Short+Sweet Festival 2013: Theatre Week 2

Short+Sweet TheatreIt’s been a fun month of snappy, quickfire performances and sadly it will all be over soon – I can’t believe Short+Sweet is about to come to a close!  Week 2, the final heat of the Theatre category opened on Tuesday and like the other two rounds that preceded it, the evening was brimming with an entertaining assortment of plays for us to sink our teeth into.  Here’s what I thought:

Feature Wall 5/5
Two seemingly ordinary besties share a morbid night-time activity and looks at what happens when two women scorned take matters in to their own hands.  The narrative is superbly paced and takes a macabre twist when we finally see what lies beyond the curtained backdrop.  A humorously dark piece which suggests that sometimes revenge can be best served in another way other than cold.

Where You’d Least Expect 5/5
A pair of fellow nervous wallflowers meet at a “party” and amiss the awkward social situation of their surroundings forge an unexpected connection.  The performers are perfectly cast, delivering great comic tension and a tangible awkwardness that was a delight to watch.  This charming play is extremely endearing and a highly amusing alternate to the typical romantic comedy.

Hongi 2/5
A Maori conman easily dupes a gullible Pakeha in to participating in several “free” games of heads or tails.  The latter gets completely sucked in to the conman’s ploy even though it is glaringly obvious that he is being tricked in to giving away his money.  This comedy based on a true story is entertaining enough however I found the repetitive nature of it got a little tiring towards the end.

Spidermen 4/5
Two male spiders moan and share stories about their hungry and horny wives.  We soon learn that in the world of spiders, the stereotypical gender roles are reversed – the men are over-sensitive creatures craving intimacy while the women are alpha (fe)males with an irascible temperament.  A cheeky and humorous play that effectively puts an arachnid spin into everyday relationship scenarios.

V.D. 5/5
This solo centers around Sophie, a cynical and overly suspicious borderline crazy cat lady who has been single on Valentine’s Day for the past sixteen years.  A bouquet of flowers from an anonymous admirer sends her on a tailspin and we follow her as she prepares and counts down to this blind date.  The narrative is incredibly well written with a good dose of self-deprecating humor and is superbly performed; I particularly enjoyed how the story switches between the first and third person perspective.

Our Last Holiday 5/5
Tim, a struggling filmmaker is poring through scripts over shots of whiskey when Helen arrives to collect her things.  The two ex-lovers clearly had a rocky relationship and a bitter end but their argument is cut short at the arrival of another visitor.  A cleverly crafted piece with a brilliant twist and emotionally stirring resolution, this moving piece ends the first half of the evening on a high.

Fruit Salad 4/5
A naive and free-spirited father seeks help from his daughter when he unwittingly gets involved in a drug scandal.  As the narrative unfolds, it is evident that the role of parent and child has reversed as the daughter pleas desperately with her father to behave responsibly.  A riotous tale with great comedic value, this piece is one of the most entertaining short stories in the bill.

Lust Is Blind 3/5
If our body parts and organs could talk, what would they say?  This cute and quirky play explores this very question in an unorthodox love story which involves jealousy, confusion and eventually escape.  It does take a while to build up and to fully connect with who’s who but apart from that this was a clever piece using creative storytelling and performed enthusiastically by a talented young cast.

The Blue Balloon 4/5
A fanciful story which explores the impact a mystical blue balloon has on an entire community.  The concept is a fascinating one – it explores an alternate reality in one’s state of mind but with a cast that’s almost a dozen large, there is a lot to take in and at times the action appeared rushed and slightly disorganized.  Logistics aside, this is a thought provoking piece with some interesting characters and I thought the inclusion of a live soundtrack was a brilliant touch.

Last Drinks 5/5
Set in a bar, a man can’t help but strike a conversation with a woman when she walks in wearing a wedding gown.  What starts off as a regular enough verbal exchange begins to head in to absurd territory when the two characters learn more about each others’ past and what has brought them to that very moment.  This piece is simple in concept but is an absolute gem of a short story due to the excellent script and engaging performances from the cast.

Lucky C*nt-ry 4/5
Closing the evening is a gripping two hander which asks us to “consider this glorious country”.  The cast portray multiple characters who are meant to represent your everyday ordinary people in New Zealand and explores what encompasses the Kiwi identity and our sense of belonging.  This proudly local production is a riveting watch; the two performers are skilled chameleons, transitioning in to the different characters with great ease.

