Short Shorts is a collection of short plays presented by Centrestage, the youth theatre of the 1812 Theatre Company. The plays are written, directed and performed by young people under the age of 25 years. In their biggest year yet, eight plays were premiered in this season.
While the cast and directors get large billing in the program, with a photo of each person, the writers themselves are only mentioned by name on the second last page, after the crew. Given that these are premiere works, it is disappointing that there isn’t more information provided about each of the writers, or better acknowledgement of their contribution. All I can assume is that all eight works were written by young people, although I have no idea of their age and experience.
Written by Conor Quinn and directed by Bailey Johnson, Alice’s Playtime is about two boys who break into an abandoned theatre and meet an unexpected visitor who wants to play hide and seek. Alice’s Playtime is a horror, but the initial reaction of the two characters does not convince the audience that there is really anything to be afraid of, and as a result, was greeted with laughter. This was probably not helped by the ushers not ensuring a blackout period for the duration of this first play, as the sudden appearance of bright light from the foyer as a latecomer entered certainly distracted from the tension being created by the appearance of the unexpected visitor.
The play comes to a chilling ending and some audience members did comment it gave them chills, but some audience members just didn’t buy in to the fear element (probably the same people who laugh in a “haunted house” ride at an amusement park). The story itself is well written and it has the potential to be a rather chilling short work of theatre. Possibly scheduling this play further into the show might allow the audience to be more settled and embrace the need to suspend their disbelief.
This Stinks is written by Conor Quinn and directed by John Riddell. It’s a hilarious comedy and well-paced to ensure the audience manages to laugh at every joke possible. Josh McCormack plays the ridiculously over-the-top Constable McMahon and would give the Pink Panther’s Inspector Clouseau a run for his money. It’s a silly comedy that’s impossible to not laugh at – and the spectacular ending was the perfectly executed by Caleb Hilbig.
The only suggestion to improve this play would be to hide the necklace worn by Lylah Smith as it looked out of place with the rest of the costuming and perhaps drew too much visual attention from the audience.
But, Why? Written by Olivia Williams and directed by Kirby Chenhall, is murder mystery spoof. There’s plenty of comedy packed into this play, although some moments were too rushed and slowing the pace a little would allow the audience to read, notice and absorb what is taking place. The ending is quite funny (and not quite what I predicted) but it was a little unclear to some of the audience what had happened. Making the big who-dunnit reveal more deliberate and better paced would ensure the whole audience was able to grasp the ending, rather than asking “wait, what was that, what just happened” … or “but why?”
Written by Jamie Watts and directed by Kirby Chenall, A to D is a powerful play that packs such an emotional punch that it almost felt like it needed a warning. It certainly had the audience talking at the interval break – particularly discussions about “when did you work it out” as to who two of the characters were. A combination of a good writing, smart directing and strong acting (Jacinta Howden, Caleb Hilbig and Raquel Gardiner) makes A to D a real highlight of the Short Shorts program, and hopefully this short play will continue to have a life beyond this initial premiere.
Aura is written by Nicholas Brooke and directed by Vanessa Harkess. Passionate, strong performances by Jasmine Stiff and Conor Quinn deliver a powerful play that makes a statement about trust and other social issues. The play makes some interesting statements, but feels like the actual characters are left a little unresolved and ultimately left me asking who they were and how they came to be in this situation in the first place. It’s perhaps the unique setting of Aura that asks more questions than it answers, and possibly if it was set elsewhere it may feel less unresolved? It was like reading a chapter of a book midway through the story – now I’d like to read the rest to find out the whole story.
The Spider Man is written and directed by Pippa Criss-Chisholm. This play is about a patient receiving treatment for her arachnophobia. It takes a disturbing twist that will leave any arachnophobia sufferers having nightmares (although I hasten to add, no actual spiders appear in the play).
The Cult is written by Maia Tilley and directed by Thomas O’Hare. When her child goes missing, a mother calls in a detective to find her son, but when he turns up, the detective is still convinced that nothing is wrong. It’s hard to know if this was intended to be a comedy or more of a thriller? It has the potential to be either, but has been presented in this program as a comedy. The ending caused some discussion amongst the audience, although no spoilers. Reworking certain elements of this play, and removing the comedy elements could transform this play into a chilling drama that better justifies the ending.
Written and directed by Millie Spencer Is That All I Can Fix? is a delightful romantic comedy. Holly Pretorius and Ben Vanderstaak are perfectly cast as the love interests: Edith and Evan. There’s something adorably believable about these two awkward characters from the very start and the audience are yearning for their love to blossom. It’s sickly sweet, but so cute that you can’t help but enjoy the experience, which sets up the audience perfectly for the ending. It was a great choice to close an excellent night of new theatrical works. I might need to try out that recipe for the ultimate chocolate milk drink with … what was that special ingredient? Jam?
Overall, this was an excellent night of theatre, showcasing the talents of the Centrestage Youth Theatre. With quite a number of the Centrestage performers already participating in the regular 1812 Theatre season, the future of this quality community theatre is in good hands.
For more information and tickets: https://www.1812theatre.com.au/purchase-tickets/