Bite Size is as lovely as the tiny cupcakes they give you in the foyer before the show. It’s not the best collection of short plays that’s ever been put on, but it doesn’t aspire to be. The warm, cosy Newtown Theatre (which is one of the loveliest little theatres I’ve been to in Sydney) is a great venue for this show, which has been put on as part of the Sydney Fringe festival. The atmosphere is perfectly suited to what is a very charming show.
There are six short plays in Bite Size, written by four emerging Australian female playwrights. There are obvious differences in skill between the writers, and some of the plays will appeal more to certain audience members than others, but contrast between different writing styles is always interesting and this show is no exception. The overarching theme is ‘things aren’t always as they seem’, and the six plays all articulate this very differently.
My personal favourite of the six plays was Sama Ky Balson’s The Applicant, about a writer who decides to join the corporate world and inadvertently finds himself involved in something very different to what he’d bargained for. Balson perhaps needed to apply the red pen a little more – the play got a bit carried away with itself at points, labouring to conceal the punchline – but this play was still both funny and clever. It definitely didn’t hurt that Drew Wilson (who played the rakish Mr D) and Laura McIntosh (who played Mephy) are two of the most charismatic performers I’ve seen in a while. This is to take nothing away from Adam Dear and Abi Rayment, the other two performers, who were both good and certainly had their chance to shine in the other plays, but Wilson and McIntosh really shone. They’re both very promising and I expect to see a lot more of them in the future.
The other highlight was Ruth Melville’s Fish Tank, an amusing little play about two fish living in a tank. One wants to get out, one is romancing the mermaid statue, and each is just a little bit cross with the other. This genuinely was a bite size play – there’s no way Melville could have sustained this script any longer than she did. It was more a dessert than an appetiser, a small one, a bite size cupcake of a play. It was a wise decision to program this wonderfully sweet play last in the evening, because it meant the audience went away with a smile on their face.
The only real low point of the evening for me was Samantha Hardy’s The Muse, which was somewhere between self-indulgent and incomprehensible. It was about an artist struggling to find his muse, but it came across as too earnest, too conscious of itself as art. This wasn’t helped by overt interpretation of Jared Barhite’s poetry – I feel like the author’s voice was lost in her effort to riff off someone else’s work. Adam Dear did a great job with some very dense text in this piece, which was more suited to the page than the stage.
Bite Size is not high art, and anyone who goes to see it looking for that will be disappointed. However, if you’re looking for a show that’s warm, a show that’s charming, a show that supports and showcases emerging artists and performers, a show that is simply a nice night out, then Bite Size should be on your list of shows to see in the Sydney Fringe festival.
Venue: Newtown Theatre | corner of King and Bray Streets, Newtown
Dates: Sep 9 – 18, 2011
Tickets: Adult $27.00, Concession $19.00