Review: Short + Sweet Theatre – Wildcard Week 2

Just like the first group of Wildcards, this second group thoroughly impressed and entertained.  Their message was clear: they may not have made it in to the top 30 but they can still give them a run for their money!

Replay by Angie Farrow set the bar high, kicking things off on a great note.  A lover’s spat between Bethany and Jeremiah becomes a twisted cycle of voluntary “do overs” when repeated attempts at manslaughter keeps getting thwarted.  I thoroughly enjoyed the humor as well as the comical humping on stage…albeit it felt a tad awkward with kids in the crowd!  I liked the clever play and inventive spin on Groundhog Day and also the way the other characters made their entrance into the story.

Matapihi’s Pëhanga (Pressure) showcases another couple in a domestic dispute but in a more serious light.  I thought Rangi Rangitukunoa and Roimata Fox’s performances were really excellent – moving, heartfelt and passionate.  While it is definitely more melodrama than comedy, I appreciated the humor that was peppered throughout the dialogue; kept things from getting too intense.

I thought Theatre of Love’s Moaner was clever, witty and an original way of telling a story that has been told before.  (As many would already know, the idea of talking paintings has already been explored by one infamous series about a certain boy wizard…)  Posing as paintings, there wasn’t much in terms of movement but how the story came to life was through the conversations between the works of art.  The script was very well-crafted and the actors did a brilliant job executing it, delivering their lines full of attitude and personality.  I especially liked James Wenley’s portrayal of the iconic sculpture of David by Michelangelo.

Part monologue, part comedy of errors with a dark twist is probably the best way I can think of to describe Coma Sutra by Kate Toon.  We meet Matt who introduces himself to the audience directly, breaking the Fourth Wall, before proceeding to tell us his woeful story of how he came to be where he is today.  Tim McPoland is perfectly cast as Matt and I don’t know if his disturbingly gaunt physique was intentional or not but it did actually enhance the performance.  Personally I didn’t think Suze needed to be there; it worked perfectly fine as a one man show.

The two plays that left me a bit cold and confused were MigHT-i Theatre’s Mirage and Just Desserts by Kelley Baker in the second half.  With Mirage, I did like the irony of the migrated family being more faithful to the Indian culture and traditions than the family who are actually living in India.  The concept was definitely there and had great potential, it was just not executed as well as it could have been.  The performance itself was a bit rough around the edges with some obvious mistakes and continuity issues which was most unfortunate.

Similarly I liked the premise of the importance of the last meal for men on death row in Just Desserts; fairly heavy subject matter to cover within ten minutes but one which I thought overall was done admirably. The cast were great and gave convincing performances but for me at times I found myself struggling to follow what was going on.  I felt the additional actors only served to cloud and clutter the narrative; I think it would have been much “cleaner” to leave it as just a heated conversation between the prison cook and his new employer.

It was a tight race for favorite play between Sexy Bird’s The Psychologist, The Soldier’s Heart and the Feathered Girl by Le Petit Workshop and the closing play, Slick Dame by Kay Poiro.  The Psychologist was great fun – Kate Vox was incredible as the unconventional and inappropriate psychologist with the only one diagnosis and one way to “cure” it.  I also enjoyed James Crompton’s performance as the nerdy and awkward George Phibbs; his facial expressions and body language brought a great element of comedy to the story.  The whimsical sitar-like music was incredibly apt and complemented the narrative perfectly.

Slick Dame had me sold from the moment I saw fedoras, heard the music and picked out the shadowy patterns projected on the wall to be the silhouette of buildings – I am a big fan of the 40s era and film noir!  “Private Dick” and the Femme Fatale were very “cookie-cutter” noir characters and performed authentically by the two actors.  I thought the  use of the coat rack to play additional characters was a creative touch and that twist at the end was absolutely genius.

I was very tempted to place a very biased vote for Slick Dame just based on my love for the genre alone.  However there was one thing that did let it down unfortunately – in my opinion, the story would have worked a bit better if it were a couple of minutes shorter.  Even though the pay-off was beyond superb, I felt that at times it dragged a little in the journey to get there.

In the end, my favorite play was a no brainer, really.  The Soldier’s Heart and the Feathered Girl got my vote simply because out of all the other plays, I felt it did the most within the allotted time.  This fairytale love story had a very Disney-esque quality to it which I loved but what gave it that extra bit of magic was the creative way in which they conveyed the story.  Incorporating puppets, a spot of shadow play as well as using scarves was a brilliant move and brought the play to a whole new level.

A massive well done to all the Wildcards across both weeks.  It truly has been a pleasure; in my eyes you all are part of the “top 50” rather than the Wildcards because in all honesty for many of the plays, there really wasn’t much difference in quality or standard between the two categories!

The Whimsical Banana rates Week 2 of the Wildcards:
Replay: 4/5 bananas
The Soldier’s Heart and the Feathered Girl: 5/5 bananas
Coma Sutra: 3/5 bananas
Mirage: 2/5 bananas
Moaner: 4/5 bananas
Pëhanga (Pressure): 3/5 bananas
Just Desserts: 2/5 bananas
The Psychologist: 5/5 bananas
Slick Dame: 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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