SHORT+SWEET Festival Wellington

BATS Theatre, Wellington

04/11/2015 - 07/11/2015

Production Details

Debuts in Wellington in November

Short+Sweet Festival 2015 debuts in Wellington in November 2015, bringing its hugely successful format to the city for four days. 

Short+Sweet Wellington features 11 works focused on theatre and takes place at BATS Theatre from 4-7 November. 

Beginning in Sydney 13 years ago, Short+Sweet features short, but perfectly-formed 10-minute works. The Festival has been running every year in Auckland since 2010 and this year ran across four weeks showcasing theatre, dance, music and cabaret.

Festival producer Sums Selvarajan says she is excited to be bringing the Festival to the Capital. “We’re always looking at ways to make the Festival even better and we’re very keen to spread it further around New Zealand. Wellington has such a great theatre culture and we’ve been delighted with the response to this first season.”

Eleven works have been confirmed for the debut Wellington season.

Ms Selvarajan said Short+Sweet has plenty of appeal because no single performance is longer than 10 minutes “and you know that the next work is only ever 10 minutes away.

“These aren’t snippets of show – like short films, each piece is a complete work in itself. A night at Short+Sweet is one where you won’t know what’s coming next – it’s a real feast of styles and subjects.”

An important part of the Festival was the nightly audience vote – each night audience members cast their ballot for their favourite shows.

Short+Sweet is also presented in a number of countries in South East Asia and has been adapted to suit the local performing arts communities in individual countries.

Short+Sweet Festival is on at BATS Theatre in Wellington from 4-7 November. Book tickets at and find out more at 

Short+Sweet Festival 2015 – Wellington
4-7 November, 7pm
7 Nov, 3pm matinee
BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington


Writer Vanessa Immink | Director Julie O’Brien
Cast Vanessa Immink | With thanks to Victoria Seymour for hair and make up and Andy Gartrell for music.

Pat Kirkwood, the most famous war time star nobody has heard of. This show uncovers the former child star’s journey from the West End to a New York asylum and a rumoured affair with Prince Phillip. Who is this woman, and how has she slipped through the cracks of history? 

Opening Night 
Writer Lori Leigh | Director Stella Reid
Cast Freya Daly-Sadgrove, Daniel Emms, Jonathan Hobman, Jonny Paul, Stevie Hancox-Monk & George Fenn 

An audience eagerly await the opening of a new show. As the curtain draws, it is not quite as they expected, and they start quietly checking the time on their phones, turning to each other in confusion, and waiting for it to be over. With the help of a leader, the audience decide to rebel and perform themselves.

Sir Winston Churchill and Me: A Primer on the Perils of Youth
Writer, Director & Cast JB Malthus
James has been unemployed for nearly two years and he’s spent a lot of that time thinking about Winston Churchill and their respective achievements at the age of 24. Is it opportunity that separates the two men, or is James just part of the Worst Generation Ever? 

Last Meals: An Appetizer 
Writer Keely Meechan | Director Ben Emerson | ITC Cool, Calm & Collective
Cast Jessica Old, Hannah Kelly & Keagan Carr Fransch
“I’m not saying I’m guilty, I’m just not saying I’m not”. Last Meals is gritty, intense, and introduces three women with nothing left to lose. Come and join our female death row inmates as they dine on their Last Meal. Innocent? Guilty? That’s up to you. 

Conspiracy Theory 
Writer & Director Shaneel Sidal | Cast Shaneel Sidal & Brian Hotter 

“What is said behind closed doors, stays behind closed doors”.
A show that plays with Conspiracies of what is going on around one man’s world and his Opinions. Crazy? Crazy isn’t always crazy.

The Decalogue 
Written & Produced by My Accomplice | Director Uther Dean
Cast Hannah Banks & Paul Waggott

Ten plays. Ten commandments. Ten minutes. 


Writer & Director Gina Vanessi | Produced by FOMO Productions 
Cast Sean Fleming, Jessica Coppell & Charlotte Thomas 

The blind are leading the blind through two short scenes that highlight how blind we all are, in different ways. 

