NOW IN its twelfth season, JB Shorts (Tuesday 7 to Saturday 18 October) continues to pack the basement of Joshua Brooks for an evening of short plays. Six in all, roughly fifteen minutes each. So short plays, usually short but sweet.
Each play has its own writer, director and cast. Standards are high, supported by strong writing from a varied collection of contributors whose writing credits are littered with BBC and ITV references.
Whilst slightly daring, the plays madcap approach to our understanding of the mysteries of the female orgasm fails to hit the spot.
Mr Normal written by Peter Kerry and James Quinn takes place in Tim’s secure basement shelter. An avid reader of The Daily Mail, Tim has predicted the worst and the zombie-plague ravaging the nation allows him credit for saving the family. A delightful performance by panto-writer Eric Potts puts the comedy to work. The serious theme relating to our perceptions of danger, could have been written more strongly, as it usually is when James Quinn is writing.
One of the stronger pieces, A Hairline Crack, by Jane MuNulty, is taut, with an underlying comedy. Two women, we’re unsure of their relationship, have their lives dominated by collecting, or is it hoarding? Their aspirations are long discarded, yet resurface. There’s more than a hint of Steptoe and Son as neediness, cruelty and a longing for something else swirl around in the conversation. Tiggo Goulding as the younger Ronnie, trapped by loyalty and by insecurity, Cathy Breeze and the frighteningly cruel but dependent Button, give fiercely believable performances.
Special Needs by Trevor Suthers revolves around an unseen daughter. Her parents Beverley and Greg have separated and there are arguments about access and sleep-overs, particularly now Greg has a new woman in his life, Rachel, only eight years older than his daughter. Everything that happens could happen with any family, but the fact of the daughter’s severe disabilities governs all. The play is about the effect this has on everyone involved, everyone except the daughter. The characters don’t appear to undergo any change in their outlook; perhaps that’s the point.
The most entertaining play is Paradise Island, an almost pantomime poke at perceptions and realities of democracy and power. Played at just the right pace it draws audience participation and laughs. If there’s a serious point struggling to get out it probably needs a longer script. Nevertheless it’s well-delivered, by Richard Hand as The King, John Cotterall as The Monster and, Abdullah Afzal, as the audience-engaging Abdullah, not forgetting the unnamed bear who performs Liz. You can see Abdullah in BBC’s Citizen Khan; I might just give that a second chance.
Prostrate, a comedy about prostate cancer, written by Martin Jameson who was diagnosed with the condition last year and named his tumour after his least favourite politician, is a very funny play about a middle-aged date at the ‘coffee’ stage being interrupted by reality. It’s a play with a delayed impact, well-performed by Joe Osborne, Alison Darling and Nathan Morris.
Good Vibrations by Carole Solazzo, who writes for The Archers, among other programmes, had been twitter-trailed, mainly for its use of the word v*gin*. I’m not being prudish, leaving the ‘a’s out; just google-protecting. Whilst slightly daring, its madcap approach to our understanding of the mysteries of the female orgasm lacks focus and fails to hit the spot... so to speak.
This isn’t the strongest JB Shorts I’ve attended, but is well worth an evening’s visit and £6 of your money. Be quick, though. Word has spread about JB Shorts. It’s often a sell-out and although tickets can be booked online it’s a good idea to get there early for the 7.00pm start: there’s no rake to the JB basement ‘auditorium’.
Joshua Brooks, 106 Princess Street, MANCHESTER M1 6NG
JB Shorts runs from Tuesday 7 to Saturday 18 October 2014 (NOT Sunday 12 October), 7.00 p.m. (Doors open 6.40 pm). Matinee: Sat 18 October, 3.00 pm.
Tickets: MON-THURS EVES/SAT MATINEE: £6, FRI-SAT EVES: £7
Tickets via We Got Tickets
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