Artistic Director of Little Lion Theatre Company Kay Brattan talks about their inaugural scratch festival showcasing Canadian theatre talent at the Drayton Arms Pub Theatre

A crucial time period for the formation of new ideas, lockdown has seen with it many new creations – the importance of creating platforms for fellow creatives an important one that was already part of our theatrical tradition, but appreciated that much more post lockdown, with exciting work produced by emerging theatre talent. Having become the Little Lion Theatre Company’s Artistic Director during lockdown, Kay Brattan was inspired to curate the company’s very first scratch event showcasing the work of Canada based talent. Paired up with UK based creatives, the scratch event will showcase 15 new works at the early stages of development at the Drayton Arms Pub Theatre. Ahead of the event, Kay tells us more about what to expect!

Hi Kay, you’re the artistic director of the Little Lion Theatre Company who’ll be hosting their first ever scratch series on the 14th and 15th Nov at the Drayton Arms Theatre. How are you feeling ahead of the event?

Hi Lucy! Thanks so much for talking to me about Stories From Home! In all honesty, I am so excited for this project. It’s just been the most amazing experience seeing artists here in London collaborate with the writers back in Canada. When we initially put the call out for play submissions in the summer, I had no idea it was going to get this big! We had such a great response from playwrights from all over Canada, that it was almost overwhelming, in a good way. It blew my mind to read the immense pool of talent and creativity from all the artists who submitted (if I could have, I would have taken them all). And then to have the creatives here in London respond to this project and these pieces with so much enthusiasm and love- I’m just over the moon. Not that we haven’t had our obstacles-it has been something else trying to cast, rehearse and programme 15 different pieces of theatre- but it has been so satisfying at the same time. I think we have an incredible programme to share with everyone and I’m really excited to see what kind of doors this project opens in terms of creative collaborations between storytellers here and storytellers back home.

Stories From Home: A New Play Series is a theatre festival platforming the works of 15 Canada based theatre makers that you’ve paired with a UK based team. What inspired you to produce the festival?
I think like a lot of things that came out of the previous (almost) two years, this came out of conversations with my colleague (and a director on the project) Sascha Green, when we went on one of our many lockdown walks. I wanted to make an event where emerging artists can come together and create in a project that was more about exploration, connection, and process than in a finished product. I love the culture of scratch nights that exists in the UK theatre scene, that there is a community for new play/work development here that is so thriving. We do have this in Canada but not to the extent that it is here. I had recently been appointed as the new artistic director of Little Lion Theatre Company in 2020 and thought that if we were to do a scratch night, why not extend the play submissions to writers in Canada, since the company is a Canadian theatre company. I love new work development. And I love working with writers. There’s something magical about bringing a piece of theatre to its feet for the first time. I think there’s a real service that must be done to the world the writer has written on the paper, and as a director, I love finding ways to lift those words and that world off of the page and onto the stage. The UK is an incredible hub for new writing and new work so to be able to have this environment at our disposal as Canadian theatre practitioners based in London, it just opens up all this possibility to expose new work from Canadian writers to the scene here. I’m really hoping to continue this series into a regular piece of programming for Little Lion so we can meet new Canadian writers who may want to collaborate with us, but also to meet other theatre practitioners here and grow our network of collaborators!

Shows will take place over 2 days, 5 shows shown per performance slot – the matinee and evening of 14th Nov and evening of 15th Nov. How have you approached curating the line up?

I wanted to make sure each line up had a variety of different pieces to show the range of the artists involved in this project. Some of the lineup is just due to scheduling (because trying to run an event with this many people involved does take some logistics), but each performance will showcase plays from all types of genres. We have family dramas, dark comedies, science fiction, East Coast folk musicals, physical theatre road trips, post apocalyptic myths-we really are going to take you on an adventure each performance! Since the theme of this series is “Stories From Home”, the possibilities are endless on what that could mean, so I wanted to make sure each lineup gave you a taste of what the Canadian theatre scene has to offer.

What does it mean to be able to create this important platform of international collaboration?

As an artist I think it’s so important to be open and aware of different cultures of storytelling. It enriches the work to see the world from all different angles and perspectives. I’ve been fortunate enough to work as a theatre maker in a few different countries now and it has been so beneficial to my development as an artist. Since coming to the UK I’ve met so many incredible artists from all over the world. I did my masters degree in theatre directing with East 15 Acting School, which has a wonderful community of international students. Learning and working alongside theatre makers from all over was truly inspiring and enlightening, and that’s something I want to make sure I incorporate into the work that I do, and that Little Lion does, in being a member of a global community of theatre artists. This project is about cultivating that community, especially in the wake of a time where it felt like our industry and livelihoods were non existent, and where we were meant to feel that our profession is not viable as a career. I wanted to have a space for us to come together and remember why we do this, and that we can do this. And that’s sort of the inspiration of how this project came to be.

What have you learned/taken away from curating the festival?

Producing is hard work and I have so much respect for those who have had the calling to do it as a career! I think the biggest takeaway from this experience for me is how important it is to have a strong team in your corner. I’m so lucky to have found a great group of artists to work with who I trust, and who have given me trust in return. There’s a reason we call it a community. It takes one to create and make the things we do. After what’s happened to us over the course of the pandemic, to be able to come together and make something with this group has been exhilarating and makes me so hopeful for what is to come. The generosity and creativity that all the artists in this project (both here and across the pond) have brought to this process is proof that regardless of what is thrown at us, we will always find ways to tell stories.

What can audiences expect from the event?
Well I can guarantee that they will definitely be entertained! Each play is so unique, I don’t think we have any shows in this programme that are alike! Since this event is like a giant scratch festival, I think there’s something really enticing in seeing theatre making at this stage in the process because it’s still so new. This is the first time in front of an audience for the majority of these pieces, so I think our audiences can expect to see something really electrifying. What I love about new writing in comparison to plays that have a performance history is that you, as the creative team, get to decide the path the piece takes. It’s not like plays that’s been done hundreds of times before, where the performance history is like a path has been deeply treaded on by those before you. We are building that fresh, new trail for most of these, and that is a really exciting thing to be a part of. The audience is absolutely integral to this process because it’s the feedback we receive from them that will help guide these pieces to where they need to go to be at their full potential.

What would you like for audiences to take away from the event?

I would love for the audience to take away from this a sense of being a part of this community too. Because we are actively looking for feedback from them, I hope it engages them to look at the pieces as more of an active participant in the process than just a spectator. There’s so much information you can receive from an audience in the development stage, which I think is an important part of this project for all those involved. We’re hoping to start a dialogue with our audiences on what they’re seeing, making them a collaborator in the event as well!
Questions by Lucy Basaba.

The Little Lion Theatre Company Scratch Event will take place on Sunday 14th and Monday 15th November 2021 at the Drayton Arms Pub Theatre. To find out more about the event, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop