Durham Drama Festival: Scratch Night Review

Four very different shows in one very odd night. A review of Durham Drama Festival's annual Scratch Night.

Durham Drama Festival: Scratch Night Review

Back again for another year, DDF’s Scratch Night was a riot of pink seas, childhood friendships, parental relationships and meatballs. Lots and lots of meatballs.

The show started with Eliza Jones’ Tidal Waves. Detailing the story of two girls’ long term friendship, this section featured strong performances from its two leads with some interesting tension between their two personality types and how we tell memories to those who haven’t experienced it. However, at times the overlapping dialogue was too fast to follow and the protracted ending tended to take away from the strength of the preceeding sections. Overall, though, this was a strong start and would be brilliant if adapted into a longer piece.

The same could be said for When the Sea is Pink by Isabelle Bull. This piece was perhaps the most complex of the night, analysing intersecting views of gender, sexuality, age and the humour of someone very tall chasing someone rather smaller. The cast delivered Bull’s tight, funny script with wit and verve, although both [the short girl] and [Marilyn] could have been given more to do, with the final monologue being drowned out slightly which again reduced the impact of the piece. However, this was an exciting contrast to the more serious tone of the surrounding pieces and deserves to be seen as a full show.

Jenny Pavitt’s I Don’t retreaded the familiar path of divorce and parental relationships with a twist, and featured the strongest performances of the night, a difficult feat in a large cast crammed into a fifteen minute timeslot. This play seemed to suffer the most from being a shorter piece: if it had been extended, the themes may have been given more time to breathe, and allowed performances such as that of Eleanor Storey and Darrius [idk his surname] more time to grow beyond the stereotypes the direction occasionally pushed them into. This being said, the high standard of both the dialogue and performances papered over the structural cracks, bringing the Scratch Night to it’s interval with a flourish.

And then, The Elephant Boy and his son. Like How the Kabuki Crumbles last year, this is a difficult show to review. Is it serious? Is it a musical? Is it a pantomime highly focused on the production of Italian meat products? All of the above and more. Admittedly a lot of comedy came from the lack of rehearsal, the idiocy of the purposefully terrible band and occasionally seeing people corpse on stage, but it also contained a number of very strong comedic performances, the highlights being Isabella [?], John Duffett and Ben Cartwright. The joke may have worn a bit thin by the end (meatballs can only be funny a set number of times) but it closed the night with a enjoyable contrast to what had come before.

Overall, Scratch Night was a vision of what’s to come later this DDF week: small-cast dramas and bizarre large-cast comedies, all bringing something new. What more would you want?

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Isobel Flower

Isobel Flower

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