Short+Sweet Theatre, Auckland 2011

Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, The Edge, Auckland

05/07/2011 - 17/07/2011

Production Details

… a more creative world ten minutes at a time   

Short+Sweetthe biggest little play festival in the world – produces hundreds of the best ten minute plays from across the globe each year and hits Auckland for its second season this July. 

Over the space of two weeks in the Herald Theatre, 40 plays, 40 directors, and over 100 actors will perform, culminating in a Gala finale where the best of the festival are celebrated. It’s no mean feat, but Festival Director Jonathan Hodge knows it’s all worthwhile:

“Our pilot season in Auckland in January 2010, presented by some of the most talented local actors and directors, played to nearly 1600 people creating an opportunity to establish the festival as an exciting annual event in Auckland’s arts calendar.” 

The audience are promised a great time too. Every night Short+Sweet presents ten plays, each no longer than ten minutes. It’s a night at the theatre where you never quite know what is coming next, a feast of styles and subjects, where the next play is only ever ten minutes away.

Short+Sweet starts with a call for entries asking playwrights to submit scripts, independent theatre companies to submit proposals and directors and actors to apply to be involved. All scripts submitted are automatically entered in every Short+Sweet festival giving playwrights a chance to have their work performed internationally with over a thousand scripts submitted worldwide each year. Last year Lifetime by Angie Farrow from Short+Sweet Auckland 2010 made the grand final in Sydney and won the grand Final in Singapore.

“It’s exciting; as well as presenting some of the best ten-minute theatre on the planet, Short+Sweet has launched many careers throughout Australia. Short+Sweet is a great opportunity to give people a chance to try something new, showcase their talent and work with already established theatre practitioners as well as having a great time,”says Jonathan.

The 40 plays are split into four brackets, with the 20 Top plays staged across week one and two, and 20 Wildcard performances spread across both Saturday’s of the festival. 

The Top 20 plays chosen, perform from Tuesday through Saturday at 8pm (ten per week) and audiences and judges choose the six best plays for the Gala Final – 4 are chosen by the judges (two each week) and two by the audience (one each week).

The Wildcard shows get one matinee performance on Saturday to perform in front of the judges and audience. Of the four that make the final, two are chosen by judges and two by the audience. As you can see the audience has a big influence on who makes the grand final.

On the final Sunday the best ten plays of the season are performed one last time. The judges choose their best production, playwright, director and actors and the people’s choice award for the whole season is also announced.

“It’s going to be a fantastic two weeks’ says Jonathan, ‘we have the plays, we have the actors now all we need are the audience; come and be a judge!”

Short+Sweet Theatre – maybe you’ll laugh, maybe you’ll cry; it’s all about to happen, ten minutes at a time.

Short+Sweet Theatre, Auckland
Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, THE EDGE
Top 20 Week 1, 5-9 July; Tues-Wed 7pm, Thurs-Sat 8pm
Top 20 Week 2, 12-16 July; Tues-Wed 7pm, Thurs-Sat 8pm
Wildcard Shows Sat 9 and 16 July, 3pm.
Gala Final Sun 17 July, 8pm.
Tickets available through 0800 buytickets or  


Top 20 Week 1 - 5th to 9th July

High Perspective Productions Presents
Jack and Jill
Written or Created by Ben Van Lier
And directed by Ben Van Lier
Featuring: Pete Coates and Kate Lumb 

Redmond Barry Theatre Company Presents
Written or Created by Keziah Warner
And directed by Jonathan Brugh
Cast TBC.

dim-witted pony Presents
Written or Created by Virginia Frankovich and Benjamin Henson
And directed by Benjamin Henson
Featuring Virginia Frankovich

Eryn Wilson directs
Because the world needs Unicorns 
Written by Cerise de Gelder (AUS)
Featuring: Morgana O'Reilly, Semu Fillipo, Fraser Brown 

Simon Ward directs
Morning in Suburbia
Written by Bronwyn Elsmore (NZ)
Featuring: Veronica Brady, Chelsea Louise Smith, Renae Mahi  

Matt Baker directs
Lithium Kiss  
Written by Peter Larsen (NZ)
Featuring: Coen Falke, Rachael Blampied

Bruce Brown directs
Game On 
Written by Renee Boyer-Willisson (NZ) 
Featuring: Gwendoline Taylor, Gracie Taylor, Lane Twigden 

