Pork and Pickle Part II in the crypt – photo © The Eye Snapper
Scratch theatre nights give audience members a chance to see theatre in its rawest form. James and Hayley, known as Reduck Producktions, have developed their ‘Scratch Shot’ formula to create a really enjoyable evening of fast paced acting and comedy.
Their venue on Friday evening was the atmospheric crypt bar in the Louis Marchesi pub on Tombland. This pub has been given a new lease of life recently by a management keen to make the best of the space offered in this interesting building. The seats in the crypt were full of enthusiastic audience members, several of whom took their turn in the eight short works presented to us.
The actors, a mix of professional and amateur, are only given the scripts about 90 minutes before they have to start performing so they are acting while reading from their scripts as they go along. Their performances have the freshness and vigour of an early rehearsal where an occasional mistake (and their quick response to it) is all part of the fun.
Some of the performers and writers are familiar figures from the Norwich thespian scene, others were a new delight to me. Taking time out from Journeying to the Centre of the Earth with Strange Fascination Theatre were Jessamy James and Joshua Gould. Greg Lindsay-Smith familiar from Common Lot and Crude Apache and Clive Stubbs from innumerable outfits were also both making their mark tonight.
The pieces varied from short revue sketches to more whimsical and even surreal works, but all eight were distinguished by crisp writing and some very funny dialogue. There was some poignant social commentary too on the problems of our time including homelessness and the chaos of Brexit and some off beat quirky ideas such as the piece by US writer Vivian C Lermond, ‘Abiding Rest’, that showed us a conversation between a potential customer (Elizabeth Goram-Smith) and a funeral salesman (Martin Kray) who unfortunately dies mid-pitch.
Clive Stubbs wrote (and occasionally subtitled) ‘Dinner at the Eventual Restaurant’ which observes two couples dining at adjacent tables in Sofia, Bulgaria in an increasingly bizarre tale. Clive crammed the script with well known one line quotes from songs and films. Max Rudd and Rachel McNally played the younger and rather louder couple, Terry Molloy and Jessamy James the older pair, with Joshua Gould as a rather wonderfully lugubrious waiter always lurking nearby.
The final item before the interval was a lively two hander and sequel to an earlier Scratch Shot sketch featuring two hired assassins who unfortunately find that their target is the girlfriend of one of them. Called ‘Pork and Pickle (Part II)’ this was a very funny and fast paced script delivered with panache by James Ducker and David Hannington. David also wrote the final work of the evening ‘We Three Meet Again’ which looked at some famous Shakespearean characters through modern idiom, a great bit of writing that sent us all away smiling.
We are taken into nuclear warhead facilities in ‘Alamos’, a rather baffling piece by Andrew Hamilton, and down to a dodgy car repair workshop in ‘Trade Wars’ by Catherine O’Hanlon where a sexist car repairer finds the tables turned when his female customer turns up to fix his failing IT system. ‘Singing for Engerland’ by Benjamin Peel reminds us that World Cup partying might not be quite so easy and joyful when you have no home to go to.
Reduck stage these scratch nights on a monthly basis, and on the evidence of tonight’s show I think they offer one of the most entertaining options in Norwich on a Friday evening with a finish early enough to allow you to take in the music starting in the main bar of the Louis Marchesi (soul singer Lucas on this occasion) or other delights of Norwich nightlife. Go with an open mind and some loose change for the bucket collection and I think you may leave inspired to try writing or acting for yourself at one of these hugely enjoyable scratch theatre events.
© Julian Swainson 2018