Short and Sweet 09 Top 30 Week 2

I love the Short and Sweet festival, but this year I can’t find takers for my plus one.

Short and Sweet
Chapel off Chapel

Friday 27 November 2009

I love the Short and Sweet festival, but this year I can’t find takers for my plus one.

And I don’t blame anyone. It’s like a tin of assorted shortbreads that has been in the cupboard for too many years that are still unappetising after a few festive sherries and even the dog doesn’t want to scoff the treats. At the end of last year’s festival I thought that maybe it needed a year off, but when events take a year off – they tend to never return, so we should be cheering first-time festival director Rachel Baring for creating a program this year. But what can be done to bring Short and Sweet back to can’t-get-enough chocolate ganache and balsamic strawberry tart quality?

Remember when it sold out and the writing was original and crafted and the best directors, performers and companies in town wanted to be involved? This year’s best plays might not have even made the Wildcards of those first years. Perhaps next year could include a ‘best of’ section featuring old favourites. It would set the standard for new scripts and give us something to look forward to.

Or just tell me a story. Please, tell me a story. Think of your favourite film, book or joke. Do you like its conviction or its story? How many children want to be tucked into bed at night asking to be read the junk mail from their local politicians? Who loves being cornered at a party by a bitter sod who tells you the intimate details of their life and as you try to walk away (because you’ve spied a delicious looking tin of shortbreads), but they grab your arm and get upset when you don’t give them a hug because they made you realise that your opinions are wrong and theirs are right?

For the love of Robert McKee*, tell stories. Tell tales with beginnings and middles and ends and action, surprises and change. If you can tell your story in one minute, your play is nine and a half minutes too long.

The only one I enjoyed in Week 2 was Swagman, because the director (Scott Gooding) and cast (whose names aren’t in the program) saw its absurdity and knew that the words alone could induce a coma or a riot, so they grabbed what was intelligent and relevant in the script and made us laugh by taking the rest to such an extreme that we had re-engage our brains and were able to think.

Every play this week could so easily be improved with some honest feedback and a re-draft. Most of them could become really good and a couple of them are, at least, lessons in how not to write. However, it’s a brave thing to put your words in a public forum, knowing that people like me can write whatever we like about them. Of course, everyone want us to write good things, so here’s what I thought was good about them.

Canadian Tuxedo:
Terrific hit man set up with twins dressed all in denim and a good rhyme.

Pink Dress: An authentic and engaging relationship between the brother and sister on the stage.

Vienna Syndrome: The script wasn’t half bad and with different direction, it could be very different and much funnier.

King Hit: Had heart and love.

The Swagmans’ Song:
Made me laugh.

The Big C:
Let the performers have a go at silly voices.

The Tale of Babboo Sabbi:
I too like the view from tall buildings.

Actual Fantasy:
The idea of actual fantasy gamers is a great start.

The Controlled Use of Heroin:
The performances were good.

The Road to Hell:
It was a fine joke and it was the only play of the night with good ending.

*If you write and you don’t know who McKee is, please read his book called “Story”. You don’t have to agree with a single word of it and you may know better – but read it anyway.


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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *