Review: Short + Sweet Theatre – Gala Final

Nineteen days, five heats and forty-five plays later, Short + Sweet Theatre has come to a close and what a fantastic theatre-filled few weeks it has been!  It’s going to feel a bit weird not having to make my twice weekly trips down to the Herald Theatre (it was starting to become quite a welcome routine for me!) and “Eye of the Tiger” will be stuck in my head for the next wee while!

Each week at the end of each round, anonymous judges, reviewers such as myself and audience members vote for their favorite ten-minute play.  With a variety of genres on offer, featuring all sorts of characters, including non-human ones like robots, vegetables and even amoeba, being only allowed to tick just one box was definitely a challenge.

On Sunday it all came to an end and the top twelve favorite plays – eight judges’ choices and four peoples’ choices – performed again in the Gala Final.  I was incredibly satisfied with the plays that had made the cut as most of them had been my personal favorites too.

The Lighthouse Keeper, all the way back from Week 1, was as delightful as I remembered it to be and thanks to some tweaks and additions to the script, managed to inject more comedy in to the story.  The most significant change was the director and playwright Nic Sampson stepping in to play Earl.  He did well but I thought his performance lacked the charm and personality that Barnaby Frederic had when he was the robot. (P.S. get well soon, Barnaby!)  The Smell of Rain also had a cast change with Kevin Keys substituting Preston Arthur O’Brien as Mike.  I thought Kevin brought a different energy to the character but one that still fit and worked.  I do think the chemistry was better with the original cast though; Preston’s more anxious and straight-laced portrayal of Mike complemented the jovial and carefree Serenity much better, in my opinion.

Judging by the applause, On The Shelf and Imperfectly Frank were the crowd favorites of the afternoon.  Celeriac, played by Lauren Porteous, had the crowd in stitches again and I thought it was the right move changing how she gets caught; her sprawled like a starfish on the ground before being dragged away was definitely more comedic and less cumbersome than being carried out.  The Bollywood ending to the Indian slice-of-life tale with a contemporary spin met with the same positive response albeit it was slightly ruined from excited murmurs in the crowd who obviously knew it was coming.

I actually really enjoyed Mother’s Milk and Nine Types Of Ice, the only two dramas of the bunch, much more the second time round.   I thought the storytelling by Dad and even moreso by the Son, played by Kelson Henderson, felt more earnest and compelling.  And with the latter play, I’m so glad the ending was changed so that Susan faced the audience when she realizes it is her daughter that didn’t make it.  That, coupled with the slow fade to black had a much more effective and heartbreaking impact in terms of evoking an emotional response from the audience.

Pëhanga, which won the overall People’s Choice out of both Wildcard rounds, was also more enjoyable on second viewing.  Their performances were great the first time but this time it had a more polished feel to it.  Similarly with two hander Riding The Red, which was the only play representing the first Wildcard heat, the actors had better chemistry and seemed more in tune with their characters this time round; their performance felt more convincing and resonated more with the audience.  The addition of the spotlights which shift between the two as they performed their monologue was definitely a clever move and change for the better as it helped really lure the audience in to what was being said.

I was so happy I got to experience the magic of the fantastical The Soldier’s Heart and the Feathered Girl again.  It really is such a feel-good play with a hauntingly good accompanying score.  Out of everyone else, and not just the finals but the entire festival, I really feel they stood out the most because of the creative way they conveyed their story.  One woman show The South Afreakins was probably the least changed out of the others but was still as solid as ever.  The Break Up remained unchanged as well (from memory) but I did think the story seemed to flow a bit better this time round.  Supercide took up the closing slot again and was another crowd pleaser.  Personally it was my favorite piece in terms of the genre; I love a good dark comedy and the twist to this one was brilliant.  Nice touch adding the “puppets” at the end – a great way to end the show.

I must say the lack of any opening and closing words made the close of the festival feel rather unceremonious and left me feeling a bit cold.  Seeing as it was the matinee show, I know the “official” finale was still to come, but all the same it would have been nice to still have someone say something, if not at the beginning then definitely at the end.

My tiny gripe aside, I’ve had an absolute blast!  A massive well done to those who made it into the Final and to ALL plays involved in this year’s Short + Sweet festival – I was genuinely very impressed by the caliber of plays and blown away by the talent that graced the stage week after week.  I also must mention what a top notch job the crew and especially the backstage hands did throughout the festival – know that your hard work made all the difference!

Also huge congrats to those who walked away with awards at the end!  (Check out who won what here)

And if you haven’t already, here are the links to my reviews of the different heats:
Top 30 Week 1
Wildcards Week 1
Top 30 Week 2
Wildcards Week 2
Top 30 Week 3

Short+Sweet Theatre was presented by The EDGE in association with STAMP.  To find out more about this year’s cast and plays and to be in the know for next year’s festival, subscribe to the Short + Sweet blog.

Already can’t wait for next year!

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