The Warrior, Rogue, or Mage?
Writer, Director & Cast Kenneth Gaffney 

You are a Hero on a magical quest. What will your decisions be, will you escape doom? Choose your path, will you face the Dragon, or run? 

No Exit 
Writer & Director Brian Hotter | Produced by Shortman Productions 
Cast Brian Hotter & Shaneel Sidal 

NZ as a fundamentalist Christian state. NZ is about to erupt as Australian peacekeepers prepare to exit the country. Insurgence are 99 percent non white and having taken up arms against their oppressors. They have been ghettoised and tortured for their refusal to take on the Christian faith. Four characters take refuge in a shipping container bound for Tasmania, two white one Maori one Indian. The battle for peace continues.

Calm Down/Get Mad 
Writer, Director & Cast Pete Hodkinson

We live in confusing times; information-overloaded and connected across distances, cultures, philosophies. A divide appears. While embracing principles of loving kindness, of acceptance… avoiding anger, flowing like water… We also need to get angry to spark change, avoiding complacency with injustice. Calm down, Get mad.

The Oresteia 
Written & Produced by The Aztecs | Director Samuel Phillips
Cast Keagan Carr Fransch, Karin McCracken, Tom Clarke & Pippa Drakeford on projection.

A new adaptation of Aeschylus’ greatest and final play. Orestes turns on his phone after his final law exam to find a text from his Mum: “Something has happened, please come home”.  Winner best theatre, Dionysia festival 458 BC.  

The (Sweet) Team
Festival Producer:  Sums Selvarajan
Associate Producer:  Yee Yang ‘Square’ Lee
Artistic Coordinator – Theatre:  Ahi Karunaharan
Festival Coordinator:  Bea Lo
Technical Coordinator:  Michael Craven
Stage Manager:  Bridget Carpenter
Show Operator:  David Lawrence
Publicity:  Sally Woodfield (SWPR)
Tech Advisor & Web Development:  WhySquare Ltd
Short+Sweet International Founder:  Mark Cleary    

Theatre ,

2 hrs approx

Should become an annual highlight in Wellington

Review by John Smythe 05th Nov 2015

It began in Sydney ten years ago, has been an annual fixture in Auckland since 2010 (and in Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Singapore and Malaysia for longer), Now the Short+Sweet Festival – or the theatre component, anyway – has launched in Wellington with eleven ten-minute pieces.  

Written and performed by Vanessa Immink | Director: Julie O’Brien

Being unaware of Pat Kirkwood (billed as “the most famous war time star nobody has heard of”) I wonder if this is a gag in the mode of Forgotten Silver. But post-show Googling reveals she really did win a talent contest on the Isle of Man when she was 14, went on to become ‘Britain’s first wartime star’, sought further fame and fortune in the USA, was admitted to a rehab clinic in New York … Then there was the scandal caused by her dancing all night with the Duke of Edinburgh then having breakfast with him when Princess Elizabeth was eight months pregnant with Prince Charles. (Does Charles, a guest at Government House just up the road, know this is on at BATS this night, I wonder? Are his famous ears burning?)  

Vanessa Immink has cherry-picked Kirkwood’s story to create a showcase for her own impressive singing, dancing and acting talents, and director Julie O’Brien has crafted a neat performance package with simple but effective staging. There’s a friend of Pat’s, Pat in vaudeville, Pat in the clinic, a scene with an emissary from HRH Prince Philip – and a final scene beginning “My darling Pat” that leaves me wondering who is speaking and where they fit in the scheme of things.

I’m tempted to think the titular Fragments are from a larger show in development and note that, in the wake of Sarah Bradford’s biography of Queen Elizabeth II, one Jessica Walker opened her own show, Pat Kirkwood is Angry, in Manchester three years ago.  

Opening Night
Writer: Lora Leigh | Director: Stella Reid

[Spoiler alert]
To write anything about this gem will be a spoiler although the programme blurb does indicate an audience /performer flip-about will occur. And it does: stage manager Freya Daly-Sadgrove tells us we have a technical malfunction and must clear the auditorium – i.e. move onto the stage – while the techies check the grid.

