SHORT AND SWEET 2019. A festival of ten minute plays. Artistic Director Trevar Alan Chilver. The Courtyard Studio. Canberra Theatre Centre. April 22 – May 4 2019
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
TrevarAlan Chilver. Artistic Director of Short and Sweet 2019
Just one look at Short and Sweet Festival director, bespectacled Trevar Alan Chilver with his long blonde shoulder length hair over shoulders sporting a Sixties style Sports jacket reaching to a tartan kilt and long white knee-length socks stretching from laced up orange sneakers tells you that you are in for a quirky night at the theatre.
It is ten years since the ten minute play festival made its debut in Canberra, and since then aspiring playwrights, directors and crew and performers have vied to win the prestigious Best Production prize. Short and Sweet has become synonymous with community spirit, laying out a banquet of surprises and delectable theatrical treats, both sweet and sour. Comedy is the usual fare, most easily digested in the short time to tickle the dramatic taste-buds.
I have come to the Gala Final, for which nine short plays have been selected by judges to be performed in the Canberra Theatre Centre’s Courtyard Studio. The foyer is packed with excited supporters, and inside a full house peruses their voting slips before Chilver introduces a night of variety and fun.
There is no time to waste. The scene is quickly set, the characters rapidly established and embarked upon their short journey and the climax is reached in a final moment of absolute surprise. The writing may be variable. So too the stories. And the quality of the acting can depend on the experience and talent of the performer under the director’s guidance. What is constant, however, is the commitment and the enthusiasm. And, as Chilver said, “If you don’t like the piece, you only have eight minutes to wait before the next one. True. The night can never get boring.
Brendan Kelly and Jess Waterhouse in
Fallout by Greg Gould
The tenth anniversary Final had enough corkscrew twists and turns to keep you guessing. Fallout, written and directed by Greg Gould with excellent performances from Jess Waterhouse, Brendan Kelly, Kirsty Budding and Dec Hastings set the bar high, but the Armageddon Bunker survival setting for the play let cliché invade a tightly written and well-acted script. Maybe that is why the play skipped the judge’s favour.
Interestingly enough, local plays, Gould’s Fallout, Judith Peterson’s The Invisible Hitman with Peterson and Nigel Palfreman, and Lyn Peterson’ s interactive role play as Maude, Why Would You Bury Your Underwear, supported by Short and Sweet veteran Helen Way were the only locally written works in the Final. The final six plays were written by English and American writers. Perhaps, without appearing parochial, this is a matter for debate?
Ryan Erlindsen, Helen Way and Heath Keighran
in Joe Bergin’s Once Upon A Time
Competition will always imply winners and losers. I am no fan of competition where the playing field does not appear level, and perhaps Short and Sweet Canberra, recognizably a highly popular and successful community theatre festival is more to be lauded for its inclusion than for its awards
The best was saved for last. The People’s Choice was awarded to a very clever variation on the Jack and Jill and Simple Simon Nursery rhymes. Once Upon A Time by Irish writer, Joe Bergin, lurched the nursery rhyme characters into a real world off stage reality. Directed by Adam Skillicorn, this was a piece that caught the imaginations of an audience willing to be surprised and amused by a quirky twist to an old tale. Skillicorn was helped by three fine performances by Ryan Erlandsen, Helen Way and Heath Keighran.
Amy Crawford and Mali Haddell in
Vicki Connerty’s The Snow Angel of Antarctica
But it was Number 9 and the final play of the night that rightfully raked in the awards for British writer, Vicki Connerty, director, Lyn Petersen and actors Marli Haddeill and Amy Crawford with The Snow Angel of Antarctica, voted Best Production of Short and Sweet 2019. Billed as “a tale with a twist about sibling rivalry, Scrabble and Snow Angels, The Snow Angel of Antarctica is a beautifully crafted ten minute play that explores human interaction, the effect of loss and the tenacious clinging to a dream. This is a work that touches the heart, funny and sad, that skirts the threat of cliché and opens audiences to the intellectual and emotional experience – in a mere ten minutes! Singular awards for The Snow Angel of America went to Best writer Connerty, Best established Short and Sweet actor, Crawford and best emerging Short and Sweet actor, Haddeill,.
Additional Awards went to Rachel Hogan for her direction of Virgin by American William Orem, Helen Way for her prolific participation over the past ten years and Adam Salter, long time supporter and director of the second Short and Sweet Festival in Canberra.
The Gala Final of Short and Sweet 2019 is more than a showcase of the best works by writers of ten minute plays and local directors, performers and creatives. It is an expression of the passion and dedication shown by all participants who invest their time, energy and talent in a festival that offers the opportunity to be part of a community that cares about theatre and their society. Three time Artistic Director Trevar Chilver leaves for Victoria and a new director will be shortly announced. He leaves a festival that thrives and demonstrates a vibrancy amongst the alternative theatre community. It is Adam Skillicorn who is left to utter the final words , “Give it a go!”