The National Theatre: War Horse

War HorseWith a stellar cast, superb set and sound design and most especially the remarkably executed puppetry, War Horse is well worth the ticket price.  What I feel is truly priceless about this production is how it is able to so masterfully inject life and emotion in to what is essentially a mechanical prosthesis to invoke in its audience a genuinely emotional response.

Based on the 1982 novel by Michael Morpurgo and directed by Alex Sims, this page to stage adaptation by Nick Stafford is an extraordinary tale told through a rich tapestry of arresting visuals, haunting song and breathtaking physical theatre.  Set in 1914, War Horse tells the story of Joey, a young and spirited horse who finds himself at the face of battle when he is sent to work for the English cavalry in World War I.  As Joey sets off on his undoubtedly dangerous journey as a war horse, we also follow sixteen-year-old Albert who, determined to be reunited with Joey, goes on a perilous mission to bring his horse home.

The highlight of this production is definitely the skilled and intricate use of puppetry to portray the animal characters in the story, namely Joey, the play’s titular character.  It is no easy feat getting the audience to invest in a character that is not human let alone one that is inanimate.  However this is accomplished effortlessly thanks to the exceptional workmanship by Handspring Puppet Company, outstanding horse choreography from Toby Sedgwick and a team of extremely talented puppeteers.

War Horse - Joey and TopthornThe trio of puppeteers who bring Joey to life do so with staggering believability; they are a well-oiled machine, seamlessly and intuitively working as one unit to make you suspend your disbelief and have you care, feel and root for the character.  It is astonishing to think that even though you are clearly looking at a puppet and reminded of this constantly as the puppeteers are always in view, all of this never distracts or detracts from the story and seem to just fade in to the background.  You are completely convinced that you are seeing a real horse before your eyes and the same can be said of all the other puppet characters.

Puppets aside, the human characters are just as well cast and all give excellent and polished performances.  I also really liked the simple ‘scrap of parchment’ that makes up the backdrop of the stage which is used to clever, creative effect to convey time and location throughout the narrative.  Another thing that impressed me was how well the space was used.  There are often many performers in the same scene at one time but all aspects of the stage are so well organized and choreographed that it never once felt cluttered or over-crowded.

War Horse is an absolute theatrical masterpiece – utterly gripping, incredibly moving and emotionally stirring.  It provides what I think is quite a unique perspective on war and delivers a powerful message of friendship, unwavering loyalty and unrelenting courage even at the face of adversity.

5-stars

War Horse is at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre until April 26th.  For more details and to book tickets, click here.

To find out where War Horse is going next and when, go to warhorseonstage.com

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Intimacies: Sweet Thing

intimaciesBilled as “a hilarious satire and disturbing premonition of where society is headed”, Intimacies is made up of two thematically linked one-act plays – Sweet Thing and I’d Rather Be The Pope.  Unfortunately due to a cast member getting injured during rehearsals, the latter play could not go ahead on opening night.

Sally is a middle-aged woman who is emotionally scarred and has grown bitter from a less than ideal childhood but at the start of the play it looks like she is in the process of putting things right.  The reunion with Mum appears honest and heartfelt until Philip, Sally’s brother, shows up.  We soon discover that their mother is dead but Sally has cloned Mum as a way to deal with the unresolved issues from her childhood.

As the narrative unravels, so does Sally.  The events that unfold become progressively more ludicrous and like a fly on the wall we watch as Sally subsequently becomes increasingly unhinged. Rima Te Wiata is brilliantly cast as the over-dramatic Sally while Lynn Waldegrave and Ross Brannigan are equally credible as the devoted mother and eager-to-please brother.

Under the superb direction of Elena Stejko, the cast of three bring to the stage a truly warped sense of reality that is both outrageous and quite disturbing.  This story is written by award-winning local writer Stephen Sinclair and is an excellently crafted piece with great comedic moments woven into the narrative.  It also delivers some clever social commentary on modern technology, specifically what would happen if we (mis)used it for selfish reasons.

Sweet Thing is a highly entertaining piece and a comical exploration on how new technologies can distort the way we interact with one another.  It’s a shame I did not get to see the second play as the plot sounds just as intriguing but I am hoping to catch it before the season ends!

The Whimsical Banana rates Sweet Thing: 4/5 bananas!

Intimacies is produced by Sweet Thing Productions and is at the Musgrove Studio, Maidment Theatre until July 27th.  For more information and to book tickets, click here.

Short+Sweet Festival 2013: Song and Theatre Gala Final

Short+Sweet  Song   Short+Sweet Theatre

What a fabulous four weeks of short and sweet performances it has been but as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end!

The quality of this year’s theatre entries really was very excellent; voting for just the one favorite was nearly an impossible task and I definitely did not envy the judges’ position – it was certainly a close race, in my opinion.  I was extremely pleased with the acts that made it to the Song and Theatre Final as they were all works I thoroughly enjoyed.

