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JB Shorts 3: Confidential says see this if you can

Sarah Tierney watches top TV scriptwriters and soap stars stretch their wings at Joshua Brooks

Published on March 18th 2010.


JB Shorts 3: Confidential says see this if you can

JB Shorts 3 is an evening of six, 15 minute plays currently showing every night in the cellar beneath Joshua Brooks. Each one is written by a TV scriptwriter – people who have put words in the mouths of characters on Eastenders, Emmerdale, and Coronation Street.

People fall in love, get shot, and are eaten by monkeys. A man tries to top himself by swallowing Scrabble pieces. A police officer buys his boss a gun for her birthday.

And each is performed by well-established actors, some of whom are familiar from the same shows. Unlike most fringe theatre experiments, these plays are created by those who have already 'made it' in their profession – big earners. It's a bit like going to watch Coldplay perform in your local pub (and only paying a fiver to get in).

TV scriptwriting is a notoriously tight craft – there's no room for flab when you've only got the space between ad breaks to tell the story. So although some writers might have found the short format limiting, these plays show just how much can happen in 15 minutes.

People fall in love, get shot, and are eaten by monkeys. A man tries to top himself by swallowing Scrabble pieces. A police officer buys his boss a gun for her birthday.

The plays are sharp, funny and clever. Many of them explore up-to-the-moment themes. In 'I'm Mad Me' by Emmerdale writer Andrew Kirk, Coronation Street's Vicky Binns plays a girl who wants more than anything to get into the Big Brother house – a fast route to 'having it all'.

In 'Quixotry' by another Emmerdale writer, Bafta-nominated Lindsay Williams, generation and culture gaps are explored as a champion Scrabble player is challenged by a young Asian woman who's been perfecting her skills online.

James Quinn's 'Backlash' is a Brass Eye-style satire on our half-hearted attempts to lead good, meaningful lives. Its well-observed mimicry of over-the-top TV presenters is made even funnier by the fact that it features Anthony Crank, who made his name presenting on T4, MTV and BBC1's The Holiday Show.

Scriptwriters are constrained by already-defined storylines in TV – they make the story happen rather than decide what the story is going to be. In these plays, you get a sense that they're intoxicated by the freedom of it all – the events are extreme and daft, and the outcome is absurd, fresh, and frequently hilarious. They're brave to put such big stories into such a small space of time, and it's a testament to their skill that they make it work.

It's the third time that the Real Life Theatre Company has put on a show of JB Shorts. The first two seasons got great reviews, award nominations, and sell out performances. This latest run deserves more of the same.

JB Shorts 3, Joshua Brooks, 106 Princess Street, until Saturday 27 March (not Sunday 21 March), 7pm (doors 6.40pm), £5 (buy on the door).

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