Scum: Death, Destruction and Dirty Washing

The development of Scum: Death, Destruction and Dirty Washing by Chris Bond, Claire Luckham and the company.

The play was set in 19th century Paris during the time of the Commune in which women had taken a very active and vocal part, not only in their defence of the Commune but also in forming women’s political clubs to agitate demands for equal pay, crèche facilities for working women, education for girls and equal opportunities for women. It was a subject that resonated perfectly with the aspirations of the newly formed Monstrous Regiment. How the piece developed, its work process, form and content, evolved from the key issues they were grappling with: how to break the mould and present real women and their experiences on stage, rather than male-informed stereotypes; developing a theatrical language through which this could be expressed; selecting stories that put women and their lives centre stage; including music and songs; delivering their message in a witty, inclusive manner. When the commissioned script arrived from Chris Bond and Claire Luckham the company felt that it didn’t capture what they were looking to show in terms of its political themes, dimension of character and theatrical representation. Working collectively through discussions and improvisations, building on the original script storyline and characters, they shaped the resulting production to their vision. Scum opened at Chapter Arts, Cardiff in April 1976, to great acclaim: ‘Each scene is beautifully constructed…very funny…with superb music. This vivid production is political theatre at its very best.’ (Ros Asquith, Time Out 1976). The work added something new to the debate. The performances were electric, galvanising their audiences.

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