A few highlights for me: Dial One’s Annie & Joshua was just as delightful to watch the second time round; I found their encore performance more amusing especially their animated expressions and gestures – it really does celebrate the musical genre in all its glory.  Similarly it was enjoyable watching Dan Borengasser’s The Third Person again; the addition of the fog machine was a brilliant move as it added another comedic layer to the story.

Reading Lamouche by Finnius F. Teppett had an entertaining narrative, was well directed and featured a great cast so no surprises this act made it to the Finals – I liked the subtle yet effective changes that had been incorporated.  Pete Malicki’s V.D. came out on top, sweeping the most awards at the end of the night and it is completely deserved, I say – it is a superbly written piece, performed exceptionally by Jess Holly Bates who is such a skilled performer.

I was quite confident that The Oryza Foundation for Asian Performing Arts’ The Adventure of Kazu & Kengo would be in the Finals just on the audience applause alone.  The two ninjas are extremely likeable characters and I think their hilarious and farcical antics would attract a fanbase – there is definitely potential for further development, in my opinion.

And that’s a wrap!  It has been an absolute ride and I’ve had a ball of a time – thank you to Alex Ellis for organizing the tickets and thank you to all the talented people on the stage and behind the scenes for a wonderful month of bite-sized theatre.

Congratulations to all the acts that made it to the Finals and congrats also to those who left as award winners! (winners listed on the Short+Sweet Facebook page)

Here are my reviews of the individual heats:
Short+Sweet Song Showcase
Short+Sweet Theatre Week 1
Short+Sweet Theatre Wildcard
Short+Sweet Theatre Week 2

For all my Short+Sweet reviews from the entire season click here.

GLORIA: The Bride Who Wouldn’t Leave New Zealand

GLORIAAfter a successful season at the 2011 New Zealand Fringe Festival, this colorful and compelling one woman show is back on the stage.  Co-created by two of her granddaughters, one of whom portrays Gloria, this truly is a family affair which for me, made this piece even more poignant.

GLORIA celebrates the life of Gloria Sanford during her World War II years and the sequence of events that led her to making headlines when she got off the ship that was supposed to reunite her and her son with her American GI husband.  Using a variety of props and with the help of some very clever lighting design, Gloria recounts the memories of her past and the struggles she faced during this time.

Visually and stylistically this production is extremely engaging and fascinating; it’s evident how much thought has gone in to the set and sound design as it is very authentic to the time.  Told through a fantastical lens, an ordinary domestic setting springs to life through a vivid blend of swing music, dance and physical theatre.  Everyday items become vessels that transport us back to the 1940s to key moments in Gloria’s life.

Amy Waller is an effortless storyteller with a captivating stage presence.  It is such a courageous thing to do, to play someone that you know let alone someone that is so close to your heart and I felt she did an outstanding job.  By the end of the play you will go away feeling you’ve not only traveled back in time but that you’ve made a new friend along the way.

GLORIA is a well captured snapshot of New Zealand history and a superbly crafted portrait of one war bride’s exhilarating journey.  It is wonderfully imaginative, beautifully nostalgic and an incredibly heartwarming theatrical tribute – a truly inspiring story.

The Whimsical Banana rates GLORIA:  5/5 bananas!

GLORIA is produced by The Vintage Collective and will be at the Centrestage Theatre in Orewa until July 4th.  For more information and to book tickets, click here and for some handy directions to the theatre click here.

This review can also be viewed on Keeping Up With NZ.

Odyssey: You Bring The Boat, We’ll Bring The Storm

Odyssey - Company of Giants

Bringing the Greek epic poem The Odyssey by Homer to the stage is an ambitious and challenging task but this Company of Giants production make it look effortless.  Featuring a hefty cast of young adults and smaller primary children, creators Laurel Devenie and Katy Maudlin present a more accessible version of this decades-long saga.

After the Trojan War, Odysseus and his men begin their long journey home to Ithaca.  Along the way, their numbers steadily dwindle as they come face to face with a myriad of obstacles.  The cast energetically reenact storms and whirlpools as well as portray threatening creatures like the Cyclops and a seven-headed monster using a wonderful blend of creative props, a dynamic set and some really inventive storytelling.

This vibrant epic is a mammoth of a story with an intricate, multi-layered narrative but this adaptation makes it a little less daunting with the cast taking us through it at lightning speed.  The sheer number of characters in many parallel and interconnected storylines which take place across multiple landscapes is still quite overwhelming so if you are not too familiar with this tale and Greek mythology, some of the complexities and humor may get a little lost.

Odyssey BannerI did find the first half quite messy and a bit of a struggle as there is a lot to take in; at times it was hard keeping up with who is who and what’s happening where and when.  The acoustics of the venue also meant some of the dialogue got lost under the action that was unfolding on stage.  Things does slow down after the interval and having become more accustomed to the characters, I found the second half much more engaging.

The cast truly are a talented group of actors and while there are some stand out performances it’s hard to isolate anyone as the magic really happens when they all come together as an ensemble.  They confidently take to the stage and skillfully deliver a range of storytelling styles from beautiful chorus work to dramatic Greek tragedy.  Their boundless energy is contagious, and their passion and enthusiasm is incredibly inspiring.

