12 December 2007

Short and Sweet 07 Week 2 Top 10

Short and Sweet 2007 Week 2 Top 10
12 December 2007
The Arts Centre, Fairfax Theatre

Short and Sweet’s Week Two Top 10 were a mixed bag. There were the expected mix of enjoyable, but tasteless jubes, overly sweet clinkers and rubber band textured snakes - but every now and then a delicious hand crafted dark chocolate appeared, filled with a bitter marzipan or creamy ganache.

The Replacement Son
The program blurb gave away the plot. Actually the title gave away the one sustaining joke. Steven Hounsome structures well and the joke was a good one, but he gave limited, almost stereotyped characters. There’s dumb Aussie sheila, dumb country farmer and angry young art student with red hair - with offstage good boy geek thrown in for balance. The characters need to be fleshed out and made real if we are to care about them and their fate. It was never clear why the parents rejected their son. And why do poor struggling artists write about poor struggling, talentless artists? Why not give Shaun an original and interesting reason to go to the big smoke.

The Critics
Another serve of bland “seen it all before” character. This time – it’s a critic. Do you really take what we say seriously? Ian Grody has actually written a bloody funny piece about actors and their egos, but hidden it behind a buffoonish critic. It plays with form and is full of in jokes. The staging needs some tightening and it would have been nice to see the direction explore the works inherent theatricality. But, of course, I’m one of that breed of semi-evil, talentless wanna bes - who “obviously don’t know one thing about who does what in the theatre.”

Lobster Tales
This was physical, fun, theatrical and took us into the expected and the totally unexpected. It’s about belief and faith and short memories and what blokes talk about when they’re alone. Michael A Strang knows his lobsters (and his blokes).

It’s hard to cut your writing. But sometimes you have to lose good stuff to give a piece strength and impact. The metaphors in Mark Andrews piece got in the way of the story – like a cat (who got out of the fridge) and a dog (with bared teeth) running in front of the television. There were some powerful and incredibly moving images in this work, but one would have had more impact than the many. The direction and ultimate performance started too intensely, giving it no where to go emotionally and I did not believe that this person was suffering from post traumatic stress. Perhaps a little bit more research would have helped.

Cable Car of Death
This is the kind of fabulous original writing that appears in this festival. Nathan Curnow had me from the opening moment. Development at Crash Test Drama has obviously tightened and perfected the humour, the drama and the characters in this piece. Who would have thought some facts about Houdini’s death would lead to a work set high above the Alps? Each character has their own problems to face and resolve, there are great one liners hidden in the dialogue and no one is predictable.

49 Stories about Brian MacKenzie
I loved this play. It was sweet, emotionally real and poignant. The actor never said a word. We watched slides and listened to a perfect soundtrack. James Henderson’s music reminded me of Hal Hartley’s first films. Alix Stirling gently directed Gregory Hardigan’s unique script to its moving climax. Nicholas Bendall’s non-performance was the most generous and moving performance of the night.

And we’re back to our list of well known characters. This time it’s angry young woman at protest and young cop rethinking his career. Tom Taylor wrote a great ending, but his characters spent too much time mouthing statements rather than telling us about themselves. The dialogue never sounded authentic and I didn’t care what happened to either of them.

On the Cards
Scott McAteer always surprises with his plots. He never lets the audience get ahead of him. What do you do if your drunk psychic has predicted the love of your life will break your heart? Do you still meet them? Good characters, original plot and a damn good laugh. The direction could be a bit tighter and the author could research tarot and divination a bit more to create greater authenticity.

The Neils
Meet Neil, Neil, Neil, Neil, Neil and Patrick. Miles Blackford’s script is bizarre, surprising and one of the night’s favourites. Shiralee Hood’s direction used movement superbly and let the work build to its inevitable violence. The performers may need to step away from their characters for a bit though. It was coming across a bit too much like a competition to see who could be the funniest Neil.

The Lobotomist
If this doesn’t win the People’s Choice award, I’ll be surprised. When theatre in decay get it right – they get it right. Robert Reid writes damn fine satirical musical theatre. The music is spot on, the content perfect (lobotomy is usually treated far too seriously) and there’s a mad doctor to balance out the straight love interests. Robert Lloyd has found the character he has was meant to play and Ben MacKenzie lets him revel in the madness. Unfortunately Madeline Asbry gets lost amongst these two. Her character may need to be strengthened to perfect the work. Just remember that “a dream can only hurt you if you let it get away.”
This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

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