Theatrical Yum-cha is back! The current round of Short and Sweet seems the strongest I've seen yet, with plenty of clever, amusing, intriguing, thoughtful pieces in there.
"Sex Tape" (written and directed by Evan Croker) begins promisingly - Katarina Thane's "She" owns the stage in her confident lustyness and John Lombard's embarrassed "He" is suitably awkward. It does suffer slightly from a "seven minute mark authors statement" syndrome - the characters start to be lost a tad and become mouthpieces rather than individuals - but it at least has a nicely startling final image.
"The Runner" (by Wayne Mitchell, directed by Heidy Perri) doesn't play quite as strongly - possibly because the characters are so written on one level, the plot developments remain obvious and there isn't a lot to the material. There's a couple of nice moments (Maurice Dowling and Penelope Vaile's face-off-tango moves, in particular) but this doesn't quite flow.
Genevieve Kenneally's "Potato Whore" is strongly staged and a good execution of a simple but clever idea. Alison McGregor and Scott Rutar score strongly and stably as the protagonists, with Rhys Hekiman and Laura Griffin playing well around them, and the direction is strong, physical and visually interesting. I'm not entirely sure the writing quite knows what to do with the additional characters (Kellie Seccull's Zooey may have been better as a one-moment cameo, and John Lombard's Professor doesn't really add to the piece so much as ... is just there crowding up the stage) but it resolves nicely.
"A.N.X.I.E.T.Y" (written and directed by Ben Harris) is a good break in the male-female-relationship stuff that's dominated the first half - it's very much a fully-staged piece using all the elements of light, sound and the space of the stage. Cara Matthew's terrified Evelyn draws the audience in, while Sarah Michelle Thomson's Hunter is suitably freaky. There's a slightly messy resolution involving Neil Parikh's Konrad where the script seems to be drawing in an entire other field of plot too late (wait, is she scared because she's flying or because of this relationship?) and there isn't quite an easy chemistry between Matthews and Parikh to help this to work, but it's one of the more impressively staged pieces of the night.
"Sacred Profane" (written and directed by Kirsty Budding) isn't the strongest piece - it's attempting to write about a taboo topic, but it's simultaneously over-written and doesn't have a particularly strong or new insight into the topic. Also, a two hander really lives or dies on its performances, and unfortunately I don't think Terry Johnson's teacher is really up to snuff - he talks about strain and angst but it's never really felt by the audience.
"The Lady who peeps out from behind a folding screen" has a nice slow simplicity to it that contrasts well with the rest of the evening - a lot of the effect is deliberatley visual. John Lombard's simple script is well illustrated by Alison McGregor's directing, and Arne Sjostedt's music and the makeup from Chole Dodgson, Helen Braund and Kim Kerby really help with the mood and the style. Genevieve Kenneally's "Lady" is suitably intriguing and shy, Stevan Savic's Samurai has that gruff protagonist thing working for him, Monique Suna's Maid is witty and impudent, and the mean-geisha trio of Michelle Cooper, Joshua Bell and Katie Woodward are a great addition.
"Death in Ten minutes" (by Joachim Emilio, directed by Petra Lindsay) is meta-to-the-extreme but keeps on finding new levels to disappear down the rabbit hole. Tse-Yee Teh's "Zleen" is stronger as playful sidekick than the somewhat bombastic X.O of David Weisner, but all in all this is reasonably amusing.
"Triple Nought" is an impro piece devised and performed by the trio of Catherine Crowley, Ruth Pieloor and Heidi Silberman. On this particular night, the setups and developments tended to play stronger than the resolution with a lot of great ideas being thrown out but not all of them resolving particularly cleanly, which is a slight risk in impro pieces - but other nights I can see this one really flying.
"Black Coffee" (by Deanna Ableser, directed by Liliana Bogato) is unfortunately a fairly static piece and spends a lot of time analysing what should be a fairly simple decision. Lucy Bates sells her side of the storytelling reasonably well but there's a little too much fussy staging with props (I'm not entirely sure why Don Smith leaves without his laptop, for example), and it fails to really stick.
"Business Meeting" (written and directed by Ryan Pemberton) is a suitably ridiculous ending to the evening - Brendan Kelly's high-energy performance centres the piece strongly with Tom Short's acquiesent Shan hilarious in response and Mitch Gosling playing the straight man well.
All in all it's a cleverly mixed evening with thrills, laughs and drama a-plenty. A good launch to the season.
Edited to add: "Business meeting" won both the audience and the judges voting. Also through from the judges voting for this round were Triple Nought and Sacred profane. The other audience choice was "Potato Whore".