What follows is brilliant. A few ‘audience members’ – Daniel Emms, Jonathan Hobman, Jonny Paul, Stevie Hancox-Monk and George Fenn – pepper the seats we’ve vacated and observe us all, just standing there. Eventually they break convention and make the odd comment, proving how anything presented as art may become art in the eye of the beholder.  

Conceived by Lori Leigh and directed by Stella Reid, it works a treat. I assume there is a predetermined structure and some preparation has occurred but it is also clear a great deal is improvised based on what is actually before the ‘audience’. Full disclosure: I know this because I personally am critiqued and obliged to deliver on their expectation, and that cannot be repeated. [Ends]

Who knows what will happen on other nights. A whole assignment could be written on what Opening Night says about the ‘rules’ implicit in theatre and the value of breaking them; on why we laugh so much during this somewhat exposing experience.

Sir Winston Churchill and Me: A Primer on the Perils of Youth
Writer, director and cast: JB Malthus

The premise for this solo cross between a TEDx Talk and standup comedy is that its writer /director /performer, JB Malthus, was once told by a drunk that he looks like Winston Churchill (and fair enough: there is a youthful resemblance). This sparks off some intelligent, insightful and self-effacing comparisons between Churchill and himself: the high-achiever v the Millennials mascot. Very impressive.

Last Meals: An Appetizer
Writer: Keely Meechan | Director: Ben Emerson

Given the title, it is ironic that this is where we get to meaty drama, powerfully written by Keely Meechan and directed by Ben Emerson. But this is indeed a ‘tasting plate’ of a show in development for next year’s Fringe NZ. Three women on ‘death row’ share their thoughts and feelings over their ‘last meal’ choice.

Hannah Kelly gives us a mouthy cockney who is highly pissed off at the quality of her hamburger. And her anger clearly goes deeper, directed at the men who abused her and the one whose death has put her here.  

A bit of birthday cake is the choice of the woman Keagan Carr Francsh plays. She is black American and it is the fate of her eight year-old trophy winning son that emerges in this searing indictment of USA gun culture and trigger-happy cops. Infuriatingly tragic.

The loss of self on becoming a wife and mother, with a job elsewhere as well, in the service of all but herself, is the lot that has befallen Jessica Old’s pinot noir-supping Kiwi woman. The grinding compulsion of her routine recurs as a chorus to her robust lament and it is she who speaks for them all: “I’m not saying I’m guilty, I’m just not saying I’m not.”

If we take their death row status as literal they all have to be in the USA but I like that it’s multicultural and their ‘sentences’ can be seen as metaphorical. Meechan has chosen a dynamic device for passing judgement on our social values and practices, and Emerson and cast do it proud.

Conspiracy Theory
Writer /performer: Shaneel Sidal | Director /performer: Brian Hotter

Initially welcoming us as someone certified for institutionalisation, Daneesh (Shaneel Sidal), who came here in 1983, turns out to have quite a lot to say about how things work and what might really be going on …

While a bit undercooked in this initial outing, Conspiracy Theory is an interesting study in paranoia. The more we understand its origins in this case, the less we believe he is mad. Thus, when a security guard (Brian Hotter) warns us at the last minute … we don’t know who to believe.

The Decalogue
Written and produced by: My Accomplice | Director: Uther Dean

The logline says it all: “Ten plays. Ten commandments. Ten minutes.” With the wit and ingenuity we have come to expect from My Accomplice, Hannah Banks and Paul Waggott play out ten insightful scenarios abetted by director Uther Dean.

For those who know the Ten Commandments (can we assume that’s everyone?), part of the pleasure is in trying to guess which one they’re depicting before the sonorous voice-over decrees it. En route we are treated entertainingly recognisable snippets of life as we live it.

This sends us smiling into the interval break.