Mike Dwyer directs
Written by Therese Cloonan
Featuring: Leisha Ward Knox, Coen Falke 

Hera Dunleavy directs
Written by Gary Stowe (AUS)
Featuring: Andi Crown, Mikassa Cornwall 

Reynald Castaneda directs
A Bit of A Blow
Written by Lynn Lobban (USA) 
Featuring: Michael Morris, Emma Newborn

Top 20 Week 2 - 12th 16th July 

Funny Business Presents
Unlikely Angels
Written or Created by Lisa Brickell, Tessa Mitchell, Greg Goodyer, Lucy Bennett
And directed by Giovanni Fusetti
Featuring: Lisa Brickell, Tessa Mitchell, Greg Goodyer, Lucy Bennett 

The Outfit Theatre Company Presents
A Formidable Contender for a Prodigious and Notable Endeavour
Written or Created by The Outfit Ensemble
And directed by Peter Coates
Featuring: The Outfit Ensemble and Guests

Sampson Richards Fredric Presents
A Stitch in Time
Written or Created by Nic Sampson, Ryan Richards, and Barnaby Fredric
And directed by Elizabeth McMenamin
Featuring: Nic Sampson, Ryan Richards, and Barnaby Fredric 

Meddlers Three Productions Presents
Written or Created by Garrick Burn
And directed by Stacey Musham, Garrick Burn & Mark Harrison
Featuring: Stacey Musham and Mark Harrison

Tom Sainsbury directs
The Cure 
Written by Ken Jones (US)
Featuring: Carl Dixon, Elizabeth McMenamin, Edward Clendon 

Kiel McNaughton directs 
Roach Blues 
Written by Leo Taylor (AUS) 
Featuring: Liesha ward Knox, Kerry Warkia, Te Kohe Tuhaka 

Grae Burton directs
The Perfect Life 
Written by Angie Farrow (NZ) 
Featuring: Phil Brooks, Moana McCartney, Matt Gillanders, Alex Ellis 

Phillip Brooks directs
Written by Larry Hamm US 
Featuring: Grae Burton, Cath Boniface 

Aidee Walker directs
Six Sides 
Written by Iain Murray (AUS)
Featuring: Josephine Stewart Te-Whiu, Sam Jukes, Clayton Carrick Leslie Tom Sainsbury 

Square Lee directs
Sociopaths don't need commas 
Written by M.E. Macdonald (NZ)
Featuring: Jodie Hillock, Michael Morris 

Wildcards 1 - 9th July

Apostrophe Theatre Presents
I Didn't Know it was Fancy Dress
Devised by Emma Newborn, Keziah Warner, Benjamin Henson
Featuring: Emma Newborn 

The Oryza Foundation for the Performing Arts Presents
These Things We Talk About...
Written or Created by Shiva Shobitha Kalaiselvan
And directed by Jay Howard
Featuring Ruth Wynne, Roberto Nascimento, Andrea Bates, Leand Macadaan

MigHT-i Theatre Presents
Written or Created by Prashant Belwalkar
And directed by Prashant Belwalkar
Featuring: Devdutt Paranjape, Nupur Raut, Kalyani Nagraj, Anamika Belwalkar, Anita Patil, Prashant Belwalkar, Avaneesh 

I'm Not Content Productions Presents
All My Clients are Lonely 
Written or Created by Ashton Brown, Kat Glass 
And directed by Tom Kane
Featuring: Ashton Brown, Kat Glass

Dust Palace Presents
A Mundane Conversation 
Written or Created by Tom Sainsbury
And directed by Mike Edward & Eve Gordon 
Featuring: Mike Edward & Eve Gordon 

Tim George directs
The Reluctant Testicle
Written by Paul Lawrence (USA)
Featuring: Jonathan Riley, Tracey Cumin, Natasha Daniel 

Janelle Bish directs
Written by Michael Clifton (NZ)
Featuring: Matt MacDougall, Simon Ward, Jordan Blakie 

Patricia Wichman directs
Complaints Department 
Written by Kerrie Spicer (NZ)
Featuring: Angela Franklyn-Lewis, Veronica Brady, Monica Stewart, Hayley Baines, Phillip Greeves, Ian Harvey

Roberto Nascimento directs 
A Mini Singularity 
Written by Robbie Wesley (AUS)
Featuring: Julia Croft, Marina Volkova