Overall, another enjoyable night of bite-sized theatre with some really polished performances across the board.  Personally I felt the Theatre heats housed the strongest works – there were some truly exceptional productions and I hope in future some will get the opportunity to develop their works further.  I can’t wait to see who makes it to the Gala Final!

Short+Sweet Theatre will be at the Herald Theatre until June 30th.  Click here for tickets.

WEEK 1: Tuesday, June 18 – Saturday, June 22 2013 (Tues-Thur 7pm, Fri-Sat 8pm)
WILDCARD: Saturday, June 22 (3pm)
WEEK 2: Tuesday, June 25 – June 29 2013 (Tues-Thur 7pm, Fri-Sat 8pm)
GALA FINAL: Sunday June 30 (3pm & 7:30pm)

For the full festival programme, click here.

Short+Sweet Festival 2013: Theatre Wildcard

Short+Sweet TheatreFrom the devil formulating an alternative plan for conquering the world to a blind date turning in to a combative court case, there was certainly a good mix in this year’s Theatre Wildcard round.  I particularly liked that there was a good amount of comedies as lighthearted plays sit better in a late afternoon weekend time slot.  Here’s what I thought:

The Antichrist Cometh 4/5
A couple are getting ready for a dinner party when an unexpected discovery involving the numbers 6-6-6 causes a drastic change in plans.  A cleverly written and cheeky piece which entertains the possibility that the devil could just be an average man, coexisting incognito among us.

Jim 4/5
Two people in a thirty-eight year old marriage candidly share with the audience how each coped with the devastating news that one of them has cancer.  Incredibly moving and heartwarming, I thought this style of storytelling was highly effective and packed an emotional punch.

Travel in Draos 2/5
A regular train ride becomes a little bit more interesting when a Russian man talks about his very unorthodox profession with an English backpacking couple.  This piece had an intriguing premise with great potential but unfortunately the narrative was a little too open-ended for my liking and left me a bit confused.

Geeta’s First World Problems 5/5
Geeta is an “urbanized woman of Indian descent” who because of this dual identity finds herself caught between two cultural worlds.  A thought-provoking and engaging one woman monologue about being faced with a cultural identity crisis and the internal struggle that comes along with it.

Somewhere Between The Sky and The Sea 5/5
A young composer has written the perfect violin concerto and in his quest to get the world’s greatest violinist to play it, he meets the girl of his dreams and as the narrative unfolds, a love triangle forms.  The story is told through narration and well-timed hilarious commentary and is a superbly crafted piece.

‘Games’ 3/5
When a game of “Guess Who?” between two sisters starts to become a little too personal, their relationship unravels and we see just how far one of them will go to win.  The entire narrative is structured as an escalating conversation between the two siblings which I thought was very well scripted with great comedic value.

This Could Be The Start 3/5
Everything is going wrong in Sarah’s life but her new upbeat Wellingtonian flatmate tries to convince her that she is not alone and that it is not all bad.  An amusing slice-of-life-esque comedy about looking at the bright side of a mid-life crisis.

Baggage 5/5
A darker version of your typical “boy meets girl” scenario involving an unsuspecting yet clearly ominous suitcase.  This anti-rom com is a brilliantly written work and the perfect representation of a short and sweet play, in my opinion.

The Third Person 5/5
What if you had a personal narrator who faithfully followed and described your every move in life as well as your surroundings?  This witty and entertaining piece explores the idea that everyone has a plot that must be narrated.

Duelling Judges 3/5
Two headstrong and opinionated judges meet on a blind date and inevitably aren’t able to resist bringing their work practices to the dining table.  An energetic and humorous work performed enthusiastically by the cast.

Overall, a nice varied selection of plays and an outstanding effort all round; some works certainly could have given the Week 1 group a run for their money!  The results of the votes are already in – congrats to the teams behind The Antichrist Cometh and The Third Person for making it to the Gala Final!

Short+Sweet Theatre will be at the Herald Theatre until June 30th.  Click here for tickets.

WEEK 1: Tuesday, June 18 – Saturday, June 22 2013 (Tues-Thur 7pm, Fri-Sat 8pm)
WILDCARD: Saturday, June 22 (3pm)
WEEK 2: Tuesday, June 25 – June 29 2013 (Tues-Thur 7pm, Fri-Sat 8pm)
GALA FINAL: Sunday June 30 (3pm & 7:30pm)

For the full festival programme, click here.

