Review: Short + Sweet Theatre – Wildcard Week 1

After watching the first group of Wildcards perform, I don’t envy the people that had to decide who made the top 30 and who didn’t as from what I’ve seen so far, the talent pool this year really is just incredible.  While there were only a few plays that really stood out for me in the first top 30 group, I found this Wildcard group to be a much closer race.

The show kicks off on a sombre note with Softly as in a Morning Sunrise by Robert Barr.  With no props, the pressure was on the cast to fill the empty space with their performance, sell the story and keep the audience engaged.  I thought it was almost there; the two political prisoners were performed well by the two actors and the end was quite clever, I just think the story arc did not quite work within the ten-minute time frame.  Similarly I felt Henrietta Bollinger’s Bedtime Monsters had pacing issues too.  I liked the fly-on-the-wall feel the story had but for me, the pay-off at the end did not quite match the build up.  Coincidentally these two plays were the only ones in the bunch to not have a director on board which is perhaps the missing link that was needed.

A Cultural Hierarchy by Curious Theatre was my favorite play in the first half.  It begins in the darkness before we meet “best friend beings” Seb and Angie who are there to take us on a tour of Pastiche gallery.  After informing us of a few housekeeping rules notably the “no touching policy” (demonstration included), the tour very quickly becomes one of escalating inappropriate behavior before complete mayhem is unleashed.  The level of panache and comedy was well balanced and executed and I absolutely loved the way the story breaks the Fourth Wall through their faux interaction with the audience.

I really enjoyed David Vazdauskas’ How About Cannons? which took us back in time in a supposed moment in history where we see that even the greats suffer from writer’s block.  While clearly meant to be taken with a grain of salt, the two actors did bring a level of authenticity to their performance.  Suddenly it didn’t seem all that far-fetched and perfectly plausible that Tchaikovsky would have argued with his brother about whether the 1812 Overture should be a celebration or cattle call.  I thought Michael Morris brought great energy to the stage as the excitable younger brother.

Simple in concept but creative in execution, Riding the Red by Grace de Morgan tackled the thing that everyone can identify with on some level – love.  Like the first play, there were no props, but the story is brought to life through a spot of mime and an entertaining and animated monologue where two individuals ponder their past failed conquests.  The ending epitomizes the very theme of this festival – short and sweet – and Queen’s Somebody to Love could not have been a more perfect song to follow after!  In contrast Michelle Macwhirter’s For Our Kind transports us to the year 2032 after a virus outbreak and explores love but what it becomes when the human race is in survival mode.  I liked the twist on the “first date” in the wake of a global disaster but the ending left me a bit cold.

I was pretty much decided that A Cultural Hierarchy was going to be my vote for favorite play and then A Criminal Mind by Paula Armstrong came along.  “Black comedy with a twist” really is the perfect way to describe it.  I thought the premise was clever, paced and structured perfectly to unfold in the ten-minute run time and well cast.  The best, however, was really saved for the last – Skux Capacitor’s Mechanics won me over with the “no frills” way in which the story of Joseph and “bad joke Eli” was told.  I loved their use of mime, homemade sound effects and makeshift quicksand as well as the clever use of  “Radio Bloke” to play the story’s narrator.  It was silly but loads of fun and a good laugh – the perfect end to another great selection of  bite-sized theatre!

The Whimsical Banana rates Week 1 of the Wildcards:
Softly as in a Morning Sunrise: 2/5 bananas
A Cultural Hierarchy: 5/5 bananas
Bedtime Monsters: 2/5 bananas
How About Cannons?: 4/5 bananas
Riding the Red: 4/5 bananas
A Criminal Mind: 5/5 bananas
For Our Kind: 3/5 bananas
Mechanics: 5/5 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.

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