On Tuesday 27th June, on a fittingly wet night in London a group of Welsh writers, directors and actors gathered to share a host of Welsh work.
Chippy Lane Productions (set up by Rebecca Hammond in 2016) was hosting it’s second Chippy and Scratch night in which 8 playwrights had been selected to share short pieces or extracts from longer works. All performed by Welsh or Wales based actors, and directed by Welsh/Wales based talent.
It’s a great idea, one that brings the Welsh trained/born talent of London and beyond together, and gives those living back in Wales a place they can gather and share work outside of Wales. We know we create great work, create great talent in Wales, and that we have a great community here. But it’s also important to facilitate sharing that with the wider world, and allowing those based elsewhere to feel a part of that community.
I was joining in as a writer. My piece ‘Party Like it’s 1985’ is an extract from a longer piece and something I’ve both wanted to and put off writing for a long time. It wasn’t written specifically to share on this night. In fact, I finally put pen to paper in a fit of rage to submit to another company just to prove a point that they would never, ever select my work. I was right. They didn’t. Herein lies lesson number one in writing: don’t give up. Lesson number 2: not everyone will like you but someone will. Lesson number 3: sometimes a bit of rage will do you good.
So, I was thrilled to be accepted into the scratch night and have the opportunity to both hear the work aloud and to get to collaborate with a fantastic team who have proved so important already to developing the work further. Director Luke Hereford, whose other work I’d seen late last year, shares a great many of my theatrical tastes, and both respects and shares my passion for the subject matter. Writing an LGBT piece, as an LGBT writer, and having a director who without asking gets the importance and sensitivity of what you’re trying to convey is a dream- particularly for scratch night and so early in the overall process of developing my play as a whole. The cast assembled were also an utter dream. The marvellous Delme Thomas whose other performance I’d seen and greatly admired, along with Toby Vaughn and Melissa Bayern made up the fantastic team that brought to life my little piece.
For my own work then the process of being involved was as important-if not more so- than the night itself. Hearing the work was fantastic, and as a writer sparked off a whole series of reactions and associations in my brain that I now can’t wait to put into action. As ever the actors discovered things and surprised me and gave me a whole array of new interpretations on my own work. As well as the equally important knowledge of what doesn’t work, or what could work better. And that should be the core of a scratch night- for everyone creatively to experiment, grow their work and learn from each other. In that respect for me that was a great success.
The other important element of a scratch night is the opportunity to see so many different writers in one evening. So, for this we had: Chris Harris, Kevin Jones, Neil Bebber, Melanie Stevens, Jacob Hodgkinson, Ruth Majeed and Poppy Corbett. Such an array of styles of writing, from one person pieces to ensembles, laugh out loud funny to reflective. That there were a range of experienced writers and newer artists was also significant, feeling like there really is a chance for everyone to be involved. And significantly, a 50:50 split between male and female writers- a balance that we certainly don’t see elsewhere.
There isn’t time to do justice to everyone involved. From the funny surreal piece by Melanie Stevens with ‘When Opportunity knocks’ (and excellent Hagrid impression involved in the performance). To love stories with a twist from Chris Harris in ‘Love you in a single Brain cell’, to the intriguing world Jacob Hodgkinson painted in ‘DIBYNAIAETH’ There was a real array of approaches and styles on show.
Four pieces are going to be seen again at Chapter in Cardiff on the 18th of July, giving the writers a chance to develop the work further. Kevin Jones the winner of the night with ‘Cardiff Boy’ will be joined by Neil Bebber’s ‘Tiny Mad Animals’ Poppy Corbett’s ‘You Gotta go there to come back’ and Ruth Majeed’s ‘Outside Blisters’. From Corbett’s hilarious but touching tale of moving from Wales to the big city, to Majeed’s hilarious account of a night out at a Valley’s nightclub, to the 90s backdrop of Jones’ monologue and the quietly touching piece by Bebber these pieces show a great snapshot of the wider talent on display.
As well as showcasing the writing, and the talent of the performers and directors involved, what the night also offered was a chance to yes, network, but also community build. Those conversations in the bar afterwards will hopefully lead to more collaborations both in London and back home in Wales. As a writer however, the most valuable thing I could have was to get to work with a my team and see what I’d done brought to life. Seeing those 10 minutes of it was great, but it’s the before- the preparation and what that offered- and the after, and where it leads that is the real opportunity for writers to seize onto. So thanks to Chippy Lane for giving me and my slightly oddball, but hopefully interesting piece a chance and I can’t wait to see where it, and everyone else’s work goes next….(after the whole team goes to the Chippy of course!)