JB Shorts started life as an idea between two writers Trevor Suthers and John Chambers to produce short plays written by TV writers with the original venue being Joshua Brookes. Now celebrating its 10th Anniversary JB Shorts has moved to 53Two recreating the ‘dark cellar’ atmosphere that was so popular. This bi-annual event has evolved to include new writers, actors and directors and last night JB Shorts presented their 21st show.
For those who do not know the format, there are six plays performed back to back for approximately 15 minutes each with an interval after the third.
The first play got us off to a good start. Having endured years of having to watch Match of the Day when I was young (we only had one TV which only had three channels – real hardship according to my son), ‘At the End of the Day’ was a fantastic take on sports journalism on live TV. This parody was so well written, all the humour flowed easily, and the audience were in stitches. Certainly, the reaction you want to a comedy. Two of the actors Philip Shaun McGuinness and Peter Slater moved seamlessly between multiple characters which is no mean feat in such a short play and Alexander Maxwell did well to be their foil (I couldn’t have kept a straight face)!
We moved quickly into a play with a different pace and subject. ‘Banal Encounter’ set on a railway platform explores the lives of Lottie (Laura Littlewood) and Wilf (Andrew Bentley) who regularly meet on their commute to work. As the play unfolds we hear more and more about the lives of these two people from their conversations. Even though I enjoyed the play I did feel that the ending could have been stronger, the play took us on a journey, but I felt it could have concluded with a greater impact. The piece was well acted, and the sound and lighting added to the atmosphere, making us feel that they were indeed standing on a platform.
The final play of the first half was ‘Blind Date’. Andrew (Will Travis) and Angela (Susan McArdle) are both looking for a blind date. This is the familiar story of two people looking for their perfect partner on an online dating website and the ability to create humour out of this situation is grasped with both hands by the writer (Dave Simpson) and the actors (Travis and McArdle).
After the interval we had ‘Snapshots’ which is such an original idea. Zoe (Beth Nolan) is hosting a celebration for her Grandparents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary. She has organised a slide show, but is this such a good idea? Moving between the past and the present revisiting both joyful and painful memories, this play is bitter sweet and tugs at the heart strings. Very clever writing and beautifully performed.
A day trip to the seaside is the subject of ‘The Outing’. This description seems so simple, but this play is so much more. A secret that will be unearthed as Frank (Richard Hawley) and Nellie (Jeni Howarth-Williams) get acquainted. Neither of them is whom they seem to be. What begins as a gentle comedy soon turns into a harrowing tale as the layers are peeled away and the truth is exposed. Once again, exceptional writing exploring deep emotions and passing judgement on other people’s lives.
Finally, the last play, or is it? Is it a play at all? ‘Can We Stop It There’ is a riot of confusion. The audience are challenged to decide for themselves in this chaotic, humorous play that constantly throws us off our game as we finally think we know – or do we?
Six wonderful plays in a setting which fully included the audience who were absolutely loving the fantastic atmosphere created by such great writing and imagination. Long may JB Shorts continue!
This will sell out so grab tickets while you can!
JB Shorts is running from Tuesday 19th March 2019 to Saturday 30th March 2019 (not 24th or 25th) held at 53two. Tickets available at http://53two.com/jb-shorts/4593805521
Reviewer: Caroline Worswick
Reviewed: 21st March 2019