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Short + Sweet Wildcards Newtown Week 3

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AussieTheatre’s new Sydney reviewer, Jigsy Stevenson, gives us his thoughts on Short and Sweet Wildcards, Week 3. 

WILDCARDS 3 Newtown Theatre     Saturday, 22 January, 2011
Short and Sweet wildcard entries are those that are short listed but didn’t make the top 110 plays for the program. The following reviews are listed in order of performance. It was indeed a long hot afternoon in the Newtown Theatre as a technical fault with the lighting desk brought about an early interval and hence a longer second session. Fortunately there was a lot of good performances to distract from the humidity. #1 SWEET JOEDirected by Lucy Marinelli, this play about two middle-aged women revisiting their usual eating place since the 9th grade never quite got off the ground. It was difficult to engage with the characters due to a messy start and a weak grasp of the dialogue by one of the male characters. There was no believability in their interaction as each actor seemed to be on a different playing level and not communicating effectively. 
#2 THE MOST DANGEROUS WOMAN IN EUROPEWritten by Vince Bailey, this inventive tale of wartime London is relived through the eyes of the central character Eric in his senior years, and his childhood memories of his long lost mother. In a very well cast performance all actors were well suited to their roles being both engaging and believable. Direction was strong by Ingrid Hu and Ross Scott was very convincing playing Eric in both stages of his life. Laura Huxley supported well as the mother who paraded as the Queen to lift public morale during the war. 
#3 PEACE AND QUIET AND A HOT MEAT PIEThis high energy Australian wartime story written by Ashley Walker shows a more humourous approach to a German invasion of a quiet country town by means of sound effects and not artillery. The style of the Goon Show was very much evident in this piece and the humour was fast paced and achieved its desired responses. At times the dialogue was lost amongst the pace but the facial expressions and comic timing certainly made up for it. The actors worked tirelessly throughout the piece and displayed solid and humourous accents.
#4 DREAM CASTLEJudy Judd-Sandwell created this one-woman play about Ava Braun and her obsession to marry Hitler during the peak of his powerful reign over Germany. This ambitious undertaking was well handled by actress Ursula Paddon as she scaled emotions from a doting, girlish Ava to the strong, focused and determined woman. Whilst her accent may have waivered a little it was indeed a strong performance. The play showed convincingly what sacrifices must be made in order to follow such a man unconditionally. The dialogue was rather slow at the beginning and could have enjoyed greater use of the stage to separate and move each defined moment.
#5 TRAPPED IN AMBERWritten by Jessica Gillen and with the clever use of movement illustrating the storytelling, this play examined the possible inaccuracies of memories and recollections. The use of heightened and unrealistic images of the characters in the past by use of robotic and overworked movement embellished the questionable nature of the flashbacks. Tim Mason joined the writer for the plays direction and inventive structure and actors Alana Wesley and Heath Sims showed great commitment and precision in their performance. The emphasis and was clearly spent more on working in the movement than on the character work but it was a great achievement in originality.
#6 LINE NO. 231This play was unsuccessful in maintaining my interest from the very beginning. Written by Suzanne Kent, directed by Marnie Jones and performed by Heather Campbell, the play was performed without words, but used movement, audio effects and a line drawn onto the stage floor. The concept was far too simplistic and the play remained at one level for the entire duration. If “words get in the way of what we are searching for”, as the description of the play suggests, then there needs to be more happening visually to show clearly what is being searched for by the character. The staging did not assist this either as a lot of the action was aimed at, or played on the floor.
#7 HONEY CRUNCH TIMECameron Sharp produced a great concept in his writing of this play with a flashy and colourful fictional mystery in the style of Dick Tracy with an all-lesbian cast of characters. Unfortunately the script failed to deliver the promise of this concept as the plot was rushed through with too much exposition and explanation rather than action. The actors were all well cast and sassy in the colourful costumes created for this piece but the script did not support them enough despite their efforts. The audience enjoyed it however and I believe this is due to its originality and the sexuality amongst the characters.
#8 NOTES ON A FATHERWith an honest personal account of a flawed father this play examines the truth in bereavement as the central character cannot glorify the memory of a father who was not glorious to her in any way. Amber Robinson was both captivating and believable in her heartfelt candidness and with strong direction by Geoff Jansson the play was successful in its treatment of personal inadequacies. Judy Couttie’s writing was well balanced and allowed the character of the father to concede his faults and the daughter to recognise them without anger or resentment.
#9 THURSDAYWritten by Mark Andrew and Directed by Jasmine Robertson the play unites two people who despite both being in relationships decide to spend the rest of their lives together after apparently experiencing love at first sight. But this is not what we see. Their behaviour is closed and unemotional yet they speak of incredible feelings and yearnings for each other. We witness a business-like and somewhat cold interaction between two random people and this seems a deliberate choice of either director or writer. But it doesn’t convey any sense of belief that these two are in love at all. The actors showed great commitment to their roles and to the direction but with such contrast to the spoken words it was too unrealistic to embrace.
#10 MARY CHRISTThe creative’s on this play were one person, Simon Freestone, and this limited the entire piece from the start. The writing was flawed and humourless and the piece needed a lot more direction than an actor can provide themselves. The piece was stuck between cabaret/drag banter and characterised stand-up comedy plus a slice of audience interaction with a bizarre planted heckler towards the end. 
#11 PLEASE ENSURE YOUR CELLPHONE IS TURNED ONThis play written by Daniel Saunders was my personal favourite of the afternoon. The writing was succinct in its telling of the consequences that can occur by the switching off of a cell phone whilst on holidays and the failure of a girlfriend to listen when telling her you are doing this. The actors were realistic and believable in the anguish that ensued this misunderstanding and both sides were presented with equal justification. Patrick Bolster was endearing and very likable as JD, the character who originally wrote the story and Sarah Connor was enjoyable to watch as the ill-fated girlfriend who turns psycho so swiftly over her boyfriends’ silence. Sandy Maestro showed solid direction to create such a recognisable situation which the audience responded to positively, suggesting this may happen to many more people out there. 
#12 INCOMINGA simple premise on the surface but clever writing by Kylie Farrugia and Tracey Dwyer saw this play about the effects of immigration told through the eyes of apes living in captivity. It was easy to see how this play was Runner-Up in Short and Sweet Newcastle as it garnered the biggest response from the audience upon its completion. Quite political in nature it juxtaposes immigration and asylum seeking with the plight of endangered animals being housed and treated within a zoo. Whilst for the majority of the play both sides of the argument were balanced and supported, the conclusion was in the form of a judgment. The acting was simple but effective and the physicality of the apes was successfully portrayed by the well cast actors. Mick Hills’ direction was most effective in particular the animalistic physicality and behavioural differences of the characters when people are watching them.

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