Review: JB Shorts Reloaded at 53two

The ideal short – film, story, play should leave the audience wanting more without needing more.

Celebrating 10 years of theatre production and story telling, 20 sell-out seasons and 120 world premieres, JB Shorts have brought something extra special to those glorious arches of 53two.

On until 30th March, JB Shorts Reloaded brings six JB Shorts classics back to the stage, featuring both original and new actors to the productions.

Six shorts, I could write a lengthy blog post about each. And wax lyrical about each. And other such clichés. Individually and as a collective, JB Shorts Reloaded brought 90 minutes of laughter, sorrow, shock, captivation and overall entertainment to the table. And indeed the arch.

And come the interval, I was already wishing each short was a long.

Each play so different to the last, as each cast took their bows, I was left wanting (not needing) more, yet within minutes I was already transfixed and enraptured by the next…(In the spirit of the subject, I’ll try keep this short – and no spoilers)

  • At the End of the Day – originally playing March 2009

Featuring Alexandra Maxwell, Philip Shaun McGuinness, Callum Sim, Peter Slater and James Quinn (also writer and director) – please do forgive me Mr Quinn…

to the regiment!

with Aileen Quinn as assistant director, this took us into the familiar world of Premier League post-match coverage, as the action jumped from the studio to the post-match interviews with players and managers alike – each character strangely familiar to us all, each bringing their own brand of wrong.

A joyous 15 minutes of knowing clichés from the footballing world, a laugh out loud start to proceedings. Bawdy, well-observed and, importantly, very, very funny.

  • Banal Encounter – originally playing October 2009

Featuring Andrew Bentley and Laura Littlewood, written by Peter Kerry and directed by Chris Bridgman, in scenes reminiscent of, of course, Brief Encounter, two chippy commuters meet on the platform, time taking them further into each others confidences, swapping pithy stories about each others domestic lives.

So far, so quaint. Until it isn’t.

And as the mood takes a turn for the worst, this short and the talent on stage will leave you thoughtful, moved, shocked…transfixed.

But then there was barely time for recovery as the first half was brought to a close by…

  • Blind Date – originally playing March 2013

Talk about mood shift. Featuring Susan McArdle and Will Travis, written by Dave Simpson and directed by Alice Bartlett, we were catapulted into the heady world of online dating.

Six years from its original debut, the principles of hidden identities on online profiles continues to apply through all social media – intended or not.

Self-promotion is the name of the game but there’s no time for a deep analysis of society today. Because I need to tell you what a riot this short was. Physical, character comedy at its best, I screamed as the two misfits met and their disguises began to unravel.

I didn’t actually scream – that would be mental and I’d probably be asked to leave the arches, forthwith. Anyway, bloody funny and a slight almost twist in the tale.

Now I could, at this point, review my interval drinks but why make my review about shorts into an even longer post than it ironically already is (nice drop of red).

  • Snapshots – originally playing March 2011

Now this was very special in the clever construction of the narrative. Featuring Glenn Cunningham, Julie Edwards, Beth Nolan and Sean Ward, written by Diane Whitley and directed by Rachel Brogan, this short takes us straight into a couple’s anniversary party, hosted by their granddaughter, Zoe. and her (somewhat reluctant) boyfriend.

Laying on a surprise photographic slideshow of their marriage, the latter couple then take on dual roles as the grandparents during their younger years. The different chapters of their relationship are punctuated by each photo, as the elder ,present day, couple add an inner monologue narrative to each picture and its era.

It’s insightful, sad, smart, funny and if my clumsy description of how the play was constructed has you confused, then that’s another reason why I urge you to get tickets. It’s on purpose, you see.

  • The  Outing – originally playing November 2015

Featuring Richard Hawley, Jeni Howarth-Williams and Kerry Willison-Parry, written by Lindsay Williams and directed by Miranda Parker, this short sends us down a path of nostalgia, sentimentality, sweet and safe story-telling as two middle-aged people meet on a coach trip to Conway. Chips, seagulls, castles, paddling, it’s all very seaside postcard.

One word, well ‘name’, wlll make you sit up and take notice as the short sends you down a more sinister path all together and start you thinking, ‘are the parents always to blame?’

Thought-provoking, sensitively done and clever.

But thoughts put on hold, it was time for the final short. What was left to pull out of the bag?

  • Can We Stop it There? – originally playing October 2009

(deep breath) Featuring Arthur Bostrom (yes, it’s really him – I’ll spare you and him any predictable catchphrases – I’m still feeling bad about Mr Quinn), Lucienne Browne, Martelle Edinborough, Darren Jeffries, Emily Spowage and  Rob Stuart-Hudson, written by Trevor Suthers and directed by Brainne Edge (or was it…), this truly was an ensemble piece.

Self-referential, meta, however you want to term it, this wonderful farce in the finest traditional sense, was a cacophony of red herrings, accents, wry looks, bum steers, theatrical nods and in-jokes. It was frantic, funny, riotous and the perfect way to end what was an epic evening of fringe theatre from JB Shorts.

I truly love this form of theatre as I wrote in my post Review – Talk to Yourself at The Kings Arms only a couple of weeks ago.

We’re truly spoiled in this neck of the woods by the accessibility to such talent and with six wonderful shorts each as rich in narrative, production, acting and entertainment as the one it follows, this is your opportunity to see a wealth of talent in a wonderful space, for a wonderful price.

In short, go.

For further details and tickets, see JBShorts.co.uk


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