Scratch night in Brighton: what is a scratch night?

On the 16th November we’re launching our first Brighton Scratch night at The Marlborough Theatre. We’d love to see you in the audience. But we realised that a lot of people might not know what a scratch night actually is. It’s one of those things that other theatremakers know, but if you’re not making theatre why would you know that? So, in the spirit of demystifying the theatre making process here’s our rundown of what a scratch night is:

Who’s it for? 

A scratch night is for artists with a new project in development who want some feedback. The idea can be at any stage in its process but is usually in the early stages. The artists should feel like audience feedback is what they need to move the idea forward. The scratch night should be a supportive platform for the artists. A place where they feel comfortable to put these new ideas forward.

What about the audience? 

That’s a great question. Although a scratch night is for the artists the audience is so important to the process. As an audience member you get to see a bunch of new theatre and learn about its development process. You also get to have your say on what you think works and what doesn’t. It’s fun to follow the progress of a show you’ve seen at scratch to see how it develops and what the final piece turns out like. Plus, as scratch nights tend to have very cheap tickets (or, like ours, are on a donation basis) audience members can check out unknown artists with no financial risk.

But surely not all feedback is going to be constructive? 

We think considering how feedback is given at a scratch night is one of the most important things. A few people have written and thought about this question, including this really engaging report from a Devoted & Disgruntled Event: Scratch Nights, Useful?  This talks about how the way feedback is dealt with is a very sensitive issue for artists. It suggests “written feedback gives audiences a chance to be honest, and perhaps more articulate”.

There’s value in written and spoken feedback and we’ll be using a mixture of both. We’re also going to incorporate elements from Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process. This empowers the artist and puts a certain amount of responsibility on the audience members and the feedback they give. Read more about that process here. 

The conclusion

A scratch night is about risk. Audiences take a risk on seeing new work (but remember, no financial risk if you’re coming to ours). Artists take a risk by presenting very new ideas and offering it up for feedback. A scratch night can be so valuable to artists if done right. We hope ours will fall into this category, and that we’ll see you in the audience on the 16th. Remember, the event is free but ticketed. You can get your ticket here. 

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