Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Short + Sweet week 2 review

Reviewed by Regina Su

The Sydney Short and Sweet Festival has been labelled the “Biggest Little Play Festival in the world” and draws an international audience. For it’s 12th year running, theatres in Newtown, Marrickville and the Seymour Centre play host to this influential festival spanning over three months. This year, over 80 original plays will be performed, providing an opportunity for over 800 emerging writers and artists to gain the exposure they need to possibly jump start their professional careers.

This is an amazing opportunity for appreciative audiences, agents and curious townsfolk to come out and sit in on one of these short play nights. Each week offers a different line-up of plays, each running for no more than 10 minutes each. As the festival wears on, the people’s choice will be awarded for the most popular and wild cards will be performed for extra entertainment.

Short and Sweet is an exhibition of dramatic proportions, for writers and artists from regional Australia and as far as Malaysia and India, to showcase diverse ideas and themes while experimenting with the limits of the stage. I arrived to the festival while it had been going full steam – I began my journey in week two. The powerful acting and magnifying glass on the details of life were strong elements that captivated me in short, instantaneous bursts of imaginative insights.

Week two of the Short and Sweet festival presented a uniquely diverse range of short plays, featuring two from Jodi Cramond, winner of the regional sector; the Short and Sweet festival in Dubbo. With high calibre actors and insightful food for thought, it looks like the Short and Sweet festival is running full steam ahead!

“Disposable”, by Jodi Cramond, is borderline existentialist, as a man ponders to jump or not to jump and end his life, while two onlookers debate over the frivolity of his action. The premise of this play was a little predictable, however it was interesting to note influences from “The Importance of Being Ernest” and “Hamlet”, and the intensity of the acting really helped the performance.
“A Burning Ambition”, by Cerise de Gelder was an interesting take on a famous event in history. By examining the antics of two friends worried about their missing friend’s vocation, the play places a magnifying glass over Joan of Arc and her internal dilemma. The play was a little slow and less captivating, but only because there was too much attempt to make the performance relevant to both 15th century and 21st century societies. Nevertheless, the underlying themes remained strong.

“Bus Trip”, by Kathryn Yuen, was my vote for the People’s Choice- a fantastic concept framed in an insightful and relevant method. The play was a minute window into the thoughts, a running commentary perhaps, of the first bus ride of a public transport virgin and all her observations, her routine, and this internal monologue built in intensity and created tension in an empty room. The ending was a little out of the blue, maybe even incongruent with the rest of the play, but I feel that the integrity of the play as a whole, the concept and the execution was enough to pull through.

“The Gospel According to Bowser”, by Dan Borengasser was a very popular pick for People’s Choice. Being a play that dealt with controversial issues, it managed to hold a self-reflexive mirror against the structure of religion, but did so in a respectful manner, which is a paradox to say because the vehicle of the tale was seen through the eyes of family pets- a dog and a cat. Wonderful acting and thorough explanations made the play work as the dog worshipped his master and the new feline questioned his dog-ma.

“Diet Dilemma”, by Vee Malnar was the Crash Test Drama Runner-Up and was an outrageous examination of the paranoia of the diet conscious, whereby a wife doesn’t let her husband eat anything for fear of preservatives, additives, diabetes and the list goes on. The concept and execution were hilarious, however I feel the ending was a let- down, only because it was so predictable.

“Shockhold Syndrome” by Sandy Maestro was creepy to say the least. Halfway through the play, the two actors paused and swapped roles, then repeated the dialogue again and the simplistic nature of the dialogue, lighting and theatrics were enough to intensify the subject matter- the curious relationship between captor and victim in abduction cases. Truly bone-chilling.

“Snapped”, by Sally Davies was a strong and solid play. In an exploration of the perils of exposing drunken nights on cyberspace, “Snapped” follows intricate threads of human relations and plot twists. After one photo destroys one relationship, which eventually brings two couples together, the play takes a turn from whimsical antics to serious impact. Definitely a relevant performance for the cyber-generation!

“Waiting”, by Kylie Rackham was my second vote for the People’s Choice award. Two people, both brilliant actors, are drawn together for their love of music. They’ve both got tormented pasts which the audience piece together over the play, however their relationship is essential for their lives to move on. The ending was a shock, albeit congruous with the tone of the play and was just a delight to see.

“2 Count”, the second play by Jodi Cramond, was great, but this is in due credit to the actor. An OCD man making sense of numbers in a world of unpredictability provided a simple concept, with simple execution, which was a pleasure to watch.

“Richard and Rod” by Patrick Nilan, was the final performance of the night and acted as a bit of light, comic relief. The play was anally fixated with a focus on sexual humour, but in such a light-hearted way that the audience roared with laughter.

Short and Sweet is an exhibition of emerging talent that is not to be missed. Six weeks of the Top 80 plays to go!


Anonymous said...

Is there more? It seems to be just an opening paragraph of this review...

Philippa Bird said...

It has been updated.