By Erica Brennan
Short and sweet is a 10 min play festival running for over 10 years in Sydney and more recently in India and New Zealand. I think it has been an excellent choice to keep the number of entrants at ‘top 80’ instead of ‘110’ like the last time I saw it. The standard was markedly improved all round, and it was also a real treat to see the Mumbai winners of Short a Sweet perform ‘Cine-ma’; definitely a highlight of the evening.
I battled public transport and unfortunately missed the first show on Saturday night but the snappy dialogue, live sound effects and audience giggle boded well for ‘Checkout’ by Pete Malilici (Director Writter) and I am sorry I did not get to witness it.
Second on the list was ‘Emergency Exit Aisle’ Written by Will North and Directed by Karen Bayly. A recently estranged couple are stuck on an awkward flight home and suffer life altering turbulence. I found the writing pretty obvious with the emotional changes coming too fast in the characters even for a light-hearted piece of comedy. Simple effective staging and attention to detail by the three performers (Nick Barkl, Nic Verhoeven and Florence Kermet) were its strengths.
Next up was ‘Deceit’ written and directed by Uma Kali. It wasn’t mentioned anywhere in the program notes but the story line is a more modern take on a Roald Dhal story. Its modernisation of including a lesbian coupling and contemporising of Dahls fur coat gift to a stunning jewel necklace was welcome. However I felt that the dialogue was once again more concerned with setting up the final gag than any compelling story telling.
Fourth in the line up was ‘Handyman’ written by Kerry Bowden and Directed by Stephen Wallace. Emily Kivilcin performs a funny monologue of a young woman who discovers her Bunning’s Warehouse lover is stooping his clients with ease and clarity. The staging is dynamic and uncluttered. The only off moment was the bloody climax, I felt the overly comic portrayal of a man having his throat torn into with a saw was at odds with the rather gory speech. I would have loved to have seen the character turn very dark and not gloss over it as if murder was nothing to her.
Next was piece was ‘Clean Break’ by Tom Jensen and directed by Jacque Vickers. It shows us the final exciting moments before a wedding shattered by the groom calling it off. His reasons, while in theory are sound, ring strikingly untrue because of the pontificating dialogue. The grooms proclamation ‘there is no god’ and ‘we are all specks’ are delivered in such a way that I was left very unconvinced that this man had ever really thought about any so terrifying. In an awkward final moment of comedy the bride leaves devastated and the groom reveals his true reason for calling off the wedding. A burning passion for the mother of the bride.
The final piece before interval was Short and Sweet Mubia winner but ‘Cine-ma’ (Best line: Not YOUR-ma not my MA) A physical and aural delight the actors Ajay Ayyappan, Pooja Balu and Venkatesh Harinathan flung us into young Indian girls dilemma of being consumed by the cinema. Directed and Written by Mathivanan Rajendran, I wanted the piece to continue on it also but managed to stand beautifully as a 10 minute play. It’s storytelling and emotional dynamism absolutely suburb and entrancing.
After interval we were introduced to ‘The Fox and the Hunter’ written by Simon Godfrey and directed by James Heartly. A fox and a hunter meet to discuss an end to their long rivalry but really the hunter just begs the fox to let him kill him. An easy script to listen to but clumsily staged. Key moments lost in confusing blocking and no tension for the comedic gages to be pulled off. Kudos for the costume and set design very well taken care off for a 10 min piece.
Next was ‘G’, created and performed by Miranda Drake on what I believe is a subject close to her heart; her G cup breasts. My hackles also rose when the story veered towards the idea that a woman’s real virtue is as a mother, however she should be applauded for her bravery and there were moments of real humour in the piece but a lack of solid storytelling and clarity in progression made it a bit hard to watch. I hope Miranda Drake keeps working and perfecting her craft, and that we see more work from her in the future.
3rd last for the evening was ‘I Know, I Know’ by Grant J Venables a script which had incredible potential as a piece of Absurdist theatre with its long streams of cliché teenage angst and one character only ever saying ‘I know, I know.’ The staging was awkward, giving context to a piece that didn’t need it, while never being clear about the characters relationship. One may have been referred to as ‘Dad’ the whole time but I was left very confused as to where and who these people were.
Next came ‘Team Building Activity’ written and directed by Phillip Gallop. A stellar cast in David B Fowler, Roslyn Hicks, Hannah Forsyth and Phillip himself, the group hitting all the right comedic notes and taking us on a bizarre corporate team building exercise ride with ease. I was particularly charmed by Hanna Forsyth when she put on a blind fold and had to do the rest of the piece without sight. It was very sweet for some reason.
Finally was ‘Do Not Disturb’ written and directed by Robert Sharpe. Another excellent 10 minute comedy where an uptight retirement home worker FINAALLY has a naughty- good-time with a 90 plus year-old resident. The cast again stellar, they underplayed the comedy brilliantly and I would love to see this team take ‘Do Not Disturb’ (or similar) and turn it into a pilot for TV. It has excellent potential.
All in all an enjoyable evening and now I eagerly await week 2 of Short and Sweet.
The full program of works for Short+Sweet Theatre Sydney 2013 is at www.shortandsweet.org/sydney
Tickets are $33/$28 conc (Wild Cards $30/27) . Bookings www.shortandsweet.org/sydney or 0423 082 015