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Interview: Crowdfunding Buff

Scott Le Crass on bring Buff to Vault Festival via crowdfunding.

Fresh from success with Harry’s Christmas at the King’s Head Theatre, director Scott Le Crass is crowdfunding for his next project, Buff at VAULT Festival. We caught up with Scott to talk about his next show, find out about the challenges that small shows face right now, and the support that VAULT Festival gives to all the artists bringing shows to the festival this year.

It’s great to have a chance to chat Scott. Could you introduce yourself and tell us a little about Buff?

I’m a queer, working class director and dramaturg from Birmingham. I’ve directed quite a few one person plays, notably last year Rose at Park Theatre [see our five star review here] and Harry’s Christmas at King’s Head Theatre as well as Sid back in 2016. I’m interested in the actor/audience relationship in one person pieces. I’m interested in creating intimacy, a sense of voyeurism and a time that feels like just having a chat with someone, or watching a piece of stand up. 

Buff is a play which the writer, Ben Fensome, and I have been developing for several years, but due to the pandemic and other reasons has had several false starts. We’re over the moon that we finally have an opportunity to premiere it at VAULT Festival. Buff is about a plus-sized gay man who has recently come out of a long term relationship. He tries to start navigating the dating world via apps, but is presented with toxic attitudes about body image. It’s about (and for) the gay people we don’t see onstage. It’s very funny and poignant. 

Can you give us some insight into the journey of development that the script has been on?

Ben and I had previously collaborated on his play Every Seven Years back in 2016 at the New Wimbledon Studio and we’d built a good working relationship. We hadn’t seen each for a while, but caught up one day over a cuppa as I’d had an idea for a play, and it just so happened Ben was writing a play about a very similar thing – that was Buff’s conception (we actually went through several other titles before arriving at Buff). Ben wrote a first draft, we read through it together, I shared my thoughts and he then redrafted the play. After that we did a reading with an actor, which was really useful and allowed another redraft to take place. It’s been quite a spread out process, but I think it’s important with new work not to rush a play’s development. 

There is a Kickstarter running at the moment to support Buff’s visit to VAULT Festival. What are the challenges that a small show like this faces? How much have those challenges increased in the current economic climate?

We do have a Kickstarter campaign running. Here is a shameless plug!

The challenge with small shows is that lots of people are fundraising. You need to get potential backers to believe in your production in order to get behind it. Also your project needs to stand out. For me, I only try to work on plays that I believe in and which say something important about the world we live in. I hope that a potential supporter can see the need for Buff to be told and champion us. 

Money is tight for a lot of people at the moment, so asking them to donate at a time like this presents an added challenge. Ben and I hadn’t intended on producing the play, but… here we are. That’s another story.

We’ve created our crowdfunder to make sure that Buff simply happens. It’s not flashy in terms of production values; it’s a story which doesn’t need to rely on that. Our campaign is to pay the team and book rehearsal space. We are not paying ourselves at it currently stands. This is an added personal challenge for Ben and I. As a working class artist I don’t have the luxury of wealth to put on my own work. Without the luxury, it has embedded a resourcefulness from making a little go a long way. 

We’ve seen a lot of shows turn to crowdfunding recently and this is the second time you’ve run a Kickstarter project yourself. Do you think we’ll see more of this in the future or do you think this is a blip due to the current cost of living crisis?

I haven’t done a crowdfunder in a long time, and that feels very telling. Unfortunately, I think Kickstarters and other fundraising initiatives are something we are going to see a lot more of. Aside from Arts Council funding, it’s one of the few immediate ways that working class artists can make new work without a producer. 

Could you talk a little about VAULT Festival? We’ve seen you mention them giving advice and support. How has it been bringing Buff to the Festival?

VAULT is a wonderful festival that presents a great range of new work, in, around and under the arches in Waterloo. Their team is very supportive in every aspect of your production, from marketing through to tech. We went through an application process, which is very thorough and competitive, so we are hugely grateful for VAULT in taking Buff forwards. 

You directed Harry’s Christmas which finished at the King’s Head Theatre on Christmas Eve. There were some great reviews including one from original author Steven Berkoff. Can you reflect a bit for us on the whole experience?

I’m still processing the whole experience. Having Steven Berkoff see the play and be highly complimentary about my reimagining was very humbling and reassuring. I’m chuffed with the reviews and the nominations, but the audience feedback really confirmed that I’d achieved what I’d set out to do – make them think about the Harrys they know, or to reach out if they are themselves Harry. I’m very proud of what Stephen Smith [the performer] and I have made. 

Finally, are there more plans for Buff after the VAULT Festival? And what about yourself? We know you had a really busy 2022 directing seven productions, is 2023 going to see you just as busy?

We’d really like to take Buff further, but nothing is confirmed yet. If any theatres out there would like to give it a home then get in touch. I’ve got another show at VAULT called Thirsty by Stephanie Martin, which is a lovely new four person play about a women who has just come out of her first same sex relationship,  as well as Merboy which is a queer retelling of The Little Mermaid at The Omnibus with Campfire Theatre. 

Our thanks to Scott for taking time to chat with us. If you’d like to help him and the team out with Buff, here is that Kickstarter link again. We wish them all the best with the crowdfunding and with the show.

Buff plays VAULT Festival on 31 January, 1-2 and 18-19 February. Further information and tickets can be found here. There’s also more information from Buff on Twitter.

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About Dave B

Originally from Dublin but having moved around a lot, Dave moved to London, for a second time, in 2018. He works for a charity in the Health and Social Care sector. He has a particular interest in plays with an Irish or New Zealand theme/connection - one of these is easier to find in London than the other! Dave made his (somewhat unwilling) stage debut via audience participation on the day before Covid lockdowns began. He believes the two are unrelated but is keen to ensure no further audience participation... just to be on the safe side.