Well it’s time once again for the biggest little play festival in the world, Short+Sweet as it bursts onto the Sydney theatre scene for it’s seventh year with 90 main stage productions, 50 wildcards and 10 music theatre pieces in its jam-packed five week Sydney run.
This year Short+Sweet is more like slick and sassy, as the festival undergoes a commercial facelift and personality enhancement under the watchful eye of new festival director Van Badham. Improvements include a festival club, where theatre-goers and performers alike can relax and unwind after the show, while being entertained by spoken word poets and other talented performers. It’s a great idea and works well in spite of the poorly ventilated Newtown Theatre venue.
But this is truly a fun festival, and a bit of heat was not enough to kill the opening night buzz as die hard Short+Sweet fans lounged around in the groovy bar - many of whom were willing to put their names on a waiting list for tickets. Judging by the cult following on opening night, I’d suggest that you book your tickets in advance if you plan on attending.
So, did the plays themselves live up to the swish new Short+Sweet image? Well, on the whole, yes. Opening night yielded a plethora of little gems among the nine plays (all under ten minutes) on offer. That’s right nine plays, there should have been ten, but inexplicably the opening play [Expletive Deleted] had mysteriously been deleted itself. No explanation was provided, so it is unclear whether its absence will continue for the rest of this week’s run. The night opened instead with the Monty Pythonesque Dragon’s Lair by American playwright Christopher Cyr. It’s a fun medieval romp with a not-quite-knight ‘Sir’ Aloicious (Blair Milan) and Roland (Phil Hassan) the seemingly hapless victim of a nasty dragon. The piece gets the night off to a lively start with some amusing slapstick jokes and clever off stage dragon antics.
Among my favourites on the night was Little Blue Pills, a superbly crafted monologue on childhood remembrances. It features a captivating and truly stand out performance by Bel de Jersey as the acerbic Claire. De Jersey is clearly one immensely talented lady, having also produced and starred in the short film Love Always xx, which received official selection at the Cannes Short Film Corner last year. She’s my pick for one to watch in the years to come.
Previous winner and finalist Jane Miller’s new offering The Painter is a witty little piece on love, affairs and the joy of a new coat of paint. It’s a pleasure to see such fully realized characters within the confines of the ten minute brief.
The dark and disturbing Standing With Blackness, by US playwright Drew Larimore, provided a welcome change of pace, with its chilling portrait of a gun-loving teenager and the father who has to deal with his disastrous actions. Leon Anderson is particularly spooky as the gun-toting teen.
The play Perfect, is just that. It’s an energetic and polished piece featuring two love-lorn characters travelling the world in search of their ideal mates. James Winter's direction is well paced and irresistibly cute, with some nice snappy double actions that serve the script well.
While it’s true to say that not all of the night’s offerings were to my taste, there was a range and diversity present that should provide a little something for everyone. Plus there’s the unique and interactive nature of the festival itself to recommend it, as audience members are invited to unleash their inner critics by voting for their favourite play of the night, the winner securing a slot in the gala final and the chance to win a slew of generous cash prizes. So which one did I choose? Well, now that would be telling! You’ll just have to go along yourself and make up your own mind.
Short+Sweet runs for five weeks over two venues: Newtown Theatre and Seymour Centre Downstairs Theatre (starting one week later, for four weeks.) Check their website for programming details.
Short & Sweet SYDNEY
Top 90 Newtown Theatre Cnr King & Bray Streets
16 Jan - 17 Feb Wed - Sat 8.15pm Sat matinee 3.15pm Sun 6.15pm
BOOKINGS: MCA TIX 1300 306 776 www.mca-tix.com
Top 90 Seymour – Downstairs Cnr City Rd & Cleveland St.
22 Jan - 16 Feb Tue-Sat 8pm
BOOKINGS: SEYMOUR 9351 7940
Wild Cards Seymour Centre Downstairs
Sat: 3pm on 26 Jan, 2 Feb, 9 Feb, 16 Feb
BOOKINGS: SEYMOUR 9351 7940
Gala Final + Awards Night Seymour Centre | Everest Theatre
Gala Final Friday 22 Feb + Saturday 23 Feb at 7.30pm
BOOKING: SEYMOUR 9351 7940
For more information including the full program and bookings www.shortandsweet.org