London Scratch Nights: A User’s Guide

London Scratch Nights: A User’s Guide

WHAT ON EARTH IS A SCRATCH NIGHT?! I hear you cry. Well, basically, it’s the nearest theatrical equivalent to being invited to a screening of a new film – before everyone else. In terms of emerging writing, directing and acting talent there is no better – or cheaper, or more enjoyable way – to see what’s out there before everyone gets signed away or sent off to train at drama school…

Scratch nights are, historically, a little rushed, made on a shoestring, often having slightly inebriated audiences in off-the-beaten-track venues. Think pub theatres, Battersea, that sort of thing. They are made with love and care, even if they are made very quickly, and the end product can be a wonderful and enlightening night out, as well as a lot of fun.

Definitively, a scratch night is a one-off performance, often in a fringe venue, where writers, actors and directors put something together very quickly. Some are rapid-response projects, responding to recent news events (think the nabokov producers for this), some are larger scale, run by larger institutions (think Battersea Arts Centre) as ways of sounding out new talent. Many tend to get left off the mainstream radar, which is a shame…

So here are a few London scratch nights that may prove to be of use to the spontaneous and life-loving individual (that’s you, by the way):

  • Made From Scratch – these guys are everywhere: theatre503, The Cockpit, Southwark Playhouse, The Lost Theatre and Soho Theatre. They go wherever they can find space – you can find more details here.
  • Freshly Scratched at BAC – produced by the BAC Young Producers (a talented young bunch of people), resident companies at this theatre participate in this regular event as well as “outsiders”. See here for more details.
  • Writers Bloc – this company are based mostly at the Old Red Lion Theatre Pub in Angel, and have been doing regular scratch nights for a while now – and they hope to put on more in the coming months, so look out on their website.
  • Paines Plough also run a few scratch nights with their associates Forward Theatre Project, and have done a few at the excellent central London venue, Soho Theatre (which, incidentally, has a great bar)…

For the others… Well, there’s hundreds for you to try yourself! The key is to look for them online and not in print media, as companies with a low budget can’t afford to get their adverts in the Evening Standard. Have a good Google, take a look at IdeasTap for invitations to upcoming events and stay savvy!


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