Short and Sweet: Newtown Week 3

 AussieTheatre reviews Short and Sweet week 3, including Week 3 judges’ winner and People’s choice winner Doing it for the Penguins.

 Week Three – 19 – 23 JanuaryNewtown Theatre – Bray St Newtown Saturday, 22 January, 2011  
Doing it for the PenguinsThe Mostly Sleeping Princess is a Jekyl and Hyde fractured fairy tale, with the Prince turning, not into a monster but into an Australian. It is cute, well written and performed with the only caveat being perhaps the performance could have done with some over commitment to the style. It lends itself to complete melodrama. THREE STARS !!!
Serenity is a one-woman piece, performed by Alison Chambers and set in a hospital on the final night or so of Debbie’s life. It avoids any sense of misery and although it discusses some of her negative past, it is uplifting, without being twee and energetic and engaging, due mostly to some savvy Direction from Robert Allan who also wrote the play. FOUR STARS !!!!
Dessert Pears features three women of different size and styles recounting experiences that effected their hearts, minds and bodies. It was performed and moved well, but possibly had more strength if kept a little more still. Emma Whiteman who played Woman 3 stood out with her natural style and was eminently watchable. THREE AND A HALF STARS !!!1/2 Doing it for the Penguins (pictured) is sharply written and expertly performed. The sheer energy and will needed to fully realise the script was exhausting but Elise Fabris does it without missing a beat. Damien Higginbotham plays several different parts, each with pitch perfect pace and humour. All the character of Alison wants to do is do her bit for the environment and ride her bike to work – but the world is just not ready for one as beautiful as her. Hilarious, and the pick of the night, in my opinion. FIVE STARS !!!!!
Me & Shirl looks at illness, hospitalisation, communication and confession from a male point of view. The patient begins to talk to a new ward buddy, just arrived, still mute from his admittance and confesses things that led him to this point. He is a professional patient, having been in hospital for over a year. It is warm and well performed with the only criticism being the one-way conversation style can become stilted at times. THREE AND A HALF STARS !!!1/2 
A Knight’s Dragon is fast, funny and just absurd enough to be fantastic. A young pretty sacrifice is tied to a pole – the dragon won’t come out of it’s cave – the Knight comes to rescue the damsel who isn’t distressed and is lured into the cave by the dragon who has eyes (and teeth) only for the Knight. Any woman who has fallen in love with someone they met in a gay nightclub will understand. FOUR STARS !!!!
Mating in Captivity is the first piece I have seen of the festival to use props purchased from the Tool Shed (or some such establishment) and there should be more of it, in my opinion. It was truly hilarious and perfectly cast and performed, and beautifully directed and written to avoid any cliché. Names must be mentioned – Written by Deborah Wilson, Directed by Jerome Pride, Performed by Bendeguz Devenyi-Botos and Lyndal Judges. FOUR AND A HALF STARS !!!!1/2 
Martha Plants Sunflowers takes a simple online game and turns it into a beautiful character drama. It takes an unreal situation and creates a real relationship. Martha plays Farmville and in the course of growing her crops meets Zeus. When she muses about planting sunflowers in the real world, it becomes clear that reality and virtual reality are sitting very close to each other. Fear is peaked but through the honesty of Zeus and their other pal Rocketman a real friendship develops. It is beautifully written, directed and performed. FOUR AND A HALF STARS !!!!1/2
The System is very funny. I should point out that one of my jobs is as a drama teacher to senior high school and University students. So, I didn’t so much as watch the piece as live it. There are obvious comparisons to be made with Mr G from Summer Heights High but the performers are obviously familiar enough with drama class to be able to make it new and very funny. It is unclear as to why a character was double cast and did detract from the flow a little and if the teacher had been played by an older actor it may have had even more of an impact. Even so, it was well performed and full of wit. FOUR STARS!!!!
Disorganised Crime is another taught, tight piece in a strong program. The accents are flawless, the style secure and performed with energy. The criminals mean ill, but seem to be getting themselves deeper and deeper until one accidentally brings the police to the front door. Oops. Alastair Buchanan wrote and performed and has quite the eye for the crime genre. Let’s hope he uses his power for good and not evil. FOUR STARS !!!!
And finally Coleslaw Bacon and Crisps presents the age-old debate of routine versus change and which is really better for the soul. Brian (Kim Knuckey) like his ham cheese and tomato sandwich just fine, thanks, until Vicky (Sandy Velini) shows him just how much more life has to offer. Another lovely script and performance with possibly the ability to be a little more poignant if some of the metaphors are a little more subtle in their direction and delivery. However, still delightful. THREE AND A HALF STARS !!!1/2 Photo: Damien Higginbotham and Elise Fabris in Doing it for the Penguins. Taken by Victoria Pavela 

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