Monday, May 6, 2019

“Short + Sweet Canberra”, Courtyard Studio, Canberra Theatre Centre, May 4. Reviewed by Phillip Mackenzie.

“The Snow Angel of Antarctica”  'best play'
CANBERRA’s “Short + Sweet” franchise celebrated its 10th birthday this month and on Saturday (May 4) night I was lucky enough to experience the nine playlets judged to be the best of this year’s potpourri crop of 10-minute theatrical snippets.
To judge from the enthusiastic reception from the full house in the Courtyard Theatre, the franchise is in good health. For those who, like me, have not encountered this phenomenon before, “Short + Sweet” is a worldwide operation which began in Sydney, fostering the enthusiasms of play-lovers, professionals, amateurs, and community writers and performers in a discrete theatrical form.
You’d have to be Samuel Beckett to be able to compress a universal profundity into a script of 10 minutes or less – and who understands Beckett anyway? So the “Short + Sweet” format lends itself to the comedic end of the dramatic spectrum without, one would hope, falling into the trap of stand-up exhibitionism.
Thus, few pieces in the program of locally-written and international scripts went beyond the funny side of life, into the real difficulties in a relationship. “Virgin” was the main example of the latter.
More, like “The Circus Train Wreck”, “A Womb with a View” and “Once Upon a Time”, ventured into the wild variations of modern fantasy. “Fallout” touched on issues such as the nuclear cataclysm with “Strangelove” undertones, while others did not distinguish themselves beyond looking for laughs – which is not to say that we don’t need a few laughs in today’s fraught world.
With a company of actors and directors so large, they barely fitted on the stage for the final curtain call. It would be invidious to single out many that remain in the memory, but I was impressed with the aplomb of Edith Baggoley and Vivien Murray at the early end of the age-range, and Lynn Petersen’s bag lady at the other, as she engaged the audience in a suitably gossipy way about burying underwear. I was also impressed by Jade Green’s well-conceived “embryo”.
I can’t argue with the Peoples Choice Award to “Once upon a Time” which, in an intricate joke on nursery rhymes, managed to avoid the trite.
The complexity of “The Snow Angel of Antarctica” did not encourage me to support the “best play” award, although its production values were higher than most. Nor will I dispute the award of “best direction” for “Virgin”, although the actors could have been more audible in their more intimate conversations. On the night, they were not the only actors to lapse into natural volume levels which did not reach the audience in the third row.
Overall, the “Short + Sweet Canberra” gala final satisfied its audience and gave many the opportunity to test themselves without the stress of main stage regular performance.
The full list of awards presented at the gala is below:
“Best Actor”
First: Amy Crawford
Second: Tied between Dec Hastings and Marli Haddeill
“Actor Commendation”
First: Marli Haddeill
Second: Matthew Paliaga
Third: Amy Crawford
“Best Director”
First: Rachel Hogan for “Virgin”
Second: Lynn Petersen for “The Snow Angel of Antarctica”
Third: Paul Jackson for “Womb With a View”
“Best Script”
First:“The Snow Angel of Antarctica” by Vicki Connerty
Second: Tied between “Fallout” by Greg Gould and “Virgin” by William Orem
“Best Production”
First: “The Snow Angel of Antarctica”
Second: “Womb With a View”
Third: “Fallout”
“Peoples’ Choice”
First: “Once Upon a Time”
Second: “Fallout”
Third: “Timesavers”

This review first appeared at on May 6.