Review: Short & Sweet Gala Final and Awards 2021 at the Tom Mann Theatre

Review by Lee Sarich


With Muruwari Man Mathew Doyle extending the most touching and welcoming Welcome to Country I have ever experienced Short & Sweet 2021 finally comes to a conclusion in April 2022. Stellar commitment from all the creatives, production team and audiences alike navigated several covid lockdown reschedules to bring Australia’s biggest little festival to it’s Gala finale.


As Nice As Pie

An Entertaining comedy, Adam plans to move a cleaner with benefits into his marital home, only to be thwarted by his wife, Alice Furze as Claire. Written by Barry Wood, its fun and quirky with good pace and panache. Don Ferguson as Adam makes the sleaze delightful, both cringy and haplessly warm. Claire manages her errant husband with deftly patronising distaste which is also somehow comforting. Cassandra Chloe is Emily, the prospective cleaner who adds some sass and sizzle. Cultivated indifference collides with loathsome self interest and scheming brilliance, in this clever play directed by Lachlan McWilliam.


Buried Treasure

Written and performed by Jacqui Duncan as Natalie and David Allsopp as Daniel, these adult siblings sorting through family history tied for best script. A clear favourite, David and Jacqui also both won positions in the Actors Circle, and James Brettell best director. Exploring complex family dynamics of roles and story Daniel struggles to reconcile his grief with a nostalgic longing for a childhood wonder. Natalie is pragmatic and focused, but softening into her own childhood reverie unlocks the secret to their familial fortune.


Riya

Written and directed by Ruth Fingret and performed by Jyotsna Sharma, Riya holds us spellbound as she courageously displays her traumatic decent from displacement to sexual servitude then slavery, signposted by violence and torment with her only ‘relief’ in anonymous homelessness. Riya is funny, fierce and heartbreaking, her story tragically common. Powerfully unsettling and told with sensitive respect, Riyas’ voice sears through systems of silence.


A Period Play

Costumes, bearing and accents lay the groundwork for this set with the details filled in by snappy dialogue, clever twists and high energy acting. Anthea Agoratsios as Rosamund and Zoe Arden as Violet bounce off each other as Violet can barely contain her excitement in anticipation of the best night of her life. Her enthusiasm is infectious as Rosamund tries to exert a calming influence. Joey Sheehan is Harry and Sam Flack is Tom, with flamboyant comic timing, constant taunts and charm their clandestine affair is revealed ruining Violets expectations of a happily ever after. Natalie Low as Aunt Florence, focused and relentless, turns up as ever once a month to add her contribution to the collected house of woes. Written and directed by Joss Chalmers.


I Was Fine Until You Came In The Room

Written by Rich Orloff and directed by Kym Vaitiekus we are taken on a journey through awkward first meetings to enduring love. Beautifully scripted and performed, inner monologues are revealed by Leonard Sun as Old Pete and Caroline Larcombe as Old Helen as they remember their first encounter with fond nostalgia. Rebecca May is Young Helen, Richard Wu, Young Pete, together these two give physical expression to the thoughts and memories of their older selves in a tightly woven heartwarming tale.


Sweethearts

Written by Sophie Irvine and directed by Olga Tamara this eclectic jaunt picked up tied best production (Judges choice). Groovy music, funky dancing, and an elaborate and soothing set allow Minnie and Charlie played by Annabelle Kablean and Barret Griffin to slash snarl and seethe at each other until they receive some guiding wisdom from Minnies parents. Lynda Leavers is Celia and joins the Actors Circle for her sauntering display of mother and lover who together with husband Richard played by Graham Yates seek to save their floundering daughter.


Judgment Day

Sarah Marie Reynolds as Kate, wakes in alarm to find herself dead, frantically trying to understand her new position she’s instructed by Geoff Cordner as the ever patient and helpful Angel. Costumes and make up help to hold Kate to account by an effervescent Tahlia Ransley as Pride, snarly Elizabeth Newman as Greed, and a sullen Patrick Wells as Envy as things are looking grim for Kate. Patrick Wells reappears as affectionate and playful Mr Fluffy, Kates well loved cat, proving that love will save the day and your soul in this wholesome and endearing play written by Katrina Samaras and directed by Clare Burgess.


The Forgotten Place

Receiving awards for tied best script and tied best production (Judge’s Choice) written by Jeff Locker and directed by Garreth Cruikshank The Forgotten Place is male friendships. Exposed unflattering, unapologetic and without pretence we delve through decades of highs and lows. Garreth Cruikshank as Eric and Nick Shields as Kip, test, taunt, betray and support each other revealing hopeful ideals of what men can reach for. Exhilarating and rewarding.


Dating Through The Decades

Seven decades of dating in under 10 minutes is quite a feat and this play pulls it off. Aided by iconic music of the day, sparse but effective costuming and unmistakably dated dance and exercise moves James Saunders as Boy and Ally O’Brien as Girl skip together through years of cringeworthy fads and best forgotten trends. Their joyful chemistry makes it a pleasure to watch. Written by Ken Levine and directed by Gina Cohen.


You Won’t Believe

Written and directed by Frank Leggett who won the Festival Directors Award, the play won peoples choice for best production, and Debbie Neilson as Grace won a place in the Actor’s Circle. Grace is a simple gal with simple needs, but as her story unfolds with frenetic precision we find there’s more to her than meets the eye. Charming and sinister even her country girl costume beguiles her true intentions which when they do become evident somehow make us love her even more.


Congratulations also to Olivia Aleksoski for winning a position in the Actor’s Circle and I look forward to seeking what’s next with Short & Sweet Sydney in 2022.

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