Company of Giants’ Odyssey is a fast paced and action-packed re-imagining of a Greek classic and an all round impressive stage production.  Let your imagination set sail on this epic adventure – but hang on tight and be prepared for a wonderfully vivid and exhilarating journey!  This is a theatrical piece that you just have to experience in the flesh.

The Whimsical Banana rates Odyssey: 4/5 bananas!

Catch Odyssey today through to Sunday July 30th at 3pm and 7pm at TAPAC (100 Motions Road, Western Springs).  For more details and to book tickets, click here.

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.

SEASON
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.

SEASON
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.

The Pitchfork Disney: A Grim and Gothic Fairytale

The Pitchfork DisneyFilled with disturbing imagery that you would only find in your nightmares, The Moving Theatre Company’s adaptation of Philip Ridley’s debut play is a visually stimulating and wondrously visceral stage production.  Contrary to the title, this is definitely not a Disney fairytale.

The Pitchfork Disney plunges you in to the grim and fantastical world of Hayley and Presley Stray, a pair of adult twins who, in the wake of an unexplained apocalyptic event and the mysterious disappearance of their parents, have been living in solitary confinement.  The siblings live a very childlike existence, surviving off chocolate and narcotics in a derelict and abandoned space where they share stories under a tent that contains a constructed tapestry of their dreams and fears.

Under Sophie Roberts’ accomplished direction, this contemporary classic with a macabre twist is brought to life by an extremely talented and absolutely stellar cast.  Michelle Blundell and Todd Emerson play Hayley and Presley with staggering conviction; Michelle perfectly embodies the easily anxious, childlike innocence of the character while Todd’s charismatic stage presence makes him an effortless and captivating storyteller.

Leon Wadham’s portrayal of the sinister Cosmo Disney is unnervingly believable – the subtleties in his facial expressions in particular make his portrayal of the sick and twisted nightclub entertainer truly terrifying and sent shivers up my spine.  Sam Snedden rounds up the cast as the frightening Pitchfork Cavalier and although he only gets limited time on the stage, he still manages to invoke a formidable presence with startling effect.

Visually, the set (which goes beyond the performance space – a brilliant touch!) is impressive – an artistic masterpiece.  The stunning and fascinating set design by Daniel Williams along with the superb sound and lighting by Sean Lynch and Jennifer Lal work in perfect tandem to create a genuinely eerie atmosphere.  In this dreamlike alternate reality, you easily forget the real world and subsequently, like the twins, begin to fear what lies beyond.

The Pitchfork Disney is a deeply poetic, deliciously dark and hauntingly surreal theatrical experience.  Prepare to be swept away and completely immersed in this chilling and gripping tale.

The Whimsical Banana rates The Pitchfork Disney: 5/5 chocolate-coated bananas!

The Pitchfork Disney is at the Loft at Q until June 29th.  Click here for the full synopsis and to book tickets.

Janeece Gunton: Herstory

Janeece GuntonThere are not many theatre productions that can both completely repulse yet still entertain.  After watching this very controversial black comedy, I felt perplexed and torn – there were parts I did honestly enjoy but there were also other bits which were genuinely quite traumatizing.

Janeece Gunton: Herstory by Pandora Productions paints an extremely graphic and exaggerated picture of who many would consider the ultimate lowlife  in New Zealand society.  Janeece is vulgar, devious and an all round despicable human being.  Everything she does is for her own personal gain and there is absolutely nothing that she won’t do to get what she wants.  This self-serving quality is a central theme in the narrative and is the catalyst to many of the events that unfold.

The story is told candidly by Janeece herself who is portrayed with remarkable believability by Yvette Parsons.  The Fourth Wall is absent as she converses with the audience directly, sharing her cunning and fraudulent plans with us.  The rest of the cast put on credible performances as well, in particular Andrew Ford as the creepy WINZ fraud officer with the very disturbing sexual fantasies.

Janeece’s crude and larger than life personality is a lot to take in and the same can be said of the dynamic set design.  The performance space is incredibly well thought out – not only does the disordered surroundings greatly enhance the story but it also is an extension of Janeece, giving her character more depth and providing us with even more insight in to the kind of life she leads.

Personally it was a little too bawdy and gross for my liking but I can certainly appreciate that that is the point and in that sense, this production has hit the nail on the head.  It is highly irreverent, extremely crass and above all it is not afraid to challenge the boundaries of theatre; there are things that you will witness that will make you gasp, cringe and wish you could unsee.

Janeece Gunton: Herstory is an assault to the senses and is not for the easily offended or squeamish.  But if you’re up for some vile and unabashedly bad taste theatre done brilliantly, you will not go wrong with this show.

The Whimsical Banana rates Janeece Gunton: Herstory: 3/5 organic bananas!

Janeece Gunton: Herstory is at the shiny newly refurbished Basement Theatre until June 29th.  Click here for tickets.

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.

SEASON
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.