Review: Short + Sweet Theatre – Top 30 Week 3

I think out of all the heats, this group served up the most diverse selection of plays.  Covering a range of styles and genres from interpretative dance to musicals to good ol’ comedy, this third and final group of the Top 30 really was a nice eclectic spread – just the way I like it!

The evening starts off with A Small War, A Very Long Way Away by Angus Algie, a cheeky little piece that pokes fun at the British government.  Michael Morris is back (you may remember him as the excitable younger brother of Tchaikovsky in wildcard entry, How About Cannons?), this time as the overly easygoing and incompetent Prime Minister who has to address the nation in the wake of a recent nuclear attack.  He is disconcertingly calm and unaffected by the news much to the chagrin of his two advisers.  While political satire is nothing new and I thought the story traveled a bit flat in the first half, the actors had great stage presence and there were some really good bursts of comedy peppered throughout the narrative.

Northland Youth Theatre may be the young ‘uns in the competition but they certainly proved that they can play with the big boys!  Through interpretative dance and a touch of humor, Youandamoebababy‘s creative take on evolution hit the nail on the head on all accounts – it was well choreographed, well written and well performed.  The cast of four made full use of the stage and I was very impressed by how well they all moved, both individually and together.  Transbury’s Starving, Carving, Darling in the second half also put a creative spin on a commonly debated on topic – the beauty myth.  I thought it was an interesting concept, I loved the dark twist and the musical element but unfortunately there were issues with the execution.  I think it was a mistake to have the main actors perform with a mic as the constant echos and feedback were distracting and just disrupted the flow and enjoyment of the story.

Speed Dating by Tara Calaby and Mother’s Milk by Funny Thing Productions slowed things down a notch and were definitely more script heavy than action heavy.  Having said that, I thought these two plays were both excellently written and their characters brought to life from really polished performances by the actors.  Speed Dating sees two actors alternating between different characters in a speed dating scenario.  Their “pitch” to their prospective partners is mostly of a cynical, pessimistic and sometimes even self-deprecating nature but at the close you find yourself unexpectedly feeling none of those things.  Also a two hander, Mother’s Milk had quite a mammoth task of getting us to connect with two characters within the mere ten-minute time frame and I think they were nearly there.  The father and son are well cast and performed their monologues in a way that is candid and personable which I liked.

Checkmate Productions’ STAGE FRIGHT had an interesting premise – a barbershop quartet are split in half when two have stage fright and are unable to perform until the other two run through a process called “systematic desensitization” which involve some rather odd non-scary steps that help with phobias.  I liked the quasi audience interaction element to it (very similar to A Cultural Hierarchy from the first group of Wildcards) and the script was engaging and flowed fairly well with some great one-liners but I did think it fell short slightly with the overly exaggerated performance by the cast.

Also featuring a cast of four ladies was the closing play Sauna penned by Lee Smith-Gibbons.  When three friends (plus a stranger) are trapped in a sauna, girly gossip soon turns into a shocking confession which then leads to one of them wanting answers to the ambiguity that (she feels) exists in their friendship.  As the heat rises, their friendship further unravels.  I thought the story arc was a bit weak; it started off slow, picked up a little in the middle but then fizzled out at the end.  What saved it though was Bron who was the star of the story, hands down.  Played by Kura Forrester, she brought great charisma and comedy to the character.

In contrast I thought Spit For Tat by American playwright Alex Dremann had an excellent story arc and great pacing which worked perfectly as a ten-minute piece.  Greg and Bernadette are a temperamental couple who use arguing and insulting each other as a form of foreplay.  The narrative is a vicious cycle of getting mad to getting turned on and then back again but thanks to the clever writing and brilliant acting, it doesn’t feel repetitive at all but incredibly entertaining.  I was particularly impressed by Jess Holly Bates’ performance; there were a lot of subtle non-verbal things she did that were just really effective and apt to the situation.

One of my top favorites of the night was Imperfectly Frank by Seth Freeman, a charming slice-of-life comedy about an Indian family and the age old tradition of arranged marriage – but with a twist.  This story takes the common preconceived notion that Indians are conservative and throws it out the window.  Franklin is being pushed in to not only an arranged marriage but in to a relationship with another man; his insistence to his parents that he is straight only falls on death ears.  Wonderful feel-good story with the perfect ending and performed by a great cast.

As much as I really enjoyed Spit For Tat and Imperfectly Frank, no other play had me completely hooked and laughing as much as Michelle Wallace’s On The Shelf.  This was possibly the easiest vote for favorite play out of all the heats.  The story is set in the supermarket, specifically in the vegetable section, where Carrot is making a sales pitch to passing shoppers in the hopes of getting picked.  She is soon joined by a foxy Scottish Marilyn Monroe-esque Cauliflower and together they fantasize about being chopped, sautéed and made into a delicious dish.  Their hopes and dreams are shattered by a sardonic and bitter French Celeriac who gives them an unwelcome wake up call.  Great storyline, absolutely hilarious (the Celeriac had the best lines!) and very entertaining.

A huge WELL DONE to the Top 30 and the Wildcards!  It has been a fun couple of weeks but all good things must come to an end, sadly.  Looking forward to seeing the Judges’ Choices and People’s Choices perform again at the Gala Final this Sunday!

The Whimsical Banana rates Top 30 Week 3:
A Small War, A Very Long Way Away: 3/5 bananas
Youandamoebaby: 4/5 bananas
Speed Dating: 3/5 bananas
STAGE FRIGHT: 3/5 bananas
On The Shelf: 5/5 bananas
Starving, Carving, Darling: 2/5 bananas
Imperfectly Frank: 5/5 bananas
Spit For Tat: 5/5 bananas
Mother’s Milk: 3/5 bananas
Sauna: 3/5 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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