The Mardlers of Norfolk deliver their radio episode – photo © The Eye Snapper



Hack Theatre together with Norwich Arts Centre have hit upon a great formula for an interesting evening of lively and innovative theatre. ‘Scratch It’ is theatre in development – we are not seeing polished performances that have been rehearsed until the life is squeezed out of them, but work in progress. It is fascinating and gives an unusually frank insight into the way that good theatrical works come to life.

This is all good, but I would admit to being slightly unprepared for an evening which kicked off with me being marched to the small stage to both impersonate Brexit and then be married to Theresa May by a grisly Mogg-alike figure. The capacity audience were polite enough to give me a generous round of applause as I slunk back to my corner seat to try and make some sense of my new marital status, but I soon relaxed into appreciation of the sheer joy of this evening of theatrical talent emerging.

This first work that risked my contribution was called ‘A Play About Theresa May’ and was both topical and clever, with Amie M Marie giving an uncannily nuanced version of our current Prime Minister albeit with a clown nose. The play will be performed again at the Puppet Theatre on 16th June and I strongly recommend your attendance. Conér Swords was the Mogg clown, amongst other roles. Amie had obviously studied some of the real May’s facial tics and gestures, which greatly amused the audience.

This Scratch It evening consisted of eight short pieces of newly written theatre and every one of them left me wanting more. Some were performed with scripts still in hand as the performers worked out how their efforts would be received by this eager Norwich audience. One thing was constant – as each piece finished the actors walked off with that huge smile you get when you have challenged yourself in public and it has worked.

The first half of the evening ended with a very personal work from Iona May – ‘What Your Clothes Say About You’ – which detailed her experiences as a teacher and her move into becoming a poetry student discovering public performance. Iona opened her soul to us in a performance which looked closely at self confidence in the context of the ups and downs of real life, and focused on how important clothes and costume can be to giving an individual the ability to face the day in a challenging job as a teacher. Anyone who has ever been close to a teacher will relate to her observations about the importance of the outfit to giving a teacher self confidence. Iona went much further in a script which brought both tragedy and comedy together with a distinctive presentation.

After a short interval Clive Stubbs presented an episode of The Mardlers of Norfolk, a kind of Archers episode but set in rural Norfolk with a lot of fish jokes. The script is dense as a tin of sardines, and just as salty, and the six on stage presented it as if recording a radio play in a studio. I am sure Jenny Murray was in there somewhere.

Waking Nights written by Jamie Callagher looked at the trials of a care worker, brought to life by Amy Bevan in a confident performance that gave an insight into the challenges of this underpaid and over-marginalised profession.

The final piece was called Car Crush and took us to a point in the near future where machines have become capable of human emotions. In this case the in-car computer voiced by Charlotte McEvoy decides to fixate on the car driver (Mike Peters) and urge him to dump his wife (Amy Bevan again). What could be a difficult concept was made into a delightful sketch by writer Tony Olly in this amusing performance.

The other snippets of good writing (and performance) were ‘The Girl Who Learned To Kneel’ by Charlotte Carter, ‘Date Night’ by Natalie Froome and ‘Dancing’ by Vishaka Sriram. I am sure that we will hear more form these three and all the writers who contributed to this lively and innovative evening. Curated by Michelle Sewell these Scratch It evenings are the place to be to see new theatre emerging in Norwich, and the quality of writing and performance ensures that members of the cast list are ones to watch closely for the future.

Being married off to a Tory Prime Minister with a clown nose was a small price to pay for such a rewarding evening, although I might just have to go and check the paperwork on that one now!

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© Julian Swainson 2018