BLOG Katya Johnson

NWR Issue 110

Scratch Night at Aberystwyth Arts Centre

Scratch night is a great example of creative and performing arts students doing what they do best: being creative, experimental and forward-thinking. A regular fixture at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre studio space, scratch night is an opportunity to catch up on what’s happening in the local arts scene and gain an insider’s look at new performance work by emerging artists.

The pick ‘n’ mix programme on the evening I attended started at 5pm and finished at 10.40pm. Each performance was divided into twenty-minute slots, with time for setting up in between them. There were nine different performances in total, ranging from experimental dance and physical theatre (Dominika Rau and Tairi Joe) to storytelling with musical accompaniment (Milly Jackdaw and Stu Hampton). The highly successful theatrical activist-arts showcase, Smash It Up, was also included in the evening’s programme, as was Opium – a body and voice-based performance by Magdalena Ewa Mazur which explores the concept of love addiction.

The breadth and length of the evening’s programme is testament to the event’s popularity, both among local performers and the audience. It was clear that the organisers from The Experimental Acting Studio were trying to accommodate as many artists as possible. The diversity of performances on offer seemed healthy and eclectic: from longer performance pieces such as Opium, to shorter, self-contained solo and group performances by students. Because of the limited time to set up, performances were generally minimalistic and not overly reliant on technicians and stage props. This contributed to the informal, DIY atmosphere of the evening; As spectators we felt incorporated into projects that were evolving and developing in real-time – sketches, or ‘scratches’, rather than fully-fledged, performance pieces.

Smash It Up, short-listed for the 2015 Amnesty Freedom of Expression Award at Edinburgh Festival Fringe, garnered very positive audience responses. Billed as ‘a destructive plea for cultural conservationism’, the play staged a defiant response to the demolition of a publicly situated work of art in Newport, which was to make way for a privately guarded shopping centre. Of the shorter pieces, I particularly enjoyed Milly Jackdaw and Stu Hampton’s performance of ‘Animals Together’. Jackdaw’s flawlessly delivered fairy tale was a great introduction to modern-day storytelling which took the audience on a journey back in time to an imaginary world of princes and princesses, when ‘wolves still roamed free’ and courtly knights fought in great battles. Stu Hampton’s musical accompaniment helped to set the tone with ambient guitar picking and occasional strains from a shruti box.

Recommended as an anarchically-spirited variety show, with no admission fee to the shorter pieces, scratch night is well worth attending to get a flavour of Aberystwyth’s local performing arts scene. If you are planning to attend the next scratch night, be sure to check online or call up the box office for up-to-date information on scheduling.

Scratch night is held at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre. To see when the next scratch night is taking place, please visit

Katya Johnson is a PhD candidate in Creative and Critical Writing at The University of Aberystwyth.


previous blog: Efforts and Ideals: Prints of the First World War
next blog: The Glass Menagerie


A brief note on copyright:all authors have given permission for their work to appear online on New Welsh Review's website. Copyright remains with the author. If you wish to reproduce part or all of any article then the permission of the author must be sought, and the author and New Welsh Review credited accordingly.

Contact us:Registered Office PO Box 170, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 1WZ - Telephone 00 (44) 1970 628410
© New Welsh Review Ltd, all rights reserved - Registered in England and Wales - Registered number: 02493828
Website design: mach2media and mopublications      Website development: Technoleg Taliesin Cyf.