Saturday, 26 April 2014

JB Shorts 11 @ Joshua Brooks, 08.04.14

While one game of two halves played out on the big screen upstairs at Joshua Brooks, another took to the small stage downstairs with the 11th instalment of JB Shorts.

As the lights came up we were presented with a woman attempting to hang herself in Whose Dog Is it Anyway. Perhaps not the most cheerful way to kick off proceedings, but it certainly grabbed the attention. The ensuing dialogue between the suicidal lady and her ex-husband was funny - it is not often that you get quite so many dog related sex jokes in a ten minute piece - but overall it felt lightweight, and the issue of suicide was brushed over a touch too lightly. Next came Break, a teacher’s lounge comic rant that required a little too much suspension of disbelief to really work. A slightly disappointing first half was brought to a close by I See Dead People, a piece that followed the path of a television medium out on tour. A great topic for a play, it explored some interesting ideas – and featured a strong central performance from Julie Hannan – but this was another script that was too outlandish to engender emotional investment.

After the half time oranges were eaten things began to look up. The Ballad of Valentino Rivas was delightfully silly, telling the tale of a Mexican singer through song, something I am not sure has been done at JB before. Slightly off-kilter accents and singing only added to the fun, and it would be great to see more musicals in future editions. A hard act to follow, but the next play on stage managed to actually surpass it, this time with heart rather than harmonies. Leaky Bacon told a simple story of how different generations relate, make expectations and care for one another. Jacqueline Pilton gave the outstanding performance of the night as a fussy but loveable Nan, while Justin Moorhouse's script has me eager to see more of his work. A Great War closed out the evening, satirising the folly of World War One by telling it in the style of rolling news coverage. Peter Kerry and James Quinn's script had great jokes, and Chris Horner's directing kept the whole thing moving along at the requisite break-neck speed.

So, while the first half might have missed the spot the second more than made up for it through originality, quality and charm. It was nice to see some new faces among the cast, and in fact the whole evening felt fresh and rejuvenated after JB’s usual winter hibernation. It might be into its eleventh edition, but JB Shorts is showing no signs of giving up the game just yet.

Words: Andrew Anderson

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