Short+Sweet Festival 2013: Theatre Week 1

Short+Sweet Theatre The final category for Short+Sweet Festival has kicked off and after an eclectic showcase of quickfire song and dance this past couple of weeks, it’s time for some bite-sized theatre.  Week 1 features a generous bill of eleven acts and get ready for quite the tasty theatrical spread as it is a fantastic line up!  Here’s what I thought:

The Birthday 4/5
A fast-paced whodunit story told without spoken word.  A glitzy party takes a turn when the birthday boy dies midway during the festivities – silent mayhem unfolds and everyone starts to point the finger of blame.  With no dialogue, this play relies on the actors’ non-verbal cues and the visual landscape to tell the story and although at times the action does get a little messy due to the large cast, it is an entertaining watch and definitely a great homage to the silent film genre.

Out From Under With Mary 4/5
This engaging two hander sees how an aversion to rain and alleged drug use bring a homeless woman and a suburban house wife together.  The two women are at odds initially but eventually they manage to form an unexpected camaraderie – the development of this unlikely bond and brilliant use of  multi-syllabic words along the way make for an interesting narrative.  A cleverly written and well cast piece that will leave you feeling a little warm and fuzzy inside.

Irish Stew 3/5
A low key slice of life tale which conveys how things that may get lost in translation can still somehow make sense between two soul mates.  Lauretta and Carlton are an absent-minded couple who go on a hunt for what starts off as an Irish shoe but subsequently keeps changing to different objects that sound similar.  This piece uses clever wordplay and is a charming look at a loving relationship that has blossomed over the years.

A Glorious Act 4/5
This retrospective doco transports us to 1933 and relates the horrific tragedy and brave sacrifice of 10-year-old Frances Mason, “New Zealand’s daughter brave”.  Told from the perspective of three witnesses and using visual aids, this “wondrous story” is incredibly moving and absolutely gut-wrenching.  This work packs an emotional punch which is an impressive effort considering the limited time frame.

The World’s Worst Fight 5/5
If you ever wondered what actually went down between Adam and Eve at earth’s creation, this is it.  This hilarious anti-rom com portrays the man and woman in clichéd gender roles – Adam is the “typical male” who is easily distracted and comfortable with how things are while Eve is the stereotypical nagging girlfriend who is critical of her man’s every move.  A cheeky take and contemporary spin on the world’s first couple, this piece is a bag of laughs.

Walking Shadow 4/5
A “tragic drama” set in a theatre, a scheduled table read goes wrong when the cast are late and Martin, an actor past his prime wanders in uninvited.  The young director and aging actor engage in a heated discussion of the then and now of the theatre – the more they disagree, the more aggravated Martin becomes; as the narrative unravels, the tension and suspense steadily increases.  This nail-biting play is superbly paced with credible performances by the two performers.

Staged Madness 5/5
A tongue-in-cheek piece about an actress who, in acknowledging the audience, causes us to wonder what is real and what is staged.  Kate Vox, a familiar face in the local theatre scene, plays herself and tries to convince her co-star that they are in a play while he tries to convince her that she is suffering from a breakdown.  A wildly entertaining work which breaks down the Fourth Wall in a refreshing new way while effectively weaving some witty meta-humor in to the “script”.

After. Life. 3/5
This dark play is centered around an alternate idea on where we go when we die – what if it isn’t heaven or hell but something else altogether?  The recently deceased titular character is faced with a constant “heads or tails” (quite literal) tug of war which he battles out with an unexplained enigmatic entity.  A fun and quirky view on the afterlife that will leave you ever so slightly disturbed and confused.

Reading Lamouche 5/5
Another table read setting where an impassioned director tries to spark some enthusiasm in his disinterested cast.  His attempts to persuade them that “art requires sacrifice” falls on deaf ears particularly when a humble backstage hand unwittingly becomes the star of the play.  A highly entertaining piece with great comedic value and an excellent cast – they were a clear crowd favorite.

Storming The Castle 5/5
An off-beat two hander featuring a wannabe-cool father and his estranged son who reluctantly seeks his dad’s advice on how to attract the girl of his dreams.  The narrative makes great use of pop culture references and the two performers are superbly cast, playing off each other effortlessly.  This comedy is irreverent, unorthodox and “a little bit wrong” but extremely well crafted and very enjoyable.

