Tuesday, May 1, 2018


Short and Sweet Festival 2018. 

Artistic Director Trevar Chilver. The Courtyard Studio. Canberra Theatre Centre. April 16 - 29 2018.

 Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

For nine years, the Short and Sweet ten minute play festival has been providing opportunities for theatre lovers and practitioners to cut their dramatic teeth on a plethora of ideas and theatrical inventions. The festival offers the chance for playwrights to write, actors to act, director to direct, and creatives to create the swelling scene of original ideas. It’s a smorgasbord of theatrical tidbits to taste and savour. Some may be bitter. Some may be sweet. All are short. A theatrical treat.
This year approximately thirty plays were presented over two weeks and of those, eleven were selected for the Gala Night and a chance to win awards for best writer, best script, best actor, best director and the popular People’s Choice.. I went along to the Gala matinee on the final Saturday to see the plays that had made the cut.
Maxwell's House by Aarne Sjostedt. Directed by Cara Irvine

What I found was an imaginative and entertaining collection of pieces that embraced the demands of a ten minute play’s construct, while introducing an impressive variety of ideas and styles. Some like Laura Griffin’s Wannabe and Michael Sam’s Together explore the complex nature of friendship and relationships. Allan West’s The Last Cuppa,Bara Swain’s I Love Lucy and Nancy Hopps’ End of the Rope present touching portraits of grief and loss, which is also a theme portrayed in Harriet Elvin’s A Letter to Harold written as three monologues by women, describing their feelings in a letter to their son, brother and husband on the Western Front. Some are comical gems, such as Jonothon Cook’s Don’t Call Me Cupid, an absurdly funny piece about gay love and Eros’s stray arrow. Then there are the plays, drawn from personal experience. Miss, written by Cara Irvine and Martha Russell of Newex Collective  is an hilarious piece about a female teacher and her obstructive student, instantly recognizable by anybody, who has ever taught in a difficult school, or the ludicrously muddled Curtain Call as   a group of actors and their director try to agree on a curtain call. Allan West’s Procrastination will strike a chord with anyone who has experienced writer’s block. It is the clevr use of the imaginary characters and their perspective that lends an original slant to the short play. Then there is always one that appears derivative, like The Holdup, written by Greg Gould, but which throws an entirely new slant on the characters caught up in a hold-up situation. These are the kind of plays that spring from an original imagination and can help an audience to see the world and themselves differently or maybe for the very first time.  Some are touching; some informative; some stretch the imagination and some fill the space with pathos and emotion. They may be pint sized dramas, but they can still pack a punch or fill our minds with thoughts and our hearts with feelings.
Don't Call Me Cupid by Jonothon Cook. Directed by Adam Skillithorn

Ultimately, the measure of real success is in the performance, and this is where Short and Sweet can falter. In the hands of inexperienced actors and directors, even the most commendable writer can be less well served. Most noticeable was the lack of vocal strength, control and delivery by the actors. The final results as judged by both the judges and the people’s choice indicate very clearly that it is the quality of the performances and the direction that contributed to the recognition for a good writer. Writer and director Greg Gould’s clever play about a hold up with strong performances by Peter Fock, Cameron Thomas and Michael Ubrihien garnered the bulk of the awards for Best Script, Best Production, Best Actor and People’s Choice.  Cara Irvine’s excellent direction of Aarne Sjostedt's Maxwell House,which was not included in the Gala,won her the Best Director award, an award  

Miss Written and directed by Cara Irtvine and Martha Russell.
In his programme note, ACT Short and Sweet Festival director proudly states that “Short and Sweet has grown to become the largest collaboration of performing artsists in the capital” He goes on to say “The Short and Sweet Family is committed to building a more creative world. 10 minutes at a time.” It is an observation that David Gonski and Simon Bermingham would do well to note!  The festival enriches people’s hearts, minds and lives and judging by the Gala matinee that I visited it is an integral part of Canberra’s theatrical and cultural landscape. I look forward to the festival’s tenth year in 2019.