JB Shorts 2 (Manchester)
Venue: Joshua Brooks
JB Shorts 2, a collection of new plays presented by Real Life Theatre Company, merges the prestige of BBC writing with an avant-garde style location. Performed in the informal setting of Joshua Brooks, the diversity of each piece fashions an ultimately unique evening for any theatre or television follower.
As is the case in a festival, you have to receive each of the six works as experiments, being guinea pigs to a variety of different styles and themes, as well as to flops and successes.
The first of the plays, Bursting, by Lisa Holdsworth, provides a light-hearted start to the night, the two actors Gemma North and Murray Taylor working well together in a story regarding coincidental encounters. Humour is sometimes lost, yet whether this is down to the writing or the way it is delivered is a question open for debate.
With the previous potential of Holdsworth’s writing, Little Ms Looney by John Chambers regrettably disappoints. At times, it is difficult to determine the tone of the piece, causing silence in the audience, when there ought to be laughter. Over-acted and at times monotonous, this is the least engaging of all the works.
Banal Encounter (Peter Kerry) and And That’s A Rap (James Quinn) are both easy pieces to follow, presenting sombre issues of Nazi Germany (BE) and crime culture (ATAR) in an accessible manner. Both writers provide notable narratives, which are acted by equally strong casts.
The cliché phrase, ‘save the best till last’ certainly applies to this evening of entertainment, the highlights being Can We Stop It There, which precedes interval and the final piece, Marriages Are Made In Heaven.
‘CWSIT’, by Trevor Suthers has a hilariously farcical and cyclical plot that tells of a play within a play within a play and goes down tremendously well in the audience. There is not one weak link in the cast, yet Harriot Barrow who plays Angela still manages to shine, proving she is a face to look out for in the future.
Two person show, ‘MAMIH’ boasts the most acclaimed actress, Sue Cleaver, famous for her role as Eileen Grimshaw in Coronation Street. Direct address, multi-rolling (performed effortlessly by James Quinn) and flashbacks create impressive comic moments that are cleverly combined with an underlying morbidity, by writer Dave Simpson.
Although seating arrangements are quite cramped and some plays undoubtedly outdo others, this is a cheap and informal evening that is worth being a part of.