SHORT+SWEET THEATRE 2015 Gala Final
TAPAC Theatre, Western Springs, Auckland
20/09/2015 - 20/09/2015
A night at Short+Sweet consists of up to ten dynamic 10-minute works and the audience is presented with a feast of styles and subjects. At the end of the night, you, the audience is invited to vote for your favourite work to help determine the top works that make it to the Gala Final. And now – the finalists …
Check out the full programme at www.shortandsweet.org.nz
Threatened Panda Fights Back!
Writer: Rex McGregor
Director: Katie Burson
Cast: Mustaq Missouri, Georgina Silk, Irasa Siave & Tom Wardle
As the World Wildlife Fund’s poster boy for endangered animals, Ling enjoys a comfortable life full of adulation and all the bamboo he can eat. But when a rival species challenges him for the role, he risks losing everything…
Little Boys’ Room
Writer: Phil Brooks
Director: Fasitua Amosa
Produced: by 4NZG Theatre
Cast: Phil Brooks, James Jennings & Lauie Sila
Faith, Duty, Family, Love – can you you put these in order of priority? Michael is faced with having to choose between everything that matters to him all at once. They say love conquers all….but life doesn’t always go according to plan.
In the Pound
Writer: Judith Cowley
Director: Christopher Preston
Cast: Sheena Irving & Mike Howell
The ties that held Bevan and June have broken. Can he charm his way back with their memories of the good times or will their failure as parents win out? New writer, Judith Cowley gets right to the heart of her characters and their situation.
My Sad Genie
Writer: Lisette de Jong
Director: Tony Forster
Produced: by little L productions
Cast: Paula Wray & Tom Kane
A genie living in present day New Zealand has her chipper mood destroyed in a moment. As she spirals into sadness, her master Trevor struggles to lift her out of her despair and deal with her magic at the same time.
Sun 20 Sep 2015
3.00PM (Gala preview)
7.00PM (Gala Awards Show)
$25 General Admission
$20 Concession (Student, Senior, Equity, DANZ)
$35 Gala ticket
Another good year – and the winners are …
Review by Nik Smythe 21st Sep 2015
Another season of Short+Sweet Theatre draws to a close with a typically eclectic gala final playing to an enthused 90%-full house. Ten diverse works explore life, death, love, survival, identity, secrets, oppression, redemption and a handful of sly twists. Please note, six of the following productionettes were originally reviewed by me last week, plus those from week 1 were covered by Bronwyn Elsmore.
On a second viewing, there’s so much going on in Sharu Delikan and Tim Booth’s The Marriage Bureau that I get to chuckle all over again at my favourite bits – like the grotesquely bureaucratic phallic stack of rejected applications in the out-tray – as well as notice a bunch of gags that had passed me by the first time.
In particular, a topical sneak peek (no pun intended) at our fair nation’s flag in the year 2028 reveals it to be as it is today, except red and with a Chinese flag inset replacing the Union Jack. Such astute details, combined with ingenious sound effects – such as the opening radio sports-news broadcast and the bride-to-be’s ‘Ebony and Ivory’ ringtone – makes for a busy but accomplished piece of insightful and amusing satire.
Lisette de Jong’s My Sad Genie, directed by Tony Forster, brings the classic post-modern I Dream of Genie premise into a local, present day setting. Paula Wray’s brightly coloured, perky genie Ginny has a first-hand experience of the kind of existential despair that for many of us defines the general psyche of the 21st century.
Her genial master Trevor (Tom Kane) talks her through it, as one might reason with a friend struggling with anxiety and depression, and successfully dissuades her from going ‘back to the bottle’ for another millennium in the hope humanity might have sorted its countless grievous issues by then. The notably distinctive feature of this quaintly charming work is the use of a startling bottles-and-shot-glasses prestidigitation device to exemplify Ginny’s supernatural abilities.
The sole solo piece to make the final, Aman Bajaj’s endearingly try-hard Indian gangsta A.I. East returns to relay his personal journey from A-student immigrant to pimped-up dog mixing it up with his homies in the Mount Roskill hood, in his inimitable imitation Afro-American hip-hop dialect.
Constantly in motion, whether pacing, bouncing or just generally wobbling, his affable egotism amply entertains us until he’s called away to a sick party at Snapdragon.