Wildcards 2 - 16th July 

Hekama Creative presents
Be your own King
Written by Leilani Unasa
And directed by Jenni Heka
Featuring Brain Rankin

Stars Flight Presents
Philip with one 'l'
Written or Created by Alex Broun
And directed by Julia Leathwick
Featuring Ranald Hendriks

Hobson Street theatre Company Presents
The Maori Jesus
Adapted by the company from the poem by James K Baxter
And directed by Bronwyn Bent

Mike Lowe directs
The Obituary 
Written by Joanna Sheridan (NZ)
Featuring: Cast TBC

James Wenley directs
Written by Carl Sorheim (AUS)
Featuring: Kristina Hard 

Katharine Phyn directs
Written by Georgia Symons (AUS)
Featuring: Moana McCartney, Lane Twigden, Katrina Rumbal 

Kate Lumb directs 
Celebration of Life 
Written by Sally Sutton (NZ) 
Featuring: Rachael Blampied & other TBC 

Anoushka Klaus directs
Misguided Tour
Written by Angus Algie
Featuring: Mark Scott

Rex McGregor directs 
Taking the Plunge 
Written by Rex McGregor (NZ)
Featuring: Julia Hyde, Aaron Ward, Rebecca Trelease, Jonathan Riley, Tracey Maguire  

2012 Top 30 – Week 2 Sweet As

Review by Sharu Delilkan 27th Sep 2012

I thoroughly enjoyed tonight’s performances of Short + Sweet which is in stark contrast to my review of Week 1.

Varied, funny, clever, poignant and sweet in equal proportions the performers complemented each other creating a great mix of thought provoking dialogue.

In case you haven’t seen Short + Sweet before, it is the biggest little play festival in the world – produces hundreds of the best 10-minute plays from across the globe each year and 2012 marks the third year in a row that the festival has taken place in Auckland. [More]


Make a comment

Top 20 Week 2: Bigger, brighter, better

Review by Janet McAllister 17th Jul 2011

Compared with last week’s lineup, this week’s compilation of 10 10-minute plays for the Short+Sweet competition is a great success. There’s more to look at: action is dynamic, casts are larger, acting (mostly) more assured, props inventive and costumes bright. There’s more political bite, more conceptual risk-taking, more sexy sassiness.

Conception, birth and death all feature – humour ranges from juvenile to dark. Who has life choices, who doesn’t and who decides for others are questions for the evening. [More]


Make a comment

Wildcards Week 2

Review by Nik Smythe 17th Jul 2011

The two Short + Sweet Wildcard sets each comprise ten eclectic works made up of last-minute entries, as well as some often-intriguing offerings from less seasoned practitioners. The overall show is inevitably going to be patchier than in the Top 20 sets, but who knows whether you may just be an unwitting witness to history in the making…

Ranald Hendricks’ title role as Philip With One ‘L’ by Alex Broun is a great icebreaker –it’s not until I read the programme afterwards that I even realise it’s a political satire on notorious Australian former immigration minister Philip Ruddock. To me it was just a weirdly charming character routine of a middle-aged man in a private school uniform playing with his red and blue matchbox cars, systematically eliminating vehicles of any other colour…

Despite having a cast of credible professionals, director/playwright Rex McGregor’s Taking the Plunge is an overacted, under-directed mess. Its apparent attempt to be quirky, clever and hilarious does not succeed, although actor Aaron Ward’s suit-top-and-stubbies ensemble deserves a best awful costume prize if there’s one going. The company also loses points for throwing a cake on the stage which takes most of a slow Nick Cave song to clean up rather than the allotted 30 seconds, leaving still enough residue to cause a handful of unscripted near pratfalls by other actors throughout the remaining first half. 

The next show, Bounce of the Rugby Ball, written and performed by Chris Molloy and directed by Leilanai Usana, provides more substantial fare. What starts off as a young adult’s amusing recollection of his bungled attempt to meet his favourite rugby player morphs into a bitterly mournful speech to the father he never met.

Carl Sorheim’s Punkis a fairly ambitious one-actor piece in which Kristina Hard plays a radical philosopher type looking to ‘fill the void’ left by the deconstruction of her delusional material existence. Director James Wenley gives us a competently performed if prosaic anti-establishment rant, let down a tad by a predictable and theatrically unsatisfying anticlimax. 