Zooquatic 5/5
Closing the evening is a cute and eccentric tale about a zebra, shark and an amusing-looking yet adorable “ze-raffe”.  This oddball threesome become a family due to the strangest of circumstances and we are taken along on the journey.  Charming and compelling, this delightful piece is an unconventional story that celebrates two conventional, very relatable themes – love and family.

Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable evening and a stellar ensemble of plays – it was certainly a very difficult vote as I had many favorites!  Hopefully there will be additional acts sent to the Final as there are definitely more than two that are deserving to be there.  Looking forward to checking out what the Wildcard and Week 2 heats have to offer now!

Short+Sweet Theatre will be at the Herald Theatre until June 30th.  Click here for tickets.

WEEK 1: Tuesday, June 18 – Saturday, June 22 2013 (Tues-Thur 7pm, Fri-Sat 8pm)
WILDCARD: Saturday, June 22 (3pm)
WEEK 2: Tuesday, June 25 – June 29 2013 (Tues-Thur 7pm, Fri-Sat 8pm)
GALA FINAL: Sunday June 30 (3pm & 7:30pm)

For the full festival programme, click here.

Short+Sweet Festival 2013: Song Showcase

Short+Sweet  SongThe second category of quickfire theatre kicked off last night and it’s one I have personally been looking forward to being a bit of a musical geek!  The bill is not as plentiful as what was presented to us during Short+Sweet Dance but it was still an enjoyable lineup all the same.  Here’s what I thought:

Annie & Joshua 5/5
A punchy rom-com set in a hotel lobby where a humble bellboy and the hotel’s receptionist allow their imaginations to sweep them away on a whirlwind romance of over-the-top proportions.  This “music-omedy” is the most faithful to the musical genre out of all the acts with archetypal expressive musical numbers, exaggerated gestures and melodic dialogue, all delivered brilliantly by the two performers who are adept vocalists.  A superbly written, wonderfully amusing and incredibly enjoyable piece – a great start to the evening!

What Love Can Be 3/5
This sombre and emotive piece goes behind closed doors and looks at what really goes on between an outwardly happy couple in a long-term relationship. Emma wrestles between wanting to please her disapproving, passive aggressive boyfriend and yearning to break free of his controlling grip – she expresses this struggle effectively through two vulnerable vocal performances.  Where I think this piece could improve on is the dialogue to song ratio; I felt the dialogue needn’t be as lengthy as the emotional impact rests in the heartfelt lyrics of the songs.

quiet desperation 4/5
Described as the “hysteria of endurance”, this group performance stretches and challenges the genre in this quirky and unique “musical” without words…or song for that matter.  Using various fitness apparatus like a treadmill, punching bag and even your basic skipping rope, this quintet combine sound effects with a host of creative vocals to create an orchestra of sound and rhythm that does somehow come together as one seamless melody.  A cleverly choreographed piece with great pacing and a dynamic “score”.

The Adventures of Kazu & Kengo (a.k.a. This is how Ninjas say hi…!) 5/5
This action-packed comedic piece follows two ninja wannabes and their quest to graduate from ninja school (at last!).  The ninja superstar master puts the instantly likeable duo through their paces in a number of scenarios where they must figure out what they need to do to save the day.  This is all delivered through a delightful mesh of song, dance, props and a dash of good ol’ slapstick.  Riotous and highly energetic, this short story is bucket loads of fun and wildly entertaining and was a clear crowd favorite.

Hole in The Road 4/5
The final piece in the bill is a musical lament of the various holes in the road (both literally and metaphorically) that we face in life and consequently dealing with these shaky encounters.  A thoughtful and charming medley of well written songs performed excellently by the performers, one of which was the festival director himself!  There were some subtle jazzy undertones which I felt worked well with the narrative and I thought the vocals were spot on; lovely harmonies and delivered with just the right amount of personality but also restraint.

Overall, Short+Sweet Song really is short and sweet but packed full of snappy and entertaining stories told through song and music.  It’s a shame there is only one heat and I can only assume it is because there were limited submissions in this category.  Here’s hoping there will be more next year; to echo this category’s tagline: everything really is better with a soundtrack!

Short+Sweet Song will be at the Herald Theatre until June 15th.  Click here for tickets.

