Short and Sweet Gala Final

Short and Sweet Theatre is coming to an end after staging over 160 plays. The Gala Finalists are in the running for a wide range of prizes and awards including; Best Production, Best Script, Best Director, Best Actor/Actress, Best Newcomer etc. With some great prizes on offer including make-up tutorials, vouchers, theatre tickets, lighting services, and the incredibly generous prize from the Genocchio Famiy, in honour of their son, the first Artistic Co-ordinator of Short+Sweet, Sam Genocchio, of $5000 cash for the winner of Best Director.

The Gala Final consisted of thirteen 10 minutes plays. After seeing the finalist I am glad I didn't have to judge. I definitely had my favourites but to find the best for each of the awards would have been very difficult.

I had three favourites - Shirley Vs The Squirrels, Wish and Scratch.

Shirley V s the Squirrels is a look at how we cope with grief. It is a comical piece about Shirley who has just lost her husband and her daughter tries to get her to organise the funeral but Shirley is pre-occupied with the squirrels in the garden. She has to guard her plants!  It is her coping mechanism for her grief. It was very well written, produced and acted.

Wish, I saw in week one. It is written by a very young writer Bokkie. I thought that the choice of actors was perfect for this piece. For such a young writer the dialogue was superb. Wish is about Stephanie who is terminally ill and her Wish is to meet her childhood hero Jack Grant. The meeting doesn't go exactly as either of them planned.

Scratch took home many of the awards. Again it was very well written and acted. It is a black comedy about James who owes not money, but DVD's to the wrong people. He is blooded and tied to a chair for the whole performance as the Boss and his two heavies try to re-claim the DVD's. As Ellen puts in her review below very Quentin Tarantino but with humour!

So it is over, in Sydney for the year but Short and Sweet will return.

Written by Philippa Bird

The Short+Sweet Theatre gala finals at the Factory Theatre capped off a stellar season of bringing talented amateur playwrights, directors and actors to Sydney audiences. Thousands of plays are submitted to the competition each year, and are cut down to a shortlist of 300, a staging of 160, then a top 80, which is then whittled down to a wee 13 plays, and the calibre of the talent on show just keeps getting better.

The gala evening opened with a creative commentary on Aussie politics, Screamers!, which disturbingly melded the madness of question time into the narrative of The Wizard of Oz with a twist of Mad Max 3. Dorothy (Joseph Chetty) pulled the confounding expression we all recognise when we hear the absurd tidbits that trickle from our pollie's tongues, and writer-director Gavin Vance gave a comically camp rendition of Tina Turner's We Don't Need Another Hero, dressed to the nines in Aunty Entity garb.

The travails of old age were broached with Camilla Maxwell's hilarious Shirley vs. The Squirrels, about a widow slipping into senility with an ultimately justified obsession with squirrels, featuring an en pointe performance from Debbie Tilley as the gun totin' title character. While the engaging Unforgettable, devised by actors Stephanie Priest and Drew Holmes, visits a boisterous old couple in a nursing home where they share bittersweet tales of their long lives, and the tragedy of forgetting.

The eternal gender wars were waged in Adam Szudrich's Manstruating, about a couple who struggle to empathise (or over empathise?) with each other's hormonal labours, with a stand out comic performance from Best Actress winner Emma Playfair. And in Scott McAteer's Transactions, where a lonely middle-aged man pays a prostitute to play the blandest role-play she can imagine: a suburban housewife. Actors Ivano Del Pio and Karissa Lane are a dynamic pairing, in a piece that beautifully explores the complexity of male desire. Which was subsequently subverted by the character of Blake in Serhat Caradee's Speaking Freely, where we are privy to the thoughts of a hilariously mismatched pairing on a blind date: woman (anxiety, horror, self doubt), and man (sex, sex, sex).

But in an evening filled with unique plays, the winner was writer-director Tom Green's Scratch, where bearded hipster James (Jed Clarke) is chair bound and tortured - a la Reservoir Dogs - by the "Boss" and his two goons, Johnny and Bob, who just want what they're owed: a stash of... overdue DVDs. Totally absurd, but performed with such sincerity by the actors (helmed by the magnificent James Shepherd), after ten minutes I thoroughly believed deploying goons to be as justifiable a method as Video Ezy's very real collection letters. Though the goons at least have a sense of purpose - for love of film. It isn't any wonder why it took home the prize sweep of Best Script, Best Director, Best Production, People's Choice Winner and Best Actor for Shepherd. If you told me the piece was from Tarantino or Guy Ritchie, I wouldn't doubt it, the name TOM GREEN is now burned on my memory as one to watch closely. Such is the pleasure of Short+Sweet, not just a showcase for talent, but a chance for us - their humble audience - to enjoy them.

For more information and for upcoming performances across categories, head to the Short+Sweet website, http://shortandsweet.org.

Written by Ellen Becker