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BY ROCIO BELINDA MENDEZ

The notorious ‘biggest, little theatre festival in the world’, is celebrating it’s sweet 16th this year in its city of origin – Sydney! A now global festival, Short+Sweet is presenting contemporary, experimental, artistic, and exciting works that challenge, inform and entertain their audience; all within the short span of 10 minutes.

With over 120 segments of storytelling unfolding this year, Wayne Tunks, Festival Director for 2017 has added some innovative elements into the programme. They are sure to please, and provide more opportunity for inspiration on and off the stage. Having been a participant himself, in the original 2003 Short+Sweet, Tunks is no stranger to the theatre world. Using his prolific industry experience, and his own personal story as inspiration, this year S+S has implemented a Short+Sweet Queer category to coincide with Mardi Gras. A new facet of the festival showcasing LGBT talent, narratives and the like. “As a gay writer, actor and director myself, I always feel very passionate telling stories about my community,” he said. The programs in the Short+Sweet Queer are very wide and eclectic in ideas, topics and presentation – a very exciting addition to commemorate its 16th year.

Another innovation is the Festival Directors Choice Award. “[It’s] a way for me to honour a play that’s missed out from the awards, one that I believe has done an outstanding job, has a wonderful script, and has used the collaborative experience to produce a great result.”

Beard, winner of the Festival Directors choice award, and a fellow contestant in the Short+Sweet Queer category, is wowing the festival already.

‘Beard’

A play based on two strangers that meet outside of a religious gay therapy clinic. They quickly find common ground through an awkward introduction, leading to a bonding conversation about keeping their sexuality a secret due to family disapproval. They decide to be each other’s ‘beard’. “Mainly the term “beard” is used when a gay person asks a straight person to pretend to be in a heterosexual relationship with them,” said co-writer and director Robert Minitier.

Partly inspired by a true story of a man who documented his experience in an aversion therapy center for homosexuality, read by both Minitier and co-writer/fellow cast member Erin Middleton. Beard is a touching and heart-warming play that keeps itself raw, and without flash. “We use very normal colours, and unassuming clothes. There are no props, no special lighting, it’s a pretty naked production,” explained Minitier. “A reminder that as much as you lie to yourself, you’re inadvertently going to do what benefits you. Love yourself, and love other people, and what you are.”

Dead Giveaway is the winner of week one, and showcases an interesting love story. “Robert buys his wife an unconventional gift for Valentine’s Day – a double burial plot, which leads to an awkward conversation about love after death.” This comedy celebrates laughter and seeing the absurdity in a seemingly innocent situation, poking fun at everyday circumstances in relationships. A creative and interesting story that touches on serious topics all the while keeping it light, and relatable. “You can have a good quality fun comedy in 10 minutes, a satisfying audience experience. It’s lighthearted and it’s meant to be taken that way,” explained co-director and cast member Felicity Burke.

‘Dead Giveaway’

Another amazing aspect of this Short+Sweet festival is the Wildcards selections, which are shown during the weekends. Plays that didn’t get picked in the main season have another chance to be seen during the Wildcard season, another way this wonderful festival is supporting and nurturing creative expression and talent, and allowing opportunity to be inevitable for the contestants.

“[This festival is] such an amazing opportunity for people to come together and create art. It’s about that collaborative experience. Short+Sweet gives people the opportunity to create theatre that they otherwise might not have been able to do. A way to trial out their work, and stretch their legs through theatre,” said Tunks.

Wayne himself has completed a non-competition play called 8 Months and 17 Days, which will show during the Wildcards, then later on in the Short+Sweet Queer segments.

With an amazing selection of talent featured in this year’s festival, Dress Ups from Grinning Shark productions is in the running during week two of the festival. “We all like to play. But be careful which game you choose.” Other titles include It’s a tragedy, T3 Trojan, Attachment Theory, Moist, Moon Baby and over 110 more!

One final element of Short+Sweets’ 16th birthday celebrations is the addition of the brand new Film division. After years of showcasing live performance, whether that be theatre, dance or music, so with so many great stories to draw it was finally time to explore non-live storytelling, and thus the move to film was only natural.

The winning film from Sydney will be screened in Los Angeles at the Short+Sweet Hollywood Film Festival International Grand Finals in late 2017, with many other awesome prizes up for grabs such as mentorships, management and equipment.

Short+Sweet Film screenings will take place on Mondays throughout February at Blood Moon before a grand final at Dendy Cinema Newtown, programme to be announced February 7.

This year more than ever, Short+Sweet provides an exciting and varied festival program with 10-minute bites to sink your teeth into.

SHORT+SWEET THEATRE
Until Mar 18, Weds-Sun, 7.30pm. The Depot Theatre, 142 Addison Rd, Marrickville. $23-$30.

Wildcards: until Mar 5, Sat + Sun, 4pm. $23-$30.

Short+Sweet Queer: Mar 7 + 8, 7.30pm. $23-$30.

Festival Director’s Showcase: Mar 9 + 10. $23-$30.

People’s Choice Showcase: Mar 11 + 12, 7.30pm. $23-$30.

Gala Finals: Mar 16-18, 7.30pm. $30-$38.

SHORT+SWEET FILM
Feb 13, 20, 27 + Mar 13, 7pm. Blood Moon Theatre in The World Bar, 24 Bayswater Rd, Kings Cross. $15-$20.

Finals: Mar 19, 6pm. Dendy Cinema, 261-263 King St, Newtown. $25-$30.

Tickets & info: www.shortandsweet.org