By Emily Shen
Short+Sweet, the world’s biggest little theatre festival, returns to Sydney in 2018 for its 17th year running. Featuring a huge array of theatre, dance, cabaret and comedy performances – all in ten-minute bite-sized chunks – the originally Sydney-based festival has spawned numerous versions around the globe.
“It’s a great opportunity for up-and-comers in terms of the creative arts scene to showcase their works and what they’re currently working on,” says Annisa Belonogoff, who is starring in her one-woman play, Reality Check by Elizabeth during the festival.
“Short+Sweet bridges that gap for artists new to the scene who don’t have the budget or backing to create their own show from scratch. It allows people to essentially start their vision or dream without worrying about a massive financial responsibility.”
The festival will see 160 plays performed across eight weeks, with all plays selected via a rigorous merit-based process.
Reality Check by Elizabeth is the truth about online dating in comedic form with Annisa playing hapless romantic, Elizabeth Dawson.
“I like to make fun of how we are in society today and make it a little lighter and not so heavy. I also want to show the humour, the comedy and the love for a person when they’re being themselves – in whatever shape that looks like. That’s truth and reality,” says Annisa.
“But also be prepared to laugh!”
The Last Cuppa, written by Allan West and directed by Simon Doctor, is a thought-provoking and touching tale of an elderly couple whose lives begin to unravel following a celebratory cup of tea.
“It’s a really surprising play, which is the key to Short+Sweet. You want to stay away from predictability,” says Rowena McNichol, who plays Vicky, the adult child of the couple. “It becomes quite a moving story of family and relationships and the breakdown of those. Everyone can relate to family tension and friction.”
The Perfect Life is a quick-paced, absurdist comedy with touches of poignancy throughout. The play tracks the life of a man named Jethro, from birth to death and is a broader reflection of social expectations of how people should be going about their lives.
“It explores the issue of individuals trying to build perfect lives for themselves but there’s just no such thing as a perfect life,” says Nisrine Amine, the director of The Perfect Life in her first time directing adult theatre.
“It’s the perfect time for this play to be shown because of the increasing hustle and bustle of daily life and all that’s going on in the world.”
The ten minute format of Short+Sweet’s works has also allowed the cast of The Perfect Life to capitalise on the absurdist idea of cramming a lifetime into ten minutes. “At the end of the day, nothing lasts forever,” says Nisrine.
Short+Sweet has three core aims to develop artistry for its performers, showcase the final works and create excellence to stimulate its audiences. Creating supportive workplaces for artists to learn and collaborate together on an ongoing basis, the festival has also been unparalleled in creating a platform for creative risk-taking
“Many writers get overwhelmed and discouraged because of the time. Ten minutes becomes attainable for someone just starting in the industry,” says Nisrine. “It’s open to anybody to help them experiment.”
Short+Sweet has also been lauded for both giving its performers the opportunity to publicise their work and for expanding the tastes of its audiences.
“Unlike other countries with a strong theatre culture, going to the theatre isn’t as widespread of an activity in Sydney. Short+Sweet is a lot more accessible as a festival,” says Rowena. “It’s ten minutes, it’s bite sized and there’s lots of variety to appeal more to the average person.”
With so many different types of performance on show over the eight weeks and with two programmes each week, audiences are bound to discover something to their tastes regardless of whether they come from a theatre background or not.
“A lot of people find theatre quite confronting but the most brilliant thing about Short+Sweet is that they pride themselves on that variety every week,” says Annisa. “It allows people to open up their minds to things they haven’t seen before or re-emphasise things that they do like.”
Jan 28-Mar 31. Short+Sweet Theatre (at Tom Mann Theatre), 136 Chalmers Street, Surry Hills. Various Prices. Tickets & Info: www.shortandsweet.org/