Short & Sweet: NIDA Week 1

All the info from the first week of Short & Sweet at NIDA…

Short & SweetNIDA Playhouse, Sydney
Wednesday, 10 February, 2010
Waiting for MamdouhWritten and directed by Kuranda Seyit , this collection of monologues and media told the true story of how Mamdouh Habib was detained, questioned and tortured over 4 years in Guantanamo Bay and Egypt.  An Egyptian-born Australian Muslim, Mamdouh was forced to leave his wife and four children in Australia to suffer harassment and discrimination of their own before he was eventually found to be innocent and returned home. The piece featured Mamdouh Habib himself and two of his children in the cast and brought a raw, honest quality to the evening as a brave man told his horrific story of injustice.
NormalA family all claim to be normal, yet everyday tasks are blown into a farcical battle for sanity when Son-in-law Daniel comes around to visit. This off-beat character comedy from writer Margaret Bowen and director Liane Norman contained some hilarious moments that brought the abnormal to an entirely new level. The twist involving the Aunty was fabulous and the characterisations were all great fun. Steve McGrath was particularly brilliant as the father and would not have been out of place in Monty Python or Faulty Towers.
Hibiscus MemoriesA young man eager to make money attempts to convince his mother to sell her large property. Whilst he reasons with her about the practicalities she is intent to keep the property out of respect to her deceased husband. Some poorly written scenes gave the characters unrealistic points of view and changes in emotion. The cut scenes to a Japanese POW camp were interesting, but simplistically dealt with.
Pride and Prejudice – in ten minutes flatTim Hehir’s retelling of the Jane Austen novel offered up a whole lot of laughs. The costumes, by Teresa Negroponte were beautifully detailed, historically accurate and rapidly changed. The cast handled a range of characters artfully, with recognisable caricatures and great comic timing. A violinist and cellist, also in period costume, performed brief musical interludes to create mood. Despite a few awkward silences during costume changes that would have done well with accompaniment, the piece did justice to the original. Mr Darcy has never been so moody, Mr Collins so ridiculous and Lady Catherine de Berg so frequently mentioned.
Russell Crowe, Gupta and The DalekWhen Russell Crowe (Heath Wilder) hails a taxi to escape from the rain, Gupta (Valentino Arico) and his golden cab come to the rescue. Complete with a Dalek/method actor (Carlos Sivalingam) in the backseat, taxi rides have never been so colourful. This hilarious play from Jackie Greenland marked the 1000th short play performed as part of the Short & Sweet festival. This brilliant blend of cultures and robots was brought to life by Allan Walpole’s dazzling design. The cast, under the direction of Christine Greenough gave strong comic performances, and Kiran Pradhan’s Bollywood remix of John Farnham’s ‘You’re The Voice’ was a fitting end to an upbeat adventure.
1000 Mile High ClubA couple on their first trip into space find themselves having a disagreement when Candace wants to try for a child, but Brett does not. They end up fighting whilst locked in a room with an arrogant and disruptive Peter Andre. Christopher Welldon’s script had novelty value but lacked any real depth in character and development. Kerrie Gee was promising as The Hostess, but was left on stage with little to say for a majority of the play. With a few laughs along the way the play ended disappointingly with a weak punchline.
Gunfight at the VenusA gritty action piece about a Kings Cross brothel owner with unpaid depts. Stephen Carnell’s script introduced some interesting characters that may have been better developed in a longer piece. The initial scene between Big Jim and Fanny showed promise, but the arrival of Donny and his unconvincingly pregnant girlfriend brought with it some poor and unbelievable stage combat.
SimpletonIn Sam O’Sullivan’s short play, a young man recovers from a wild experience to find a girl tied and gagged to his bed. Whilst Anthony and Nick struggle to think of a way to explain the situation to her, everything spirals out of control. Despite a funny script and strong comic banter, I believe the writer and director should rethink the humour of a screaming and obviously distressed young woman tied to a bed by her arms and legs, being continually touched against her will.
The ClosetWhen toys fail to perform their duties, they are sent to the closet. Once there, the toys bond over a sense that their time is over. This surprisingly moving play from Aoise Stratford delivered a lot of laughs and interesting characters. Anthony Hunt was compelling as a whiskey drinking Bernard the Dinosaur, Kevin Curley was suitably naive as the newcomer Sponge Bart Round Trousers and Simone Oliver was utterly captivating as Twinkles. A clever production from director Heath Wilder, full of detail and humour.
SuperfossilsThis play by Elizabeth Pulsford took a comic look at the Justice League well past their glory days. The geriatric group of once-superheroes reminisced about the old days, plotted an escape and searched for hearing aids, all in time for an afternoon nap. The strong young cast gave great portrayals of an aging population whilst wearing very funny adaptations of the original superhero costumes. Bookings and  Until Saturday, 13 February, 2010

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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