For anyone that doesn't know, can you tell us about the concept of JB Shorts?
JB Shorts is an evening of six short plays by writers from the UK’s top television programmes. All this takes place in the basement of Joshua Brooks, where the audience can get up close to the actors, and enjoy a drink too.
Why do you think the brand is now so successful?
This will be the 8th JB Shorts and by the end of this run we’ll have produced 48 world premieres. The writers have always been free to write about whatever they like, so this leads to an evening featuring both serious and comedic plays on a wide variety of subjects. We’ve had everything from monkeys to earthquakes, period dramas, to race riots. If one play is not for you, the next one will be along in fifteen minutes. And because JB Shorts takes place in a pub and finishes at 9pm, it can be the start of a great night out.
You always attract some great actors. What keeps them coming back?
Actors involved in JB Shorts have been both well known faces such as Sue Cleaver, John Henshaw, Arthur Bostrom and Katy Cavanagh, and really talented emerging actors too. It’s a great chance for them to get up close to an audience and work with new material too. One of the best things about doing JB Shorts is the amount of people you get to work with - we have writers, directors, and actors who first met doing the show and are now collaborating on other projects. Plus we have great parties too!
You write for Eastenders and have penned one of the new JB Shorts. How do the two experiences compare?
Writing for television shows such as Emmerdale and Eastenders is a brilliant chance to work with established characters and storylines. It’s amazing to write for iconic figures such as Dot Cotton, Phil Mitchell, or Zak Dingle, but with JB Shorts, I get to come up with my own characters and address subjects I feel strongly about. My mini play for JB Shorts 8 is The Bombmaker is a political drama set in Iran – something I probably wouldn’t get to do anywhere else. If these plays work, there’s always the potential to turn them into longer pieces.
How did JB Shorts come about?
JB Shorts was an idea by writers Trevor Suthers and John Chambers to get back to their routes in fringe theatre, they asked four television other writers to submit pieces and JB Shorts was born. A lot of the production is now done by the writers- who love the chance to get out of their offices and do something different- overseen by our overall director, Roger Haines, who makes sure we don’t get things too wrong.
The North West has a thriving theatre scene. What have you seen recently that you really enjoyed?
Black Roses at the Exchange Studio was an incredibly moving production with stunning performances from Julie Hesmondhalgh and Rachel Austin. I also really enjoyed Cathy Crabb’s The Bubbler – another example of what you can with just a great piece of writing and talented actors, in a pub.
How long does it take to write a JB Short and is it a collaborative process?
It’s a very collaborative process, which is one of the great things about it. I usually write a first draft over the space of a week, then talk to my director (in this case Adam Quayle from Box of Tricks Theatre) and take on board any notes. Once the actors are cast, we do another draft but as far as I’m concerned the script isn’t fixed until opening night - which gives everyone the chance to bring something to the play.
Why should audiences come along?
It’s a great evening of new writing where you’ll get to see some of the best talent in the North West up close. There are fun comedies about drunken nights out - Carole Solazzo’s Seeds and Ian Kershaw's A Christmas Carole - to James Quinn’s Red - a play about football rivalries in Manchester. All this is just £6 – a pound a play. Why wouldn’t anyone want to come along!
JB Shorts 8 is at Joshua Brooks in Manchester from 9 - 20 October.