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little scratch: Shortlisted for The Goldsmiths Prize 2021

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In a lot of the stream-of-consciousness style books I’ve read, especially those following characters similarly dealing with trauma and/or spiralling thoughts, I have felt a coldness and detachment that stops me fully loving the experience. Watson manages to capture wry observations and to communicate the struggles of living in the aftermath of trauma, whilst also bringing so much warmth and hope to her work. Sometimes it is best to close one's eyes and let yourself be carried away in the force of its current. But writer Miriam Battye, alongside Mitchell, doesn't make this easy. The script is washed in deliberate vagueness and often numbingly mundane descriptions of everyday existence. little scratch, when it comes down to it, is largely a piece of spoken word. The voices interweave, interject and link but somehow a wonderful flow remains, non-stop and fluid. From the start, they speak with rhythm and depth. The all important pace and timing that they achieve, as well as incredible voice manipulation and control, is the winning feature of the production. Overall, beyond the show-stopping true human experience, little scratch is a lesson on the power of words. It's clear the effort that goes into a show like this. Miriam Battye’s ability to create a stage adaptation which goes just far enough is nothing short of flawless and we are left in awe at these people who let themselves feel this, all of this, every day, as they look out to us and clearly see the impact landing. Silbert will be joined by designer, Rose Revitt; lighting designer Matt Haskins; director of music, Gary Yershon and sound designer Tingying Dong.

Rebecca Watson’s novel works magnificently on stage. Miriam Battye and Katie Mitchell have turned 24 hours inside a frenzied mind into something like a piece of music’ Evening Standard Experimentation aside – and it is not to everyone’s taste – Little Scratch is an extremely perceptive depiction of power and agency: in the modern workplace, where age-old and patriarchal hierarchies persist; in the modern world, where communication is truncated even when we have too much to say; and in the modern novel, where a character must find a way to name her own experience, even if only to herself. From a technical standpoint it's a masterclass in performance and storytelling. The intense aesthetic austerity shifts power to Melanie Wilson's sleek sound design to evoke environments, both internal and external. Sometimes sounds are organic, made with props performed as if the stage where a foley studio. Sometimes ambient hums emanate from speakers, swallowing the room in portentous menace. The cast features Morónkẹ́ Akinọlá ( The Niceties, Finborough Theatre), Eleanor Henderson ( Pass It On, Lyric Hammersmith), Eve Ponsonby ( Longing, Hampstead) and Ragevan Vasan ( Name, Place, Animal, Thing, Almeida).Miriam Battye makes her Hampstead debut. Recent credits include Scenes With Girls at the Royal Court, Big Small Lost Found Things at Bristol Old Vic and All Your Gold at Theatre Royal Plymouth. Little Scratch is based on Rebecca Watson’s much-hailed and original debut novel, published last year. Four actors stand behind microphones as if about to sing, and what follows amounts to spoken music, a quartet directed – or conducted – by Katie Mitchell with perfect pitch. This is an interior monologue that follows a day in the life of a young woman (you would not expect it to translate to theatre at all). But the four actors play the woman and each exists like a layer of her mind, a competing thought, part of the whole. The overlaying sound effect is extraordinary. Mitchell’s little scratch is unlike almost anything else you may have seen before. It is an essential, indispensable, brilliantly executed coup de théâtre from a director at the peak of her form. Directed by Katie Mitchell, little scratch is a classic trauma story with a superbly theatrical staging. The plot is a day in the life of an unnamed young woman, who lives in London, from the moment she wakes up with a hangover to the moment she falls asleep. She showers, brushes her teeth, applies make-up, travels to her office by tube, greets work colleagues, watches the world of journalists working, does her admin duties as an assistant, meets her boyfriend, eats chips with him, has sex and then falls asleep. It is the story of everyday routines, of the daily alienation of the sleep/eat/go to toilet/work/sleep repeat world.

Although, at surface level, the only sense built upon is sound , the words paint a picture that we observe. You leave the theatre having stimulated the mind’s eye, feeling it on your body. Heart in throat, skin crawling. It might be one of the only theatre experiences where the fact that you want it to be over means they have done it right. There is a worry that you may not be able to shake what you have experienced but then the amazement at what they have achieved sinks in and that is the only feeling left. T he story works on several levels and, within a minute, can draw both wry humour and gnawing horror from office life, and find weary familiarity and startling surprise in everyday routines.'With sound score by Melanie Wilson, the team is also comprised of lighting designer Bethany Gupwell and assistant director Grace Cordell. Left to right: Eve Ponsonby, Eleanor Henderson, Morónkẹ́ Akinọlá and Ragevan Asan in Watson’s little scratch at the Hampstead theatre, March 2021. Photograph: Robert Day

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