Writer and director: Gina Vanessi | ITC: FOMO Productions

A ‘blind man’s buff’ game where all three players – Sean Fleming, Jessica Coppell and Charlotte Tomas – are blindfolded is the motif that punctuates two absurdist scenarios, deftly written by Gina Vanessi.

A theatre producer extols the virtues of – and brags about their track record in – signing their shows for the deaf. But she’s talking to a Blind Institute manager.

A father tries to tell his child her mother has died and he has been role-playing her, but the child won’t hear of it. She wants and needs the mummy she knows and loves.

The first is wonderfully cringe-worthy while the second cuts deeper into existential themes: we do indeed create our own universes. I guess that does make us blind to objective reality.

The Warrior, Rogue, or Mage?
Writer, Director, Performer: Kenneth Gaffney

Profiled on Facebook as an “Actor /Director /Writer /Comedian /Singer /Thinker /Gamer and all round Creative”, Kenneth Gaffney uses his skills to involve us in progressing his game: The Warrior, Rogue, or Mage? (I have to resort to Google again to discover ‘mage’ is the singular of ‘magi’ and relates more to magic that biblical kings.)  

It’s a classic quest story, to retrieve a box from a dragon, and we get to choose – usually from three possibilities – the path, role or item that takes the quester into the next phase.

As an actor Gaffney is able to embody whatever he’s called on to do, albeit selected from a finite quiver. It’s not pure improv – he has to cajole us in the end to choosing the right climax – but it does make for a dynamic ten minutes.

No Exit
Writer/Director: Brian Hotter

Not to be confused with Jean Paul Sartre’s Huis Clos, Brian Hotter’s No Exit reimagines New Zealand as a fundamentalist Christian state where non-believers have been “ghettoised and tortured for their refusal to take on the Christian faith.” I take it the scene we are treated to is part of a larger work.

Hotter plays a man in fear of breaking God’s wise laws in order to deal to “the mongrels” who threaten his family. Shaneel Sidal plays a man who, because he’s non-white, is taken to be a non-believer and is treated accordingly. But what if he is a convert and ardent follower of the faith?

What unfolds is visceral and disturbing. In the instant it happens the outcome pisses me off because it tells us there is no hope because no-one can be trusted. On reflection I realise that’s the point: this is why these wars continue for centuries; there is indeed no way out. Truly depressing.

Calm Down/Get Mad
Writer/Director/Performer: Pete Hodkinson

With another TEDx Talk-cum-comedy solo, Pete Hodkinson nails the whole information overload dilemma with searing insight and wit in Calm Down/Get Mad. What do we do when there are so many ‘right ways’ to live and so many choices on offer for every aspect of our life. If we are not to be accused of apathy, how to we choose what action to take?

His revisiting of the Stanley Milgram experiments at Yale in the early 1960s reminds us of the dangers of failing to take personal responsibility for our actions – which brings us back to the question of what action to take?

Hodkinson does a great job of drawing us in with his well-articulated and astute observations, and excellent comic sensibility. He’ll go far – if he chooses to.

The Orestia
Written and produced by The Aztecs | Director: Samuel Phillips

This modern evocation of a snippet of the Aeschylus trilogy (winner, Best Theatre, Dionysia festival 458 BC) finds Ella (Electra; Keagan Carr Fransch) turning on her cellphone after a law exam to find a text from her brother, Ollie (Orestes), saying tragedy has befallen their father.

Her Odysseus-like quest to get home (mixing our classical references here: Homer wrote The Iliad) is impeded by encounters with a range of friends, acquaintances and strangers played by Tom Clarke and Karin McCracken. The over-riding message seems to be that it is parents to are the biggest impediment to having the life you want. 

It is an ingenious idea, delectably rendered – replete, I am told – with the odd in-joke for classics scholars – and I hope this too is a harbinger of things to come in a fuller form next year.

The SHORT+SWEET franchise is welcome in Wellington and if this debut season is anything to go by it should become an annual highlight. Be it a testing ground for new ideas or the distillation of theatre to a piquant essence, I predict it will attract creative practitioners and adventurous audiences alike. Grab the opportunity! 


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