A wonderfully diverse menu of nine short plays that whet the appetite just enough to make us greedy for more.
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Sam Paine and Esther Wilson in Storm Shelter. Photo by Peter Gumpert.

The stage is barely visible but there is just enough light to see a spare steel bench, awaiting the performers. Suddenly a bright light focuses on a clown riding madly on a bicycle. He should be in a circus – he even says so – but instead he’s performing in what is identified as an underground station. Another figure appears: a young, attractive woman waiting anxiously for a train. She is holding a mobile phone and uses it more than occasionally in resisting the clown’s attempts to distract her.

Jack Nicolson’s interpretation of the Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) seems to be channeled by Sam Paine’s very playful clown, who speaks in rhyming couplets and initially presents as menacing. The audience thinks the woman is in danger but later realise that ‘all is not what it seems’ – a thematic running throughout this very short play.

Storm Shelter is one of nine short plays out of a selection currently touring the Central West of New South Wales. It is part of a collection of very sharp theatre productions that work as a compilation, as well as a presentation of disparate narratives.

The nine plays are carefully selected. The chosen writers were shortlisted from a performance of ‘shorts’ presented last year in Bathurst, Mudgee and Dubbo. Under the mentorship of Alex Broun, writers spent months redrafting their scripts. Further mentoring and drafting continued in 2015 under the guidance of Becky Russell and Fiona Green. The end result is an astonishing collection of plays: SnapShorts.

SnapShorts showcases the best work of regional writers, actors and directors. Supported by the Local Stages program, Regional Arts NSW and various small businesses in Bathurst, Dubbo and Mudgee, audiences are delighted by eloquent storytelling and adroit acting.

The series of plays capture life’s painful truths, traumas and absurdities. In fact, the division between theatre and life is questioned throughout as we witness stagehands changing props between every play. There is no curtain separating the drama on stage and the audiences who watch it. Spectators are given an insight into activities that usually take place behind a curtain. The visible and extremely efficient movement of props also ensures fluency between each play. No time is wasted.

Two productions, Café Valentine, written by Alison Charters, and Josh Hayward’s Edmund Boot, arguably stay most in the memory. The first depicts the poignant truth of loneliness and the need to be loved. The second provides a hilarious account of regional theatre. Michael West is extremely amusing as the titular Edmund Boot, whose single ambition is to be an amateur actor. The division between life and theatre is again blurred as we revel in its whimsical absurdities.

SnapShorts provides audiences with a wonderfully diverse menu of nine dynamic and exciting plays that operate like entrees, whetting the appetite just enough to make us greedy for more.

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Central West Short Play Festival — SnapShorts
Artistic Director and Coordinator: Becky Russell
Producer, Local Stages: Kylie Shead
Sound & AV Designer: Brendan Napier
Set Design & Construction: Karl Shead (Charles Sturt University)
Lighting Design: Becky Russell
Stage Manager: Fiona Russell
Assistant Stage Managers: Maree Harries, Ben Rodwell (Charles Sturt University Intern)
Writing Mentor: Alex Broun
Directing Mentors: Becky Russell & Fiona Green

Bathurst Memorial Entertainment Centre: 4 July
Mudgee Town Hall: 17-18 July
Dubbo Regional Theatre and Convention Centre: 31 July

Suzie Gibson
About the Author
Dr Suzie Gibson is a Senior Lecturer in English at Charles Sturt University.