Brighton, she is a fine city, filled with bohemian idealists, hedonistic hippies and thriving thespians. This concept was recently reaffirmed when I attended the Rialto Theatre on the 13th January for their New Plays Scratch Night.
You may recall the ninny and I’s last jaunt to the Rialto where we experienced a behind the scenes, immersive experience of The Twisted Market. This time round it was a very different affair and a mere £3.00 entry.
Essentially, Scratch Night is an opportunity for up & coming playwrights to show off their creative talents in an effort to win a place in the Brighton Fringe Festival this May.
Four plays enter but only one can leave!
The audience watches 15 minute exerts from each play, some completed and some in the making, then vote on which one they enjoyed the most. The winner on that evening goes through to a final stage where the charming, and frankly lovely, Rialto Directors decide who will have the honour of putting on a play in the Fringe.
I had the pleasure of attending this empowering event with some friends, one of whose fiancé is an actor. I can also say, genuinely without bias, said actor, Mr Jonathan Craze, stole the show in *SPOILER ALERT* what would be the winning play. He tackled the role of creepy shopkeeper Mr. Percival Darcy, with a performance that reminded me of a cross between Dandy from American Horror Story: Freakshow and Hopkin’s portrayal of Hannibal Lector.
A fraction of the Price was an amusing and sinister piece that had the audience laughing from start to finish. It harked back to the likes of BBC’s Psychoville and The League of Gentlemen, especially the shop scene featuring Edward and Tubbs. It was very well written by the enigmatic Hove based, Paul Stoyle, and centred around a shop where your wildest dreams could come true…but for a corporeal price!
Even for a 15 minute exert the characters were well rounded and each brought their own element of dark humour to the proceedings.
The 3 other plays varied in style, substance and motif but all had a thought provoking element and were well written:
The Causeway by Robert Cohen
Kitty and Fran have been flown over from England to Florida in order to take part in a TV documentary about an event from their distant past: 30 years earlier, when, on a family holiday in the US, Kitty went missing for a month. She was later found in the care of Zeke, a local fisherman, and though Kitty has always insisted there was no foul play, Fran believes otherwise. She hopes that making the TV doc will cause Kitty to reveal the truth, but Kitty is proving as unhelpful as ever.
3.5/5- A harsh and moving portrayal of a sister with an incestuous secret. Solid acting and lively script.
Anthems by Norman Miller
This play uses the often scarily violent lyrics of most national anthems as a lens on national identity and conflict. Here we meet the varying viewpoints of a young contemporary Algerian man, a modern Scottish woman and a French 18th century soldier to name but a few.
2/5- Interesting concept but I think to truly appreciate this you’d need to see the whole play or have a better description setting up the specific exert. Notably impressive performance from the ‘French 18th century soldier.’
This Man Right Here by Rick Lyons
This play looks at the relationship breakdown between a young couple, along with the outside influences and pressures that the modern world puts upon them. The central characters have distinctive voices and the tone varies from the comical to the poignant with a fluid ease.
4/5- Superb, and I bet a very close second for the audience vote. Amusing, shockingly true to life and relatable. Excellent acting and even better writing, I would like to see the rest.
This was the last New Plays Scratch Night for now. It was a tremendous evening filled with local talent and I’m glad to hear it will be making an appearance in the future. In a charming, innovative and well run theatre like the Rialto it’s great to see staff and Directors actively putting fresh talent first and giving playwrights these life changing opportunities.