had performers really push the sound system to its limits, and then there’s been occasions where you can hear a pin drop. It’s great to have a night where you can show up only knowing that your friend is on the bill, and then end up enjoying and engaging with five or six other types of work.

Nicole: It was a mix of both the feeling of never having enough opportunities to show your work, and also our feelings on receiving feedback on your work. Being able to have a space like SCRATCH to show your work, even if it’s not a polished piece of performance, seemed much less daunting to me as a new graduate than trying to go straight into performing full length ‘finished’ works without any prior experience. Also, coming up through the Theatre Studies course at UoG, there was always a work-in-progress sharing element for any practical courses we did which I personally became really reliant on, as receiving feedback from my peers helped shape my practice so much. It didn’t occur to me that something like could happen to the same degree outside an educational setting until we started delving more into scratch style nights.

Bron: I’ve always been interested in the importance of creative spaces in encouraging and developing communities and ideologies, through academia and working in event facilitation. I was unbelievably excited to work with Cairan and Nicole on facilitating a space entirely for performance makers in Scotland. Giving recognition and exposure to anyone who needs it! We are always open to applications, with all our dates booked annually. This allows artists to apply whenever they feel ready, so no scary deadlines. The SCRATCH structure allows the artists to get quality feedback from a really constructive and understanding crowd. It’s so rewarding to see such a caring and supportive community grow from our events!

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

Cairan: We set up SCRATCH to facilitate the journey of the artist in making performance, so it’s important to remember when you come to our events that the work on offer is not necessarily “finished”. I think that appeals to artists who have maybe not performed much before, because they know it’s a welcoming environment and a constructive, not critical, audience. We spend the full day before a SCRATCH night running through any tech a performance needs, and at that point our role is really just about helping the artists present the work as they envisage it at this stage.

When we’re programming our events, we’re looking to give as many artists as possible a chance to show their work, regardless of their experience. Our applications are open on a rolling basis, as the cut-off for one event nears, applications for the following event open. After our event on August 1st, our next SCRATCH is November 7th, and applications for that night are open now.

Nicole: We’ve tried to make most elements of SCRATCH run as efficiently as possible so we can spend the bulk of our time looking after the artists. We try keep it chill, we cater to everyone as much as we can, and we really focus on making sure the artists get all the support they need from us. We also really try to highlight just how important providing feedback on the works is and use that as a focal point.

Bron: We’ve always aimed to present a relaxed and welcoming environment for the artists from start to finish. SCRATCH is a great platform for developing artists, so we want to make sure we get their performance specs just right. Once the artist’s needs are catered for, whether it be prior event meetings or hunting for peculiar props, everything else falls into place!

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

Cairan: August’s SCRATCH is our eighth overall, and it feels really great to have a sense of flow, that we know what we’re doing. I think we’ve been consistent in delivering a high-quality event with a variety of work, and it feels like a real payoff to be here a year and a half later, continuing to meet so many exciting artists and being part of their journey.


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