In the Pound by Judith Cowley is the most fully dramatic play in the gala, which (as mentioned in my previous review) tends to present more of a challenge than the favoured comedic set-up, particularly in terms of audience votes. Directed by Christopher Preston, the down-beat but effectively moving two-hander concerns estranged couple Bevan (Mike Howell) and June (Sheena Irving), still struggling to reconcile their shattered lives sometime after the tragic death of their only son Cody.
The precise cause is not revealed to us but it’s clear the boy was dealing with his own alienated existence when it happened, leaving his parents to process their personal guilt and resentment towards each other, with believably indistinct results.
I am especially glad for a chance to re-watch Marvellous Theatre Group’s spectacularly morbid ensemble piece Awake!, directed by Yvette Parsons. While a second viewing offers a clearer understanding of the inherent structure of the bizarre funeral party, it’s no easier to succinctly describe the intrigue of this abstract dark comedy in words. A wholly worthwhile, definitively ‘had-to-be-there’ experience.
Kicking off the second half is Rex McGregor’s crowd-favourite Threatened Panda Fights Back, a laugh-out-loud exercise in anthropomorphic absurdity directed by Katie Burson. Mustaq Missouri is Ling, an obnoxiously narcissistic Panda maximising his endangered-species ranking by refusing to mate with his long-suffering horny companion (Irasa Siave).
However, their threatened status is in turn threatened by modern science’s miraculous achievement in resurrecting another species from comparatively recent extinction, the Dodo (Tom Wardle and Georgina Silk as male and female respectively). Ling needs to think fast to avoid being usurped from their coveted WWF logo position and retain their luxurious captive existence, resulting in a happy ending for his frustrated mate.
There’s really nothing to add to my previous critique of 35 Year-old Whiskey, save to congratulate it for being the judges’ choice for best production. While not my personal favourite, local comedian Ashton Brown’s adeptly scripted dialogue and notable comic timing certainly justify its inclusion as a worthy contender.
The romantic chemistry I felt was lacking between acting couple Anthea Hill and Daniel Watterson in Fox Rabbit and Bear’s Ain’t That a Bitch has definitively emerged somewhere between Tuesday’s premiere and this final.
Exploring the journey of two lovers navigating the precipitous terrain of a modern-style relationship, philosophically committed to retaining personal freedoms, it inevitably raises more questions than answers. The most compelling one for me is how one can distinguish a personal attitude based on positive idealism, from one of cynical practicality born from past emotional injuries.
Directed by Fasitua Amosa, Little Boys’ Room combines authentic human drama with outrageous toilet humour, with surprising success. James Jennings is Samoan bridegroom Michael, practicing his lines in the church toilets on his big day.
Playwright Phil Brooks plays his best friend (whose name I didn’t write down – and who, as it transpires, is more than just a friend), taking this last opportunity in his supporting role as Best Man to challenge Michael’s motives for both their sakes. Their confrontational exchange is suspended by the intrusion of another relative (Amosa) in urgent need of the facilities… Yet another story exploring the complexity of human relationships, inevitably yielding no conclusive solutions.
An all-female cast, the schoolyard-clique-like behaviour of the vicious, spiteful militia in Pretty Asian Theatre’s A Flock of Ashes implies that nurturing compassion is no longer considered a viable position for self-respecting women. One of my personal favourites, this makes an ideal conclusion to a long, full week of theatrical diversity; in fact it’s bleak vision of the future bookends well with opening piece.
Albeit taking place in a more brutal scorched-earth setting than the interminable administration of The Marriage Bureau, they share a conceptual given that authorities in power have decreed that people need to be saved from themselves by the draconian enforcement of social ordinance.
And the winners are:
Actress – Amanda Grace Leo;
Actor – Phil Brooks;
Comedy – Threatened Panda Fights Back;
Drama – Little Boys Room;
Judges Choice – 35 Year Old Whiskey;
People’s Choice – Threatened Panda Fights Back.
I understand a couple of finalists were ineligible due to involvement by members of the festival staff.
Congratulations to the winners, and everyone else whose efforts contributed to another successful Short+Sweet Theatre season. And break-a-leg to everyone vying in the Song/Cabaret category next week.
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