Kathryn Phyn’s direction of Mollycoddled by Georgia Symons (Australia) makes some interesting theatrical choices, whereby the cast (Moana McCartney, Lane Twigden and Katrina Rumbal) take turns relating their characters’ accounts of the literally overnight fall-from-grace of high-achieving golden-girl Molly while the others act out their narration in mime. Reasonable effort, could use more work.

The second half is notably stronger, beginning with Auckland City Mission’s Hobson Street Theatre Company in the only play I’m aware of in the entire festival that uses classic poetry for the script, namely James K. Baxter’s The Maori Jesus. Against a large white front-stage curtain, Bronwyn Bent directs an impressive and engaging play about a misunderstood, prophetic vagrant, performed entirely in shadow by Maeve, Shadow and Wilf, embellished by the haunting tones of traditional Maori wind instruments.

Leilani Unasa and Chris Molloy switch their earlier roles as playwright and director to produce Be Your Own King, amiably performed by Brian Rankin. A seventeen year-old’s secondary school essay effectively reads as a classically adolescent paean to his dream-girl Michelle, and transforms into a spirited imagined dialogue between them which results in the demise of true first love before it even got to happen.

Coincidentally, the next two shows deal in fairly differing ways with the passing of patriarchal figures. The first, Joanna Sheridan’s The Obituary directed by Mike Lowe, has Donogh Rees and Julia Croft as laid-back mother and uptight daughter, comically discussing the curious eccentric pastimes and relative indiscretions between Mum and her now two-years dead husband.

Then, in Celebration of Life, a newly-widowed wife and mother and her three children convene for the fancy-dress funeral of their estranged father, as per his dying wish. Director Kate Lumb applies strongly sympathetic characters, just absurd enough to be believable (as played by Brenda Kendall, Dan Veint, Rachael Blampied and Joel Herbert), to the tightly wrought script of Sally Sutton in which secrets are revealed that completely changes all their lives in ten hilarious minutes.

Finally, The Misguided Tour is an amusing, original and immersive piece by Aussie playwright Angus, directed by Anoushka Klaus. Mark Scott as Steve, a once recidivist, now reformed arsonist, tells us of his hapless life and the lessons it taught him as a preliminary to his torchlight tour through the prison he called home for several stretches. 

These wildcards have but one chance to impress judges (and audience) enough to get voted into the final. My own top pick was Celebration of Life, which I saw as the strongest contender against the other finalists, who have the advantage of having performed their shows more often.

So the Grand Final will include two wildcard entries, one from each set. With the general level of quality I’ve seen in the two that I’ve reviewed, it’ll be anybody’s game. 
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


Make a comment

Top 20 Week 2

Review by Caoilinn Hughes 13th Jul 2011

By the interval of the Short + Sweet Theatre Festival’s Top 20 (Week 2), I was already torn between two potential winners. By the end, I was pacing around the foyer, fretting over the ballot sheet. I had given 5 stars to four of the ten ‘shorts’ (10 minute plays). If only all voting were so difficult; with so many smart, witty, well-lit candidates.

Speaking of… candidates, my vote went to the superb John Key impersonator (Greg Goodyer) and agile ensemble in 13 Weeks. This political satire picks apart the proposed cuts to the Domestic Purposes Benefit and parodies the sexualized, dramatised media through pelvic-thrusting physicality by Lisa Brickell.

We don’t see enough theatre or comedy in New Zealand which deals with current affairs, and I voted for this piece in order to encourage this kind of socio-political satire in the NZ Arts. Despite giving it my vote, I think this piece would be better suited to a TV sketch show. Think The Thick of It meets The Daily Show. The group should be commissioned by TVNZ or TV3 to bring political satire to NZ stage and screen.

If my two companions hadn’t given Nic Sampson, Ryan Richards and Barnaby Fredric’s A Stitch In Timethe vote, I would have done so. As usual, Nic Sampson (in the lead) is sizzling, dazzling dynamite in this 10 minute musical where members of the Bomb Squad Academy procrastinate in song until they realise that none of them actually know how to defuse the bomb they have been called in to defuse. Composer Joseph Moore makes it sound like an age-old tune. Unashamed fun; pure talent in performance, production and writing (written by cast); I want to see more. Who knew Sampson could sing? His sidekicks… not so much, but Richards – the colour-blind bomb diffuser – makes up for it in comic physicality and stage presence. Another minute on the bomb ticker please!

