For those who have an interest in live performance but have a short attention span, Short + Sweet Theatre is the perfect theatre fix for you.
The first round of this quickfire theatre festival began earlier this week and over the next three weeks will feature 50 plays that have a mere 10 minutes to reel you in and impress you. From comedy to slice-of-life to melodrama, there is a little something for everybody. And if something doesn’t quite tickle your fancy, you need only wait a few minutes before the next short story comes along.
There was a lot to like in the first group that took the stage in the Herald Theatre on Tuesday. Kerrie Ann Spicer’s Stiff Justice set the bar high with a dark comedy about a newbie cop who shares a secret with a ghostly John Doe. I thought it was brilliantly conceptualized and perfectly timed considering the short time frame. Do Not Pull by Sally Sutton took a while to “rev up” but the colorful personalities and natural chemistry between the four traveling girl friends is what held my interest. I particularly liked the ditzy but lovable Chardonnay (how can you not, with a name like that!). And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good Britney tribute?
Comedy seamlessly moves into drama with the help of smooth set changes and cleverly selected accompanying songs. I thought Nancy Sinatra’s Bang Bang following 50 Guns was particularly apt. Hope, by the Indigenous Theatre Group, Alex Broun’s 50 Guns and Nine Types of Ice by Michael Ripley in the second half all attempt to put some weight in their plays by tackling more serious, real life issues.
I could not take my eyes off Emma Fenton; her gripping “murder is easy” monologue in which she puts a name to every gunshot victim was both disturbing and riveting. I have to say it was rather daring to bring something like this to the stage, especially in the wake of the recent theatre shooting in America. The message behind the play is a powerful one but I’m not ashamed to admit I felt a tad uneasy!
Out of all the plays I think Hope, which put a face to abortion was the most confronting and the one that is likely to spark the most controversy. While I bought in to the actors’ emotionally-charged performances, I do think the subject matter may unfortunately be a little too taboo to be fully appreciated. The top actors of the night for me were Amelia Reynolds and Xavier Black who went from playing young and excitable friends in Do Not Pull to two anguished mothers in Nine Types of Ice waiting for the fates of their children who were involved in a tragic accident to be revealed – absolutely gut-wrenching.
It was a close race for favorite play of the night for me. In the end it was between the laughs aplenty medieval-themed Wisdom of Solomon by Tristram Baumber and Nic Sampson’s The Lighthouse Keeper. Ultimately it was Barnaby Fredric’s charming performance of Earl, the paddles-for-hands “French robot that talks” that sealed my vote.
I did thoroughly enjoy the flamboyant and camp antics of King Solomon (who believes all problems can be solved by literally cutting them in half) but I felt at times the intended chaos and mayhem of the scene was at its detriment as it caused some dialogue to get lost which made it a bit confusing to follow. In contrast the simplistic nature of the struggling writer who has been replaced by a curious robot who just wants to be friends is devoid of much action but yet is witty, entertaining and just a delight to watch.
Had The Flowers by Festival Director Jonathan Hodge been eligible, my vote would have quite easily gone to it instead. The second monologue in the bunch, Sheena Irving is perfectly cast as the Nintendo-raised Sam, the “town death magnet”. The storytelling in this is just superb and again, considering the ten-minute constraint, I thought the story arc was exceptionally paced and very well executed. The closing play, Supercide, sees the evening finish as it started – with another dark comedy, this time about Aeroman, superhero of Jaffatown, who is uncharacteristically feeling suicidal. I thought this twist on the superhero tale was very clever and I enjoyed the meta-humour immensely.
If this first round is anything to go by, I am extremely excited for the coming rounds! I would thoroughly recommend Short + Sweet Theatre to any theatre lover who wants to kill many birds with one stone as these bite-sized plays are the perfect “tasting plate”. It is also a fantastic opportunity to check out not only the local emerging talent in the theatre world but also from around the globe too.
The Whimsical Banana rates Week 1 of the Top 30:
Stiff Justice: 3/5 bananas
Do Not Pull: 3/5 bananas
50 Guns: 4/5 bananas
Hope: 2/5 bananas
The Lighthouse Keeper: 5/5 bananas
Wisdom of Solomon: 4/5 bananas
Nine Types of Ice: 3/5 bananas
The Flowers: 5/5 bananas
Supercide: 4/5 bananas
Short+Sweet Theatre is playing at The Herald Theatre and is presented by The EDGE in association with STAMP. For more information, dates and tickets click here.
For the full programme, cast and play information, check out the Short + Sweet blog.