Who are you and what’s your history at the Fringe?
I’m an artist, writer and dramaturg based in Glasgow – and I’ve written Scribble.
This last time I presented work at the Fringe was five years ago. As a student I had acted (with varying degrees of success) in a bunch of Fringe shows. At that age it was a really great environment to learn, to try your hand at things like puppetry or doing a period drama. My first play, Killing Time, was performed with the Edinburgh University Theatre Company in 2012, over at Bedlam Theatre.
Team Scribble is something much bigger than me; it’s a group, who are all at a similar point in our careers. The work is directed by Amy Gilmartin, who is co-artistic director of Urban Fox Theatre Company and assisted Orla O’Loughlin on Milk at the Traverse last year. Our producer Rachel D’Arcy and principal actor Alan MacKenzie have presented work multiple times and two of our team – our designer Jenny Booth and musician Blair Coron – are new to the Fringe environment. They’re pretty excited to see what it’s like.
We’re all pretty excited, one way or another.
Where did Scribble start?
It is a little difficult to tell where the work started – and perhaps that’s not that uncommon for any project. I was mentored by Playwrights’ Studio Scotland during 2015, with Rob Drummond as my mentor. Going into this process I knew I wanted to write a work about anxiety, a very particular kind of anxiety experienced in urban spaces. I’d just completed a piece of work called LAP by LAP, which was a set of 43 A3 posters which re-performed a 14-hour journey I’d made aboard the Glasgow Subway. So I was carrying that work into my initial conversations with Rob.
Throughout our dialogue the work shifted from being focused on urban sites of transit to focusing more on anxiety itself – and then lastly shifting towards my own experiences of ill mental health. During this process the work got a little messy, a little too close to me to comfort – and I became really obsessive and writing it, really trying to pin it down, reworking it over and over again.
Up to this point there have been 49 drafts of the work and a good deal of them pre-dated my conversations with Rob. I’d been writing about, writing out, this particular thought pattern for a good couple of years.
So Scribble as it exists now started from thinking about anxiety and has since become a very anxious piece of work.
How has it developed since you first performed it?
We first presented it to an audience at the Traverse Theatre’s Hothouse, a platform for emerging Scotland-based artists. We showed the work as a script-in-hand reading. It went really well and we got a lot of useful, specific, feedback.
The work was overwritten in places, dancing to its own internal logic. That translated into an experience that was confusing for an audience. Scribble is definitely about a thing, and this version of it ran the risk of people not being able to properly understand what that thing was.
So after we got the Assembly Roxy Theatre Award, and found out we were taking the work to Fringe, me and Amy sat down and decided to approach the work in a way that placed an emphasis on clarity, on making strong dramaturgical choices. That’s resulted in a work that knows its relationship to its audience better, knows what it wants to offer, and knows what the limits of what it can offer are.
One of Amy’s main directorial choices was to incorporate a live element into the work, something that changes each day, with the aim of representing how our mental health changes on a daily basis, responding to different things in our lives. Each performance of Scribble will feature a different actor, reading the script for the first time alongside our regular performer, Alan MacKenzie. We’re really excited about what this will add to Scribble, a something unknown, a new quality or energy that each performer will bring to the work.
What other input have you had into the piece?
We’ve had the good fortune to be able to give the work lots of time and space to develop, getting the feedback of a lot of people along the way. Rob obviously had a really significant impact on the work in its early stages and we received a small grant award from the Tom McGrath Trust to do a day’s worth of development too.
Both Amy and I have a regular pool of collaborators too, like a dramaturgical network comprised of writers, performers, dancers, dramaturgs etc. All these voices have had a big impact, helped shape Scribble into something that we hope is really articulate and clear.
One of the most significant voices in that development has been Clare Ross, a Glasgow-based actor who performed Scribble when it was read at the Traverse. Her presence has been invaluable in the run up to Fringe, reading in for the other part during rehearsals. She’s rehearsing for a role she won’t ultimately get to perform. The lens she’s able to bring to it, as an actor who doesn’t have to think about their final performance, is really interesting.
What can audiences expect from it?
We hope when they meet Scribble they will meet a work that offers an audience an experience of how anxiety feels and works. We hope that there’s an experience of something considered, something that has a bit of depth to it but that carries itself lightly.
There are also two jokes in it – and I’ve nicked them from Tim Vine. He’s very funny.
What other shows are you hoping to catch?
A few shows have caught the eye but one that I’m particularly excited for is Belle Jones’ Shame. The work looks at how the vilification of women has evolved alongside technology. That’s a hugely interesting subject matter, one that feels really urgent and valuable, one with depth to it. I’m curious to think about what shame is within a hypermodern context.