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JB Shorts 5 (Manchester)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Venue: Joshua Brooks
Where: Manchester

JB Shorts returns again, presenting six different plays from top television writers within the relaxed setting of a pub.  

The evening sticks firmly to the cliché ‘Save the best till last’as Dave Simpson’s work exceeds the standards of the other pieces by miles.

 "We’re all in this together" cleverly injects the problems created through the choice of a coalition government with a striking humour that simultaneously makes you want to both laugh and cry.It helps that theatre-actor James Quinn (as leading man Jack) has successful comic timing, delivering the bulk of the dialogue to polished perfection.

The other five pieces have less sheen, showing potential, yet still giving the impression they are in the premature, ‘I am still being worked on’ stages.

Ian Kershaw’s Northern Sky has a solid foundation, its plot about technological mishaps and the rudeness of technical support providing something for every member of the audience to relate to. However, it all wraps up too quickly and thus loses the believability that makes it successful in the first place.

Snapshots by Diane Whitley embraces a similarly engaging idea. The piece really shows how a picture tells a thousand words – the problem here is that it feels like the words have been heard before, in the Dickensian classic, A Christmas Carol.

Coming a close second in the hierarchy of the evening is My Poor Fool Hang’d by Peter Kerry. The characterisation of the Jester is fully developed and is interpreted fabulously by John Catterall (who, I would go as far as to say steals the shorts performance-wise).

One overall comment, particularly in Andrew Kirk’s Placebo and Trevor Suther’s A Spectre Called is that actors need to tone down the shouting in such a confined space, to allow the writing to be taken seriously.

JB Shorts is the catwalk of the television industry – there’s going to be writing styles you love, and styles you’re not sure of, but they all ultimately add up to a highly satisfying night of entertainment.

- Rebecca Cohen.


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