Last night I attended the People’s Choice Showcase of the Short & Sweet Theatre Festival, which comprised performances of the plays chosen by audiences from the past eight weeks. As expected, the showcase was an entertaining, often heart-warming collection. Were there any hard-hitting, biting, truly cathartic moments? No – but you don’t need that every time you go the theatre! Sometimes, it is truly enough that the audience is thoroughly entertained!
The showcase got off to a great start with THERAPIST, written by John Lombard and directed by Rob White. This play was a clever, entertaining twist on the old story of boy meets girl, but in this case the girl becomes the boy’s therapist! Eventually he had to fess up that the therapy was a ruse to keep seeing her, announcing “I am obviously crazy about you!” There were smiles all round when she retracted her demand that he find another therapist, announcing that he was going to “need an ongoing program of treatment!” The play ended with the couple dancing to romantic music! Aahhh! Ain’t love grand?
Another play also ended with the couple dancing in each other’s arms, but was a totally different offering. IRISH STEW written by Cary Pepper and directed by Aishveryaa Nidhi looks at the relationship of aging partners Lauretta (Ann Elbourne) and Carlton (Owain James) as they cope with the onset of dementia and the resultant confusion and loss of language. They do not “rage against the dying of the light” as urged by Dylan Thomas, but instead choose to get as much fun as they can from the experience. Lauretta is looking for her Irish shoe (presumably it is green?) but Carlton believes she is talking about Irish stew, and then an old friend called Irish Stu! Carlton tries to look in the bathroom several times, but heads off to the bedroom instead. “We can do this!” says Carlton, and Lauretta replies “It’s getting harder!” then she asks him who he is, and in response to his shocked expression, replies “Just kidding!” They both laugh! I felt like a visitor to the home of an elderly, quirky couple with a very intimate relationship. As well as being very entertaining, it was a privilege to be there!
THE SOUND OF YOUR OWN VOICE, written by Rhys Cohen and directed by Bendeguz Devenyi-Botos introduces us to two young guys who have been friends since primary school. They are enjoying a relaxed chat on the balcony discussing high school, masturbation, family, sex – the usual topics, accompanied by “the great equaliser” – a joint! As the boys relax, it becomes clear that one of them is gay and has very strong feelings for the other, who is a very determined heterosexual! This could have turned ugly or uncomfortable, but the consummate script and acting ensure that the issue is explored with empathy and a light touch. The hetero guy is shocked but clearly values the friendship, and wants it to continue. The gay guy is clearly relieved, but also left in some pain. This was a very sensitive treatment of a potentially difficult relationship. Well done!
The other eight plays were also impressive, with not a dull note sounding all night! The People’s Choice program will be showing until Sunday 9th March at the King Street Theatre, Newtown. Also don’t forget about the Gala Finals to be held on Friday 21 March and Saturday 22 March at the Seymour Centre, York Theatre.
For more about Short and Sweet people’s Choice Showcase, visit http://www.shortandsweet.org/festivals/shortsweet-theatre-sydney//