Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Short and Sweet Top 20 Week 2, Courtyard Studio

The final round of heats for Short and Sweet offers another mixed bag with a couple of highlights and pieces worth talking about.

"Vulnerable", written and directed by Ben Harris, sits unusually in three parts scattered through the first half of the evening. It's an interesting structure, although some of the dialogue does not sit comfortably on the actors and it works more impressionistically than as a clear narrative of a story. It's a case where what's going on with the lighting and positioning is often a lot more interesting than what's being told - which suggests skill without, at this point, structure. It's a positive sign and I await further developments from Ben.

"The Unexpected" is from the usually reliable Greg Gould - however, in this playing, at least, it comes across as a tad schematic and clunky. The staging possibly doesn't help - it's a little too fussy and the characters never quite go deep enough to get the most out of the script.

"Presto" is a clever piece from Mike McRae, featuring a delightful Michelle Cooper performance as a heftily analytical rabbit, Paul Jackson as a cynically hard-boiled monkey, Tony Cheshire as a delightfully self-impressed magician and Sarah McCarthy tying it all together as his harried assistant. While it's not the most brilliant script ever written, it's snappily directed, tightly played and looks good.

"And what a damn fine morning it is" gives a good solid two hander for Luke Middlebrook and Michael Smith as two competetive suburbanites. It goes a little soggy in the middle (not enough real variations on the theme), but is well played by the duo.

"Deep Shallow Empty" has interesting staging and performances but, again, the writing plays as overly schematic and has a couple of phrasing problems where the dialogue doesn't sit comfortably on the actors.

"Tagged" is an amusing, brisk trifle played between Sophie Benassi, Scott Rutar and Rhys Hekimian - Benassi in particular excels at playing the straight woman (even when wresting with a misbehaving prop), and this never outstays its welcome.

"Gold Digger Nights" is an attempt at a musical, and while story and songs are never mindbogglingly brilliant, the perforamnces both from Catherine Crowley and Zach Raffan in character and Tim Maloney and Jim McGrath as musicians give it a reasonable amount of verve (in particular, the climax gives good interaction between the quartet).

"Floozy Boozy Monday" winds up the evening with some reckless mute clowning with Katie Woodward and Anna Voronoff. They're committed performances and wind the evening up with a giggle.

As always, it's worth sampling Short and Sweet as a good mixture of what short-form theatre can do in Canberra - it is not wall-to-wall excellence, but it's often intriguing and diverting.

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