Another short I wish was longer is The Cure, written by Ken Jones and directed by Thomas Sainsbury. A young, fresh, Kiwi take on Kafka, this story of a scientist who discovers the cure for cancer being brutally ignored and later trialled and convicted (of what, we do not know – other than putting wig-makers out of business) is perfectly choreographed by Sainsbury, and magically characterized by three actors playing multiple roles. The stand-out performance is by Elizabeth McMenamin, who handles Jones’ rapid-fire, perfectly-tuned script brilliantly, switching from deep-south seductress to Buowstin Loier-come-inmate seamlessly. Exciting New Zealand theatre.

Finally, A Formidable Contender for a Prodigious and Notable Endeavourstarts out as a fabulously realistic rehearsal for Chekov’s The Three Sisters, where committed actor Josev (Andrew Ford) is continually interrupted mid-soliloquy. The 10 minute sketch somehow ends up as an absurd all-in wrestling match with cast and crew. The only reason for this I can assume is to display some great stage combat skills, but really I was disappointed that The Outfit Theatre group didn’t take this more seriously. Nonetheless, I wanted to mention Andrew Ford for his brilliant, interrupted performance. If he is not already a serious up-and-coming, then there’s something wrong with the theatre industry.

These 10 shorts are showing until July 16th at The Herald Theatre. If you want to enjoy and encourage some of the most exciting New Zealand theatre around, you know what to do.  
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.  


Dane Giraud July 18th, 2011

 I read The Trial recently. It is sublime. It's nightmarish, but also laugh out loud (I mean that literally) funny which was a pleasant surprise. A great, great book. If you haven't read it you should.  

Yee Yang (Square) Lee July 17th, 2011

Hi Caoilinn, I've read The Trial (sometime ago now) and seen an adaptation of it performed and the parallels didn't quite leap out at me, hence my question. I was also a little thrown by your reference to it being a "Kiwi take on Kafka". Nonetheless, I can understand your comparison; I'm not quite convinced, but thanks for your response.

Caoilinn Hughes July 17th, 2011

 Hi there,

Thanks for your question. I've talked about it being a 'take on Kafka' because the plot/storyline has a lot in common with Kafka's The Trial. In Kafka's story, a bank manager is being convicted and trialled for some unknown reason -- it is very purgatorial because the character and the audience are never told why he is being prosecuted and the process of prosecution is quite nightmarish. You should read The Trial, and hopefully the comparison will make sense :)

Many thanks, Caoilinn

Yee Yang (Square) Lee July 15th, 2011

Dear Reviewer,

Would you please clarify what you mean by The Cure being a "young, fresh, Kiwi take on Kafka"?

I've noticed that the three reviews on the Top 20 Week 2 of Short+Sweet Auckland 2011 have all alluded to The Cure being "Kafkaesque", which I find interesting, but is something I don't quite get or understand (probably just the result of my own ignorance).

PS  In the interest of openness, I should state that I am one of the directors of Top 20 Week 2, and that my comment/query above bears no value judgment, just curiosity.

Best regards,

Make a comment

Wildcards Week 1

Review by Sian Robertson 10th Jul 2011

Short+Sweet is a two-week festival of short (maximum ten-minute) plays. The Wildcards show on July 9th featured nine pieces, with an interval. At the end the audience are encouraged to vote for the best play. Finalists from each night make it through to the Gala Finale of the top 10 on July 17th.

Sexual adventures are well represented in the first half. The first piece, The Reluctant Testicle by Paul Lawrence,is told from the point of view of a young man’s genitals, which are played by Jonathan Riley, Tracey Cumin and Natasha Daniel. They try to figure out what’s going on above, with limited visibility and not a lot of control about what they are pressed up against. The left testicle is anxious and analytical while the right just wants to enjoy the tingly sensations and is a bit trigger-happy. The costumes and physicality of the performances are evocative and hilarious. Directed by Tim George. 

Michael Clifton has written a cutting satire, Gurus, which takes a jab at travellers who think they are the enlightened exception to the stereotype of culturally insensitive, unadventurous, finicky tourists. Directed by Janelle Bish, performed by Matt MacDougall, Simon Ward, Jordan Blakie and Patricia Wichman. 

Next up, These Things We Talk About… explores workplace sexual encounters and office gossip thereof. Writer Shiva Shobitha Kalaiselvan’s dialogue is a bit two-dimensional at times. Particularly unconvincing are the conversations of the two office workers’ (Ruth Wynne and Andrea Bates) – there’s no sense of a real relationship. The story is there but the characters somehow don’t leave the page. Also featuring Paul Fagamalo and Leand Macadaan, directed by Jay Howard.

