Friday, 8 April 2016

JB Shorts 15 @ Josuha Brooks, 7.4.16

Audiences for theatre are a bit like church goers. They feel they ought to go but rarely feel enthused enough to actually attend. Maybe it's too expensive, too time consuming, hard to follow or just plain boring. Not so for JB Shorts however. JB is the perfect evening for people who want to dip a toe back into live theatre, or even engage with it for the first time. Six 15 minute, stand alone pieces – a smorgasbord of drama featuring a range of characters and mini tales. If you don't find yourself getting into a particular piece, fret not, there's a whole new story coming along shortly. It isn't easy to write a 15 minute piece; you have to hit the ground running to grab the audience’s attention, lay out a scenario and quickly establish characters but, the writers of JB Shorts 15 by and large, made an impression with every piece.

The Intruder (Diane Whitley) tells of a break-in that causes two elderly sisters to reminisce about a past event. It's left to our imagination to decide what happened but the main focus of the play centres on the effects of Dementia. Thanks to the engaging performances of Joan Kempson and Melissa Sinden and the warm humour in the writing, this piece manages to make the audience smile despite the subject matter. 

Two women meet for a reunion with their 'wild child' school friend in A Different Time by Lia Holdsworth. There's clearly no love lost here, as the former class mates exchange fantastically awful remarks and opinions on each others lives. This is where the piece is at its funniest, as Linda and Amanda viciously chip away at each other, expertly displaying the competitive nature of school reunions. When wild child Samantha does appear, she is a reformed character who forces them to re-evaluate what actually went on in the past. 

Office life can be a battery hen existence, punctuated by pointless and boring meetings. This gathering is attended by characters that we can all recognise; the timid woman who somehow became a manager, the disenchanted go-getter getting nowhere, the skiver and the unbearably smug know-it-all (a hilarious Will Travis). Peter Kerry’s Humble at times gets a little too OTT, and even though we know the pay off from the outset, it's a journey of belly laughs getting there. 

If the scene from the Last Supper had happened up North; False Prophet is how it might have played out. Jesus, a fading star with wannabes snapping at his heels and his disciples of fans worshipping a new kid in town. It's a clever and funny idea written by Paul Coates, that the enthusiastic cast wring every last laugh out of. 

Build A Bonfire by Trevor Suthers suffered a little by being the only straight play in a collection of comedies, but it did raise an interesting point about art and censorship. Should the crimes of the creative prevent their work from being displayed? However, the characters and their middle class world were a little clichéd and difficult to sympathise with. 

A Labour Party Spin Doctor ends up in a coma after Ed Milliband fails at the Polls. Fedora wakes up weeks later, only to discover Jeremy Corbyn is the new Labour leader. Paul Mason and James Quinn’s Party Animals is the strongest and funniest play of the evening. Fedora is an appalling, outrageous yet fantastic creation thanks to the combination of sharp, topical writing and a magnificent performance from Sally Carman who quite rightly got the best reception of the night. 

A thoroughly enjoyable evening of theatre in a wonderfully intimate venue. 

Words: Drew Tosh 

Photos: Courtesy of JB Shorts

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