Arts & Entertainment

Theatre For People Who Hate Theatre

COMPLEX featuring Ethan Taylor, Davo Hardy & Jem Rose Bartlett.

If you don’t like what Short+Sweet is doing, relax – they’ve got a new piece for you in about 10 minutes.

The Short+Sweet theatre festival is back for a historic 19th year. Since its inception this humble little presentation – an evening of theatre, dance, cabaret and comedy, in fast and furious ten-minute chunks – has spread its unique format across Australia and the globe. The festival now boasts iterations as far afield as Los Angeles, New Zealand, India, Malaysia, Ireland and the Middle East.

Although the proliferation of Short+Sweet around the globe is to be applauded, that is not the festival’s crowning glory. Its biggest achievement has been the many careers it has fostered and the continued pathways into the creative industries that Short+Sweet still provides to this day.

Some of the most notable alumni to develop from the Sydney instalments of Short+Sweet include Rose Byrne, Josh Lawson, Damon Herriman, Andrew Steel and Queensland Theatre Company’s artistic director Lee Lewis. For all of the aspiring artists who are set to participate this year seeing these names is incredibly motivating.

“When they speak of the alumni it is very encouraging because those people are going above and beyond in the industry today but it all germinated back in Short+Sweet,” explained festival participant Davo Hardy. “Short+Sweet is such an attractive festival to up and coming people because it bridges the gap between hobbyist and professional.”

Short+Sweet 2020 will be Hardy’s second year participating in the festival. This year Hardy will present two shows, Complex which is about a man looking for a new flatmate but neglecting to inform them he is a nudist and Silent Agreement which is performed entirely in Auslan sign language.

According to Hardy without Short+Sweet it’s unlikely that he could have presented these shows. “Both of these shows, Complex because of the nudity and Silent Agreement because of the sign language, are quite niche so finding an audience would have been tough. Short+Sweet though is an open format to express one’s self to an unbiased audience.

According to festival director Sarah Purdue once the participants find an audience through Short+Sweet they often go on to forge pathways into the creative industries by themselves.

“The actors, directors and participants in Short+Sweet always find a way to network and go to create more and more work for each other.”

This community aspect of the festival is perhaps surprising given that there is a competitive element to Short+Sweet. Throughout the 10 week festival there are a series of eight heats, where each show is judged by a group of invited judges, before the best of the best are gathered for a series of finals showcases.

This year’s judges are Peter Mochrie, Tony Bonner, Amanda Muggleton, Peter Kowitz, Danny Adcock, Faith Martin, and Jo Briant.

“The judges are really well established television, film and theatrical actors themselves. They’re giving their opinion based on a set of criteria but will obviously also take into account their own personal preferences to choose their favourite three shows each heat,” explained Purdue.

Whilst there is a competitive nature to the festival Hardy told City Hub it avoids becoming nasty.

“People get a bit of an incentive by having some friendly competition. As a performer the competitiveness simply gives you that sense of ‘don’t half-arse it’. especially when there is a cash prize at the end.”

This is something which Purdue echoed in her remarks when asked about the competitiveness between artists, “It’s a really interesting festival to be a part of from my end, even though it is competitive it’s also incredibly collaborative. There’s a real sense of camaraderie when you walk through the doors and see the directors supporting each other. The competitive aspect of the festival is really secondary to the fact that they get to perform up to five times per week.”

The final special aspect of the Short+Sweet festival is the way in which it opens live theatre and performance up to a whole new audience, both in regards to creators and patrons.

Thanks to its format, which presents between 10 to 12 different 10 minute plays each night, Short+Sweet is much more accessible and attainable for new creatives.

“The 10 minute format allows people to get involved creatively, but not in a way which is as time consuming as a full play that would require months and months of rehearsals and preparation,” explained Purdue, “It’s literally short and sweet, you can jump in and see that creative side of you and then jump out again, which is why we see people keep coming back year after year.”

A sentiment which Hardy agreed with, “A new artist, writer, director or performer could get overwhelmed by a large scale production. Whereas 10 minutes sounds doable, whether you’re a novice or seasoned professional 10 minutes is 10 minutes.  How you work with that time is up to you but the format creates a healthy restriction on your experimentation and forces you to reassess your story and themes.”

For audiences this format also means that the risk for novice theatre attendees is somewhat diminished. New attendees don’t have to fear sitting through two hours of a play they don’t enjoy, at Short+Sweet at least one of the plays will resonate with you.

“For some audience members they may love every single one of them,” said Purdue, “but for others the first play might not take their fancy but then the second and third play will. It’s a beautiful introduction to live theatre.”

Until Apr 26. Short+Sweet Theatre (Tom Mann Theatre), 136 Chalmers St, Surry Hills. $15-$27+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.shortandsweet.org