A highlight is certainly the clever and original A Mini Singularity, written by Robbie Wesley and directed by Roberto Nascimento. Protons 1 and 2 ‘bump into each other’ again after more than a millennium. They argue the pros and cons of human scientific endeavour and fill each other in on where they’ve been stuck during the intervening centuries and what effect this has had on them. Julia Croft is particularly funny as the enthusiastic particle enthralled with the mysteries of existence. An amusing contrast is Marina Volkova’s melancholy proton, with her fatalistic attitude (possibly brought on by being part of a church pew for the last thousand years).

All My Clients Are Lonely, is a tight little number, written by Ashton Brown and directed by Tom Kane. It takes place in a room with a pole, between a prostitute (Kat Glass) and a bored and lonely businessman (Ashton Brown). They argue about job choices, insult each other’s intelligence and both try and get something for nothing.  

After the interval, we are treated to The Final Job, my pick of the night. Two cat burglars (Eve Gordon and Mike Edward) sneak out on their last job, but their personal history gets in the way. Slick, funny and original with impressive gymnastic stunts. The bit with the laser alarm system got briefly bungled, but the performers took it in their stride. Written by Tom Sainsbury and directed by Mike Edward and Eve Gordon. 

Meltdown is more a stylised dance piece than a play. The four elements have finally had enough of mankind’s destructive habits and are retaliating in the form of ‘natural disasters’. The story is quite clichéd and is let down by a heavy-handed script, though there are some nice choreographic moments. Written and directed by Prashant Belwalkar, performed by Nupur Raut, Kalyani Nagraj, Anamika Belwalkar, Anita Patil, Devdutt Paranjape, Prashant Belwalkar and Avaneesh. 

Complaints Department is set in 2015 and the country, still in an economic slump, has turned the art of complaining into a bureaucratic department. But, as we all know, “New Zealand doesn’t want complainers,” and the department is secretly set up to catch the culprits rather than address their grievances. It’s a nicely polished, pithy specimen of the art of the short play, written by Kerrie Spicer, directed by Patricia Wichman and performed by Angela Franklyn-Lewis, Veronica Brady, Monica Stewart, Hayley Baines, Phillip Greeves and Ian Harvey. 

Devised by Emma Newborn, Keziah Warner and Benjamin Henson, Dress To Impress is about a tragically lame party at a flat (no one knows whose) that fails to ever really get started, despite some heartfelt attempts at livening things up. Performed by Candice de Villiers, Lisa Sorenson, Matt Easterbrook, Jordon Mooney and Emma Newborn.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.  


Make a comment

Genders stereotyped in 100 minutes flat

Review by Janet McAllister 07th Jul 2011

Ten short plays by emerging actors take a conservative look at human relationships. It’s a little worrying how 10 10-minute plays, diverse in tone and genre, can give such a unified story of gender roles and relations as these first plays of the Short+Sweet competition.

The unorchestrated collective message is: women stay home, hysterical and prissy, and look after babies; men swear, go to sea, and live as “butcher king” predators and insensitive philanderers. Everyone is straight. [More]
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.  


Make a comment

Top 20 Week 1

Review by Nik Smythe 06th Jul 2011

There are only three rules that I know of in this competition: 1) The works are original, 2) they are approximately, but no longer than, ten minutes in duration, and 3) the sets have to be placed and struck within 30 seconds each side. Everything else is up to the contestants, now go! 

The diverse collection could be sorted into two categories: those that appear complete unto themselves, and those that seem like they could be excerpts from a larger work. I don’t believe either is superior to the other in terms of choosing a favourite, as everyone is invited / entreated to do for the audience favourite awards section of the ultimate prize pool. The former kind is often satisfying, if sometimes more comedy-sketchy than dramatic or deep, while in the latter’s case to be left wanting more is a measurable indication that it is in some way compelling to be left wanting more. 

The first offering of the evening, Morning in Suburbia written by Bronwyn Elsmore and directed by Simon Ward, concerns a young first time mum-to-be at an ante-natal class of experienced mothers comparing horror stories in a disturbingly cheerful manner. While it raises a few quiet laughs, the direction lacks clarity and the overall performance lacks energy. Fortunately it transpires to be the least effective of the night. 