WEEK 1: Tuesday, June 11 – Saturday, June 15 2013 (Tues-Thur 7pm, Fri-Sat 8pm)
GALA FINAL: Sunday June 30 (3pm & 7:30pm)

For the full festival programme, click here.

Short+Sweet Festival 2013: Dance Week 1

Short+Sweet DanceShort+Sweet is back!  Showcasing a plethora of bite-sized performances, this festival – now in its fourth year – is bigger and better than ever with the program split in to three categories: dance, song and theatre.

First up: Dance – Week 1 group.  Featuring a generous bill of twelve acts, it was quite the tasting platter!  Here’s what I thought:

Peace 5/5
A contemporary group dance backed by live vocals and guitar with a powerful message about how we make judgments on others.  The performance was a beautiful, seamless mesh of song and dance; the unplugged vibe made it a soothing piece yet the lyrics grabs your attention and makes you also reflect.

The Bachelor 5/5
Described as a “piss-take on the reality TV show The Bachelor”, this dance features a lot of amusing and rather “disjointed” choreography that oddly still comes across as graceful. Even if you have not watched the series, the hilarious dance moves of these five ladies which depict the various typical women who are on the show is entertainment enough.

Two.gether 4/5
A solid and well structured performance about the bond between brother and sister.  The two performers have an intuitiveness and undeniable chemistry that really does feel like one you might see shared between siblings.

Man/Made Heaven 3/5
This solo is quite an intriguing one; the performer has her back to us initially but excerpts from songs which bear clear religious themes draws us in.  This is juxtaposed well with the arresting dialogue that follows which she skillfully delivers like a remix track, however for me it was more monologue than dance piece.

Aima Andante 3/5
A stirring interpretative solo about a soul’s journey of reliving past memories.  Graceful and haunting dance with great use of the performance space and I thought the colored spotlights was a nice touch, adding another visual layer to the performance.

A Kathak Dance 4/5
This cultural piece is a refreshing one and with the dance involving ankle bells and the performer donning a bright and sparkling costume, it is both a treat to the ears and the eyes.  This is Bollywood meets tap dancing and it is a joyous watch.

Espressivo 5/5
Another solo piece and this one explores the different relationships people have with music.  The choreography is energetic and has a wonderful rhythmic quality to it that I found incredibly mesmerizing  – this was one of my favorites of the night.

Kei Wareware Tatou (Lest We Forget) 5/5
A highly emotive and chilling group performance which reflects on the lives of the Maori Battalion soldiers.  The piece is excellently crafted and choreographed; the performers work in harmony together while having great solo moments too and I loved the beautiful acappella rendition of Amazing Grace at the start and the end.

Virgin Insect 3/5
A captivating solo exploring the process of metamorphosis.  The choreography is edgy and visually engaging; the performer’s face is concealed initially which not only suits the theme but coupled with the dimly lit stage, added an element of mystery to the performance.

Flee 3/5
This very clever and tongue-in-cheek duet is physical comedy meets contemporary dance.  The two performers are adept dancers as well as effortless entertainers, garnering laughs easily with their comical facial expressions and slapstick-esque banter with each other.

Demi God Half Human 1/5
This dark piece is one which I struggled with and found to be extremely confusing – the lack of synopsis in the program didn’t help but I think that is the point.  The performance is very unsettling and visually disturbing especially near the end.

Body Party 5/5
The final performance is well placed at the end as it is a medley of many styles of dance and what happens when they all come together in a confused state.  A brilliantly choreographed piece with the performer smoothly merging into and  jumping between the different styles skillfully.

Overall it was certainly a visually stimulating seventy-five minutes that will prove that you do not need to solely rely on words to tell a story.  The performances are mostly within the realms of interpretative and contemporary dance so it is not quite the variety I was expecting to see but they were all very creative pieces so it was still an enjoyable watch.

Short+Sweet Dance will be at the Herald Theatre until June 9th.  Click here for tickets.

WEEK 1: Tuesday, May 28 – Saturday, June 1 2013 (Tues-Thur 7pm, Fri-Sat 8pm)
WILDCARD: Saturday, June 1 (3pm)
WEEK 2: Tuesday, June 4 – June 8 2013 (Tues-Thur 7pm, Fri-Sat 8pm)
GALA FINAL: Sunday June 9 (3pm & 7pm)

For the full festival programme, click here.