Short+Sweet, Brisbane Heats
July 14 – 23
As August descends upon us, ready or not, so does a range of varied Brisbane theatre offerings. And there are few festivals as diverse as Short+Sweet, the finals of which will take place at the Brisbane Powerhouse later in the month, once representatives are all decided from the Gold Coast heats in the coming weeks.
So what makes Short+Sweet so special and deserving of the moniker of ‘biggest little play festival in the world’? Well, you don’t get more unique than shows of 10 minutes duration. From outrageous comedy to gritty drama to sultry song, the festival provides a tasting platter of snippet shows. And over the two theatre and two cabaret heats at Brisbane Powerhouse over recent weeks, variety has most definitely defined the banquet of shows.
Making it to the finals are works from each strand chosen by anonymous industry judges and also those voted as the People’s Choice by audiences members encouraged to engage in the selection process by nominating their favourite work. Audience members obviously appreciated the comedy on offer with People’s Choices for Strand One (Theatre) including “The Housemate Hunt” (a skit that showed a duo’s journey to find a new housemate from a range of character applicants, including a memorable hippy) alongside the Judge’s Choice of “The Persistence of Men on Me”, a dark but comic exploration of the emotions of a protagonist played by an attituded Nicholas Prior as he engaged with the online chat world of a Grindr et al as a gay man.
Strand Three (Theatre) similarly saw the sassy “Can I Get an Amen” emerge as People’s Choice. Written and performed by Kaitlyn Rogers the hilarious show offered loads of laughs, some Whoopi Goldberg wisdom and even an interpretive dance to a familiar TV tune… definitely not your normal night out, especially given the Judge’s Choice for the Strand, “Boys Taste Better with Nutella’ which saw Aggy (Caitlin Hill) lamenting being stuck in a loop where her only joy is her secret soul mate, Nutella, which she lavished her body.
Strand Two (Cabaret) began with the Judge’s Choice, “A Dark and Stormy Night”, featuring a film noiresque tell of a woman (Asabi Goodman) seeking the help of a well-known sleuth (James Bovill) to find her missing lover, and ended with “There’s Something About Mary(s)” with its share by Cassie George of the trials of love, loss and the responsibilities of being a queen in waiting to the gay community of fellow musical theatreists.
Strand Four (Cabaret) saw “50 Shades of Curious” take out the people’s choice and “The Gospel According to Matthew” be named as Judge’s Choice. Both works showcased talented performers. “The Gospel According to Matthew” writer and performer Matthew Semple delivered the part stand up, part spoken work, part satirical song show with a touch of Tim Minchin to its political take. While “Fifty Shades of Curious” performer Katelyn Ryan’s voice soared like Megan Hilty’s as she naughtily sang of the attraction and intimidation of “Fifty Shades of Grey”.
Of similar high quality was the cabaret work of Cienda McNamara in her “Natural Born Spinster” assurance of not being bothered by her life choices and Cassandra Croucher’s reworking of her sold out Anywhere Festival Theatre show “Retail Therapy”.
And just to make things interesting, more traditional cabaret works were balanced by shows such as David Massingham’s “Cradle Me in Your Arms”, which featured audience involvement to the extreme as a mortally wounded battlefield soldier faced the prospect of a lonely death with request that someone cradles him in their arms.
The theatre strands, too, shared a range of quality works, including William Pyke and Jack Braddy’s “Carpet Burn” showing audiences an extreme case of when auditions go bad and “Lunch Break” which saw enthusiastic but nuanced performances from Casey McCollow, Madi Kennedy-Tucker and Levi Wilcox as young children naively exploring and discussing big ‘adult’ issues.
Not only does the festival offer a range of shows, sure to cater in some way to unique audience interests, but it also allows opportunity to showcase the talents of local artists and producers. Although theatre shows like “Good Soldier” offered serious interludes to the comic-rich content, overall the nights of the Brisbane heats were full of fun (Cabaret even saw some clothes come off in “Good Intent”). And like last year, the final is sure to sell out soon so do yourself a favour and book your tickets now.
Held annually in over a dozen locations around the world, the festival has already helped launch the careers of countless theatre professionals, giving audiences the additional opportunity to experience seeing a show develop from its infancy. The high quality of so many shows may have made decisions difficult, but simultaneously serves to ensure a quality collection of works on offer as part of the final, with Gold Coast Strand winners still to come.