A full festival of zeitgeist topics, comedy and honest opinions in the form of theatre, Homegrown Festival: Occupy takes over the Battersea Arts Centre for four weeks, covering every inch of the space with fringey shows. It’s comparable to a small Edinburgh fringe, where everyone is allowed on stage to express their own beliefs, which creates truly intriguing theatre. The whole festival is focused on giving underrepresented people a voice to speak. This is refreshing and delightful to experience. I am honoured to see one of these shows (out of over 20) that addresses the popular issue of Brexit! Steeped in hilarious metaphors and powerful singing, Ramping Up: Scratch leaves me chuckling about the devastating fact of Brexit.
The inclusivity of the show is a stand out, with its audio description and constant subtitles, as well as some cast members having autism. This makes it all feel appropriately revolutionary. The Battersea Arts Centre and Contact Young Company have collaborated to create a strong piece of theatre.
Ramping Up: Scratch begins with a theatre company being told they are not doing their chosen show of Spring Awakening and will instead be doing a play they didn’t pick. There is no choice to change and the fact that older, irrelevant authorities made this is decision is beside the point. A strong, witty comparison to what millennials (and five million other Brits who petitioned to revoke Article 50) actually feel about Brexit that has the audience laughing from beginning to end. These strong metaphors continue throughout the 60-minute show, including a comical scene where someone asks for a beanie hat and instead gets a sombrero but is expected to pay for it. These are all amusing and clever to watch.
Ramping Up: Scratch also includes poignant messages from all of the individuals on stage. With personal stories, spoken word poetry, rap and singing, we feel the actors’ hearts and souls in this production.
All of the actors have brilliant commitment on stage (even when the fire alarm stopped their performance). Some of their diction is difficult to understand at times and the subtitles don’t completely line up with the script they are speaking. But this hiccup feels somewhat irrelevant when the angry message of youths around Brexit is being expressed, especially from the view of individuals who are underrepresented and often discriminated against for their race, gender and/or disability.
I enjoy the personal feel to the show which really is a collaboration of young people giving their thoughts and opinions. However, Brexit feels quite overdone, so I am looking for a fresh take on the extremely popular topic. Unfortunately we don’t find this originality I am looking for and a lot of the ideas are already familiar, which means none of it feels new or different to discover: a somewhat samey interpretation of the catastrophe that we are currently living.
The production itself feels quite amateur and jumbled together, but this is what adds to the charm and personal nature the show inhabits.
Overall, Ramping Up: Scratch is a highly amusing show that addresses a current issue the audience can easily connect to. It feels nice to have an evening laughing about Brexit, rather than worrying about what it means. A strong performance from all and a brilliant collaboration.
Ramping Up: Scratch played the Battersea Arts Centre until 6 April. For more information, see the Homegrown Festival: Occupy website.