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Scratch That Hackney
Hackney Attic
2nd August 2013

★★★★☆

Scratch That Hackney

Photography provided by Scratch That Hackney

As reviewers, we often walk into venues with little idea of what to expect. And with scratch nights, this uncertainty is amplified - are we getting the good, the bad or the ugly? Maybe all three? Well, at the last Scratch That event, which happened to also be the summer party, the organisers came up trumps, showcasing on the whole some great new talent. Hackney Attic was packed full, with a good energy and relaxed atmosphere.

Kicking off the night was Amelia Stubberfield, with a one-woman piece of drama. Initially it seemed confusing - and confused - but then settled down into a monologue of an ill-fated school trip. As the piece became more single-minded, the penny dropped and Stubberfield's performance become something rather brilliant.

With it being that time of year, we were looking forward to Fortuna Burke's excerpt from Laundrette Superstar, a Camden Fringe show. Burke plays a character - almost a caricature of herself - her neon plastic accessories and towering updo, which is reminiscent of an angry teenage Smurf with an Amy Winehouse fixation, are all cleverly chosen and instantly establish the act.

"Fortuna" has a big personality, with plenty of swagger. She declares herself a synth-pop star and glosses over the fact she lives in her grandma's basement, working as a part-time laundrette attendant, rather than full time performer. The character is given a deliberate overconfidence, knowingly mocking those early X Factor fame-hungry contestants with little talent. It's Burke's comic delivery which makes the character charismatic and endearing, rather than annoying. It's a fine line, but she manages it well. With this being a short preview, there's no time to explore the whole narrative, rather Burke tries out a few songs from the show. The piece does however leave us wanting more, to find out what happens to Fortuna when her delusions of grandeur are presumably shattered.

Burke's PR machine compares her to Ab Fab, and normally we stay clear of what the promoters want us to say, but it's actually a reasonable comparison. She's also a riff on Graham Fellows' character John Shuttleworth - a fiftysomething keyboard artist fixated on the mundane, good natured, but essentially useless - but for the RnB generation.

Less successful was James Ward's short film, Idle Hands. The piece has a clear narrative, and has certainly been framed and shot very well, but the motivation behind it wasn't obvious. Although we understood the sequence, we wanted to be challenged by it and found it lacking in substance. There is an argument to be made that style can be substance, but that wasn't the case here.

The clear hit of the night was Joe de Vivre, a manic depressive vaudeville performer, putting us in the mind of Emcee from Cabaret. Sure, musical acts of this ilk, harking back to the days of Music Hall are ten a penny at the moment, but Joe de Vivre stands out. He played original arrangements and mash-ups of well known songs, ranging from the Nancy Sinatra classic Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) to nursery rhyme Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes. If it sounds odd, that's because it is, but he makes it work.

The character is dark, pretentious and brooding but has a talent for making you laugh at what you really shouldn't. He won over the crowd, getting us all to scream "depression" at him, and we'd love to him do a full set, as we suspect he's got a five star show in him.

Poetry came in the form of Sam Berkson and Oh Standfast - both different, but equally as good. Berkson is a beat poet, his work themed around the very relatable topic of the failures of the British transport system, with a great ear for alliteration and assonance and was all-round very likeable. It seemed like a personal crusade yet never took itself too seriously. Nor did Oh Standfast, who was was even angrier. An observational poet, his confrontational style put us in mind of the cult Simon Munnery character Alan Parker Urban Warrior. They are both the type of people whose idea of smashing the system would be to down a can of shandy under a "no drinking" sign.

Closing the night was Lauryn Redding. A singer-songwriter, she has a romantic folksiness to her, and is charming on stage. Her songs covered the spectrum of relationships, from the good to the bad and back again, both comedic and more serious. Considering the quality of the other acts, she had a hard job to do, but ending the evening off on a high, with a spontaneous encore.

As with last time, we have to caveat that the pick and mix nature of scratch nights means what we write up is unlikely to be replicated the next. But we were certainly reassured by the quality of acts invited to perform at the summer party, and it bodes well for more fun times ahead. In the meantime, some of the acts are performing longer versions in Camden and Edinburgh, so do look out for them.

Scratch That Hackney takes place on the first Thursday of every month at Hackney Attic.

Nearest station: Hackney Central (Overground)



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