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Review: Short and Sweet Wk 3 at the Tom Mann Theatre

Review By Lee Sarich

Week three of Sydney short and sweet festival finds more gems and diamonds. With only 5 weeks to go, don’t miss out on finding your own.


Cashless Written by Robert Luxford, Directed by Uma Kali Shakti.

Kelly McRae plays the annoying, uninterested Cashier treating customers like an inconvenience with such accuracy it’s painful. She really comes to life as the play develops with entertaining play between her and Graham Egan as the customer who just wants to spend some cash, his exasperation contrasts with her indifference in this clash between millennials and the cave man era. Emily Perry as the supervisor depicts the ‘I’ll call security’ society, for imagined and exaggerated infractions with cringy acuity. The customers hapless persona is helped by his shabby clothes, a tidy fun look at the miracles of modern technology, and their costs.

Sally, Written by Nick Subjak, Directed by Adam Dear.

Wow. Tightly written, intensely performed. Deborah Faye Lee as Sally #1 and Charlotte Conner as Sally #2 bring this dark world into glaring focus. In moments the narration disappears and I’m immersed in their journey. Stark costumes sharpen the focus on performance and dialogue. Perfect timing and unison between the Sallys’ increase the tension. Very sharp. With a change of pace, position and disposition the rhythm builds again. Everything is clearer, darkness and madness illuminated brighter, excellent example of writer, director and actors achieving some truly collaborative magic.

Never Give Up, Written by James Hutchinson, Directed by Felix Carlyle.

Byron Lawrence brings Nigel Davenport to life as a prolific scriptwriter, imbued with endless self belief and a flashy sense of dress that exudes his brilliance. Ruth Smoother as Sharon Sparks the long suffering assessor of said scripts must let him know she hasn’t discovered this brilliance in any of his 300 scripts. With deliberately tedious and superfluous meandering, tension is built to a brilliant flash of depth and passion. And then it’s gone. Not deterred by winning a prize that demands no more scripts Nigel is only encouraged to write more. A good look at the pitfalls of impenetrable confidence.

A few small hours, Written by Mike Daley, Directed by Lidia Grasso.

With authentic dialogue and simple costumes in a plain white singlet for Alexander Davison as Adam and an off the shoulder denim jacket for Steffi Gil as Maggie a demographic is captured. Fish and chips on the couch, with aioli of course, and the stage is set for an enthralling dissection of relationships under duress. Light banter over a light meal descends into terror when we learn the cancer is back. Adam and Maggie explore their fears of abandonment and rejection against the hope of companionship and commitment. An enduring love story.

The end is Nighy, Written by Frances Bowick, Directed by Gina Cohen.

Steve Tait is energetic as Mr Nighy, the casting agent dealing with an unhappy actor in Eric Hong. Tait tries to placate, intimidate and mislead Hong back out the door, but Hong is persistent. Hong is captivating as he scuttles strides and leers around the stage demanding, imploring and pleading for more work, after peculiar references to his scuttling walk we learn the Actor is a cockroach. It’s a clever turn that explains Nighys reticence. Sound and lighting take us to Nighys home where his wife is not so understanding of the Actors plight. Witty role reversal /power exchange is entertaining and enjoyable.

A Silent Agreement, Written & Directed by Davo Hardy.

Davo Hardy plays Rueben Heywood, telling a beautiful story about an actor with a speech impediment being inspired by a profoundly deaf man who teaches him Auslan. It’s a captivating performance though I did find it a bit difficult to follow at times. Integration of signing into the performance and particularly to music and song is awesome.

License to Thrill, Written & Directed by Paulene Turner.

David Hodgkins commands the stage as MI6 agent James Jones should with a clipped British accent, debonair manner and killer suit. His wife, Jane Jones, played by Rebecca Towns, also am MI6 agent has her own killer wardrobe in a skintight, short, bedazzling flash of brilliance and cuts out her own slice of the stage with equal panache. Jones and Jones weave around the set of cardboard Bond characters, until confronting each other as mutual traitors. Some tight and stylish fight choreography leave us thinking the deceptive and mysterious M – Eveline Schubert was won the day. But her demure and understated treachery is no match for the wit of Jones and Jones, who save the day with unexpected yet appropriate flair.

Interrupted, Written by Sybil Curry, Directed by Reena Akhtar.

Fun and enjoyable dialogue from Susan Mutesi as Destiny as she describes the highs and lows of her unseen relationship with delicious joy and enthusiasm whilst she sits next to Kingston in an airport lounge. Similarly, Kingston played by Adolphus Waylee talks us through his unseen relationship as we switch between the two. It was a little unclear to me for a while that the two were not discussing each other but separate unrelated events that conspire to finally bring them together. Sexy, quirky, entertaining.

Trapped, Written by Barry Wood, Directed by Lachlan McWilliam

Very clever look at the 4th wall, dilemmas and pains of character development in the confines of a short play with painful self awareness. Well carried by both Gemma-May Bowles as Faye and Yvonne Dallman as Claire. They maintain focused intense confusion until self realisation lead to fantastic absurdity with the introduction of Don Ferguson who diligently lurches about as Zombie to be thwarted by an innocuous cheese grater. Polished, shiny and thoroughly captivating.

Dinosaur, Written by Steven Hayet, Directed by Victoria Lewis.

Tara Simmons as Spencer is scared to leave her room lest she be eastern by a dinosaur. I’m not sure if she’s really serious or alluding to any innumerable fear. Sometimes near hysterical, sometimes near despair whatever her reasons she’s not going out. Luckily she’s aided by Rebecca Nowell as her friend Jamie, who after trying to console and convince decides just to stay in with her. Even without knowing exactly what’s going on, maybe even especially when not knowing what’s going on it’s nice to have a friend to sit though it with us.

Omnipotent, Written by Brandi Eaton, Directed by Jo Bradley

Mikki Kessler as the Narrator is reading a book on her couch. She’s animated and lively in what could easily have become a passive role. The characters in her book are brought to life by Helen Wang as Lucy and Sam Walsh as Chase. Chase and Lucy jump from disaster to peril at the Narrators whim, then back again when it all goes wrong. Their exuberance is evident and makes it feel like somehow by watching we’re participating as the energy grows and the story evolves. Pleasant and pleasurable.

Absent, Written by Debbie Neilson, Directed by Tayman Jamae

Debbie Neilson as Abby is brilliant. Brilliant use of sound and choreography. Solid performance relying only on movement and expression. Attention to detail in the costume, torn dirtied school dress, off coloured whiteish socks, scuffed shoes all say downtrodden pain and misery. Except when she’s dancing. Compelling story. Oppressed, confused and intimidated by sound, everyday sound in society compounded by relentless media, are our lives enhanced or reduced as a result? Is there hope or acceptance or a little of each in the other? Whatever the answer, at least there’s dancing.

Images Supplied

All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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