Writer/director Ben Van Lier has a charming wee character-driven comedy in Jack and Jill, starring Kate Lumb and Pete Coates in the title roles: wealthy, fitness-mad housewife Jill, who strikes up a passing friendship with sad-ass homebody with foot-in-mouth disease Jack,while they’re out jogging. The natural performances illustrate how easily anyone can delude themselves with impossible fantasies, against all logic. 

The lightheartedly bitter-sweetness of that play belies the visceral gruesome horror of the next one, Donkey Skin, a brilliantly awful one-person piece written by performer Virginia Frankovich and director Benjamin Henson, involving an abused girl who takes such extreme measures to escape as to make the Shawshank Redemption escape look like a walk in the park.

Pulling us back from the abyss is A Bit of a Blow, a twisted black comedy by Lynn Lobban about a middle aged married couple who evidently regard honesty above all else. As husband (Michael Morris) and wife (Emma Newborn) pleasantly and openly discuss the details of his after-work infidelities it’s apparent darker thoughts being concealed. Directed by Reynald Castaneda, it contains some of the evening’s best comic lines, e.g. “Oh, my dear husband!”, “Yes, I think so!”

Last play of the first half, playwright Therese Coolan’s Perfect is set in some kind of post-apocalyptic panic room, a mercurial metaphor for the earnest optimism of young love. Mike Dwyer directs amiable puppy-lovers Liesha Ward Knox and Coen Falke as Jack and Jill (!), examining the way one can invest all of their being into them, only to sabotage their own ideals by prompting each other to take issue with some aspect of their allegedly harmonious union. 

First of the second half, Game On is a hilarious and cute look at the amusing way three impoverished young flatmates (Lane Twigden, Gwendoline and Gracie Taylor) find to entertain themselves, mainly through relentlessly ribbing one another. Directed by Bruce Brown it’s great fun, if possibly inspired by nothing more than playwright Renee Boyer-Willsson’s desire for an excuse to list more than fifty euphemisms for the male appendage. 

Peter Larsen’s Lithium Kiss follows, in which what one might hope to be a charming romance turns out to be a pathetic, darkly amusing tragedy… just like real life, really. Rachael Blampied’s sweet-and-sour turn as a schizophrenic in a sanatorium is a performance highlight opposite Coen Falke (again), the only friend to visit her since her internship… we soon learn why.

The most abstract of the set, Shanty takes us out to sea and into the minds of two lonely shipwreck victims (Leigh Fitzjames and James Crompton), whose vocalised reminiscences and yearnings are silently echoed by six nimble dancers, under the excellent choreography of Zahra Killen-Chance. Intriguingly presented by director Jonathan Brugh, Keziah Warner’s poetic script confuses me a little; I’m not sure whether we’re witnessing two seperate tales or if they are in some way connected? 

Writer Gary Stowe may have borrowed the title for Outsourced from a recent popular American sitcom set in India, but the concept is quite different: High-powered female executive (Andi Crown) assigns her diligent secretary (Mikassa Cornwall) to arrange an escort to take her husband to dinner for their anniversary as she’s simply too busy and important. Simple but hilariously constructed as directed by Hera Dunleavy, I’m particularly tickled by the first few minutes of dialogue taking place via email despite their being seated at the same desk.

Because the World Needs Unicorns by Cerise de Gelder is an excellent piece to finish on. Eryn Wilson directs Simo Fillipo and Morgana O’Reilly as Noah and the desperate unicorn forlornly trying to secure passage on the fabled ark. Joined by Fraser Brown as the crafty dragon, the comic timing is matched only by O’Reilly’s fantastically naff costume: pink cardboard horn, pink dress, white cardy and tap shoes. 

…and that’s a wrap. Audiences get to pick only one favourite out of the ten… so which one did I choose? It was tricky as there was no single obvious standout, so I had to decide on criteria to choose in accordance with. I went with Donkey Skin, very much the former category mentioned above but in no way a comedy sketch, rather a disturbingly well acted grisly, gristly, putrescently classic horror that you really don’t want to continue.

Another night, by other criteria or in a different mood I might have picked any one of three or four of the others. Such is the inevitably fickle nature of voting in this fashion. What really matters is that on the whole, the powerfully driven and predominantly youthful collective energy of ten mini-companies makes for a fresh and exciting evening’s entertainment. 
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.   


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council
Waiematā Local Board logo