Review: Short+Sweet Theatre 2014 (Short+Sweet)

rsz_1529736_585635138198747_2022174908_oVenue: King St Theatre (Newtown NSW) and Seymour Centre (Chippendale NSW), Jan 8 – Mar 22, 2014
Festival Director: Pete Malicki

Theatre review
Short+Sweet Theatre in Sydney featured 160 ten-minute plays this year. After 10 weeks of performances at the King Street Theatre in Newtown, a Gala event was held on Mar 21 at the larger Seymour Centre, featuring 12 of the best and most memorable. The selection is fairly varied, and would appeal to a wide range of audience types, but unsurprisingly, most of the work that have made the cut are comedic, with only two exceptions.

The Blue Balloon, written by Angie Farrow is a surrealist piece that uses visual design and physical theatre to tell its story. Direction is a little lacking in focus, but the team’s radical approach to the short play format is admirable. Late For School is the only work of tragedy at the Gala. Written by Iain Moss and directed by Lisa Eismen, the play stands out not only for being entirely different in tone, it was also the only monologue of the night. Its structure uses suspense, tension and drama beautifully, and actor Patricia Rowling does a splendid job taking us from curiosity to sadness in a very short time.

The night featured many fine performances including Lynda Leavers in Moonage Daydream by Vee Malnar, in which she plays a very drunk David Bowie fan. Her comic timing is exceptional, and so is Richard Carwin’s in Therapist by John Lombard, who captivates with a performance based on gay and straight stereotypes. In the work Nana, conventions are broken. Writer Micah Joel and director Tom Richards have created a thoughtful piece about sexuality in the elderly. Ros Richards’ daring and playful performance as the sexually liberated Nana is a rare treat. A hint of sadness appears towards the end of her story, which seems to add more complexity than the short format allows, but it is a nice touch nonetheless, to try to keep things in a realistic space.

It is noteworthy that through the entire Short+Sweet season, which also includes Short+Sweet Dance and Short+Sweet Cabaret, the rate of participation by women is significantly high. This is a festival that women are drawn to, and one where they do brilliantly. Some Other Toy by Fleur Beaupert features more sexual liberation, this time in a young woman, and a young female robot. It features some of the more original and fascinating concepts in the program, but its innovation is cleverly paired with a lot of laughs, making it a surprising crowd-pleaser. Wild Flowers (deftly directed by Alexandra Hines, pictured above) is another work helmed by funny women. Lauren O’Rourke’s performance as Violet is the most outrageous of the night and her ten minutes of incredible comedy is glorious.

After 12 years of growth, the Short+Sweet festival has produced around 2,500 plays and now finds itself in six different countries. Its success demonstrates that the demand and need for it is real. Practitioners want to participate in it, whether as a means to some other end, or as a destination in its own right, and audiences flock to it to see what our artists are cooking up. The cream of this year’s crop is undoubtedly excellent, but it is also the sheer volume of artists involved (750+ writers, directors and actors) that is impressive. The theatrical arts are indeed thriving in Sydney.

List of prize winners below:

Best Actress runner up

Best Actor runner up

Best Actress

Best Actor

Best Script
BLABBERMOUTH by Cerise de Gelder (VIC)

Best Director

Best Newcomer (Male)
DREW HOLMES of Newcastle (Star of ADVANCED by Jo Ford)

Best Newcomer (Female)
ROBYN PATERSON (writer, director and star of one-woman show THE SOUTH AFREAKINS)

Overall People’s Choice Winner
THERAPIST – writer-directors Rob White & Leah White, starring Richard Carwin & Rowena McNicol

Overall People’s Choice Winner
GUIDED BY VOICES by Mark Konik (ACT) directed by Florence Kermet and Rosemary Ghazi, starring Jamie Merendino, Nat Jobe, Kat Hoyos and Aimee Timmins

Overall Wildcards Winner
THE BLUE BALLOON by Angie Farrow, directed by Cecile Payet and starring Daniel Gorski, Rachael Williams, Hannah Zaslawski, Anthony White, Lyna Collins, Ethan Lowinger, Olga Pagrati, Brooke Doherty and Ivan Kurnia

Best Production
MOONAGE DAYDREAM by Vee Malnar, directed by Tom Richards, starring Greg Wilken and Lynda Leavers

5 Questions with David McLean

rsz_david_mclean_-_main_-_1_-_2013What is your favourite swear word?
Bawbag. It’s a derogatory Scottish slang term – translated into sophisticated English as the male scrotum (a bag for your balls…get it? Sorry!) – but is commonly used as a casual insult against people who are annoying, e.g. “Did you see the state the boss got in when I rocked up 2 minutes late for that meeting? What a total bawbag!”

What are you wearing?
Well, as a newbie to the world of acting, I can’t give up my day job just yet (…!), so when I’m not busy engineering an accelerated route to Hollywood, you can find me working as a Business Analyst at ABC. Today’s dress code is a pair of chinos, brown shoes and an open collared pink shirt. When I worked in London, a few of the lads in the office and I started up Pink Shirt Thursdays, which has now become somewhat of a global phenomenon. There’s a Facebook group, so get involved!

What is love?
I’m not entirely sure what love is yet, but as a wee message for the girls out there who don’t believe in it and think us guys are only after one thing (sex)… well, you’re so wrong!!! We also want food.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Sucking Dublin, a NIDA graduate showcase at The Parade Theatres in Kensington. Set in Dublin in the late ’90s, it centres on the tragic lives of 5 young Irish people tormented by rape, drugs and violence. My dialect coach was working with the students on their Irish accents for the show, and as I was graduating from Screenwise around the same time, I thought it’d be a good opportunity to check out what I’d be up against in the industry 😉 All in all, it was a great evening; the performances from each of the five actors were authentic and truly engaging, and I’m sure all of them will go on to be very successful. I’d give it a solid 4/5 stars.

Is your new show going to be any good?
And What A Damn Fine Morning It Is! the show places me up against my next door neighbour, and lifetime rival, Ted (played by Sam Dugmore, an awesome talent), in an hilariously witty, egotistic battle. This will be the first ever time I’ve performed on stage, so I’m looking forward to rising to the challenge and hopefully putting on a great show for all of you. Stephanie Merriman is directing and has been a joy to work with in rehearsals. Some of the improv exercises we’ve been doing have reduced me to tears of laughter! She has a great way of getting the best out of her actors, so here’s hoping Sam and I can make her proud when it comes to show time.

David McLean @mcleandave makes his Australian debut in And What A Damn Fine Morning It Is!, part of Short+Sweet Theatre (Week 2).
Show dates: 15 – 19 Jan, 2014
Show venue: King St Theatre