17 December 2008

Short and Sweet 08 Week 3 Top 20

Short and Sweet 2008 Week 3 Top 20
17 December 2008
The Arts Centre, Fairfax Theatre

The opportunity and support given to theatre makers by the Short and Sweet festival is incomparable and over the last four years, the festival has offered some of the most memorable moments on the Fairfax stage. So I’m not sure what’s going on this year.

With the exception of the independent companies last week, it’s clear that the more experienced level of local writers, actors and directors aren’t involved to the extent they have been in the past. This is opening the door for many people, but the lack of experience is really showing, and I really don’t understand how nine out of the ten short plays presented this week made it to the top 20.

Ernest Hemingway famously said, “The first draft of anything is shit.” Too many of these works felt like first drafts. The ideas were great, their synopses were tempting, and the words-in-a-good-order writing was there, but they didn’t tell engaging, authentic stories. They just weren’t ready. It felt like a painting by numbers, but half of the colours were missing in the pallet and replaced with beige.

A script (short, long, stage or screen) isn’t an opportunity for a writer to rant or detail their opinion. It’s up to a writer to demonstrate their views by showing us what complex characters do when their world changes.

A character who is just expressing the writer’s opinion sounds like a badly written pamphlet. Black Eyed Susan was an exceptionally well directed and original breast cancer brochure, but it didn’t sound or feel like a story.

Some began or ended in the wrong spot. Falling, Praying would have been fabulous if it started as they jumped; the back story wasn’t necessary. Blue was beautifully structured and had a moment where it could have ended with emotion and left us wondering, but it kept going. Audiences are clever beasts who don’t need to be led to the very end.

Birdmonster and Permanently Engaged were tight and hilarious short sketches that were stretched out to ten minutes without adding more to the joke.

Legends and the Fall needed some sense of legend/myth/hero to give it the oomph and complexity it seemed to be aiming for. As Love and Light could have followed through with its metaphysical themes and used the ideas of ‘love’ and ‘light’ as more than just a joke.

Prime Angus Buttock and Alchemy relied on funny performances, rather than funny situations. A silly walk or a kooky voice only works when you’re a master of your craft and genre.

Luckily, Religion Shop saved the night. It began as a racially offensive and disrespectful piece of crap (and was I ready to rant myself) – then it turned on itself brilliantly. (And it included a metatheatre joke that made sense.) This is the kind of theatre that we expect from Short and Sweet.

This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

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