I’m a lucky boy, I am. December 2008; I get an email from my good friend, the writer, John Chambers. He and a group of well-established Manchester-based theatre and TV writers are putting on this new thing : an evening of six 15 minute plays. One of the writers has had to drop out ; do I fancy writing one? I’m thrilled. The two week run is scheduled for March/April 2009. The venue is the basement of the Joshua Brooks ; the shows will start at 7  because after our performances, the place will turn into a night club!

So began for us at JB Shorts a truly fantastic adventure that for the past two and a half years has attracted great scripts, terrific actors including some big names and the broadest cross-section of audiences that I have ever played to. People are often surprised when I say that of all the TV, Theatre and Radio I’ve done, nothing has given me more fun and satisfaction than my involvement in ‘JB Shorts’ – as actor, writer and team player. So here are a few of the reasons why I have felt that – and why I think JB Shorts is a terrific night out.

1.      QUALITY. Even though ‘JB Shorts’ is ‘profit-share’, we treat the work with exactly the same care and commitment that we would if we were staging a production for the Library Theatre, Royal Exchange, BBC or ITV ; from the scripts to the choice of directors to the casting to the stage management and technical side (all expertly overseen by our PO (Production Overlord), Roger Haines. John Henshaw, Sue Cleaver, Vicky Binns, Sam Siddall, Sue Twist, Arthur Bostrom are just some of the familiar names we’ve attracted in the past. For JB6, Karen Henthorn and Katy Cavanagh enter the fray, as part of another strong ‘JB Shorts’ line-up

2.     VALUE FOR MONEY. At the outset of JB Shorts, it was felt very strongly that the issue of price shouldn’t put anyone off. At just £6 for all tickets (A pound per play), JB Shorts represents the best value night of theatre around Manchester and well beyond.

3.     INCLUSIVITY – JB Shorts works for theatregoers and non-theatregoers like. Actors, directors, casting directors and so on all enjoy the night – as do many regular theatregoers. At the same time, people who previously never went to the theatre before in their lives, love coming to JB Shorts. Strong, varied pieces, an ensemble of around 20 actors – from familiar TV faces to some of the most exciting new actors around, established directors; affordably priced; if a particular play doesn’t tickle your fancy, there’ll be another one along in a few minutes; you can have a beer or a glass of wine while you’re watching – and all done and dusted by 9pm!

4.     CRITICAL ACCLAIM ; Alfred Hickling in the Guardian ‘couldn’t praise JB Shorts highly enough, Natalie Anglesey described it as ‘Master Craftsmen At Work’, whilst rave reviews in the Independent and a myriad of other papers and websites have all helped to cement JB Shorts’ reputation as a terrific night out. Three times, we have got the Critics’ Choice accolade in the Manchester Evening News. Joe Ransom won the best actor in a fringe production on the 2010 MEN Awards – for his performance in Lisa Holdsworth’s ‘Going To Extremes’ in JB4.

5.     ACCLAIM BEYOND THE CRITICS ; Maxine Peake, Simon Armitage, David Lloyd (Bumble), Jackie Kay and dozens of stars from Corrie, Emmerdale and other shows are regulars in the audience, sat shoulder to shoulder with the ‘JB Shorts’ faithful.

6.     ONE NATION THEATRE : To me, this is what it’s all about. Doing theatre - which is  entertaining and has relevance and a cutting edge - for the widest range of people. Joshua Brooks, our venue is literally on the street corner – and the shows we put on are aimed to be exactly that – in touch with its audience, offering both an escape from the daily grind and something to think about as well.

7.     THE JB SHORTS GANG ; Alongside all of this, we all have such a wonderful time doing this. In the ‘Age of Austerity’, it’s rare that you get to work with a company of around twenty actors – and even rarer to  work such a happy, committed troupe thereof – along with a dozen top writers and directors. We all put in so much to JB Shorts but it never feels like work because we know we’ll get back what we put in. Hopefully, the fun we have always communicates itself to our audiences.

8.     JB SHORTS THE SIXTH ; JB6 rehearsals and preparation are in full swing. Our JB writing debutante this time is Debbie Oates, top Coronation St writer and writer on such series as Robin Hood, Fat Friends, Primeval and NBC’s Crusoe. Chris Reason is back – fresh from his recent ‘Sony Gold Award for R4 Drama – alongside JB regulars Peter Kerry, Trevor Suthers, Lindzi Williams (now working on Eastenders) and that James Quinn. Yet again it’s so uplifting to see the rich blend of old and new talent coming together. Meanwhile, I tear what’s left of my hair out, trying find rehearsal space six different companies!. Not that I mind, of course. JB Shorts captured my heart long ago.....

So; whether you’ve seen JB Shorts before – or you’re a ‘JB Virgin’, come down to Joshua Brooks at 7pm between 11th and 22nd October and give us a go. We’re pretty sure you’ll have a nice night. And for those of you who are particularly choosy about your beer, there’s now even real ale too. Hope to see you there.