JB Shorts always provides an interesting mix-up of styles and approaches, and none more so than on this, its ninth outing. Although there is diversity in setting and mood among the plays, from police training and first dates to breakdowns and bonhomie, there are some common themes. Technology, and the frustration with it, comes up several times, as does the role of the writer; two of the six plays deal directly with the struggle of writing. But, as always in this short format, simple stories with emotional truths make for the best work. Blind Date covers old ground – dating – in a way that makes it seem new. In this two-person play, writer Dave Simpson looks at dating for people with low self-esteem, who are trying to make the best of what they see as a bad hand. We already know that people exaggerate when they meet online, and that meeting someone new can be a stomach swirling experience, but the innocence and directness of the two characters cuts away preconceptions, and reveals the humanity behind looking for love. It deals with the topic in a humorous, but melancholic, way. Susan McArdale and Will Travis are funny and likeable as the two would-be lovers, while director Alice Bartlett makes use of some wonderful transitional scenes to hold it all together. A very good play, indeed. Old, New, Borrowed And Blue is at the other end of the love spectrum, set moments before a wedding is due to take place. The main characters are two sisters, one of whom is about to get married, while the other thinks it is all a big mistake. They cover their family history and the trajectory of their lives as each tries to convert the other to her point of view. Samantha Power is excellent as the bride-to-be, dishing out some very intense glares and stares without being over the top. The play also manages to do something very tricky in 15 minutes, which is to have a twist that is not obvious yet not unexpected and, hardest of all, not contrived. As alluded to already, two of the plays deal with the difficulties of being a writer and expressing yourself creatively. Are We Cool sends up late night review programs like Newsnight Review in a way that, while entertaining, does not cover new ground. The jokes of writer James Quinn gained the cast some of the biggest laughs of the night, but the play descends into farce for no good reason. In a similar vein, The Script plays on a fairly familiar idea that ‘luvvies’ end up destroying the thing they set out to create, namely by ignoring the writer. Again, the play is funny in parts, and very well performed, but it is too easy a target. The remaining two plays struggle with the parameters of JB Shorts. 15 minutes is not a long time for a play, and the set and staging are inherently limited. Zeroes And Ones deals with a man having a temporary breakdown, and conveys the stress of family life very well, but some of the speeches about the evils of technology seem a bit sluggish, and there is simply not enough time to deal with so many conflicting and difficult issues. Baaji On The Beat, on the other hand, needs more focus and a more believable set up, as it quickly descends into silliness. As ever, some moments are brighter than others, but the overall quality of the six 15 minute plays is excellent, and JB Shorts continues to be something to look forward to in the theatre calendar. Words: Andrew Anderson. Images: courtesy of Joshua Brooks.