Short and Sweet Festival always attracts attention. The sheer quantity of people involved is impressive. A multitude of people, writers, directors, actors and crew dedicate their precious time, talents and resources: begging, borrowing and stealing in order to present their best possible works: to vie for the audience’s attention… to make someone proud… to convey a message… to try to attract an agent… to prove someone wrong… to win a prize.. to pursue art.. whatever their motivation is, one thing is certain: many people are involved.. and many will attend as supportive friends, families or colleagues.

Surprisingly, unlike most weeks of Short and Sweet I have experienced: this week has 12 plays (not the usual 10). There are some things to be mindful of for example, Short and Sweet Scripts need only not previously performed in Sydney, and some of the scripts have been previously mounted, either at another S&S festival or in another country… so these aren’t necessarily all new scripts (ie unperformed and in the process of dramaturgy and development) some scripts are much further along than others, just as the directors and actors are not necessarily fully developed in their art forms and what you have is at least an interesting night at the theatre: as you never known what you are going to get: and week 2 Seymour is no different.

The night begins with The Birthday written by Jean Kowalik. An elderly couple (Jennie Dibley and Tony Girdler) begin to get acquainted with each other whilst sitting together on a couch. They are dutifully facilitated by a younger woman (Emma Harris). Directed by Renee Lim, this piece aims to show the tragedy of watching people age. Lacking in dramatic action and yet including inexplicable entrances and exists, this play was sparsely paced, filled with exposition which signposted the conclusion. With great room for tenderness in this subject matter the twist in the story somewhat subverted emotional potential.

Root, Shoot or Marry written by Natalie Lopes and produced by Punchbug Productions. Beginning with three friends (Natalie Lopes, Daniel Smith, Tara McKenzie) at a bar deliberating over who they would Root, Shoot or Marry. Seeking to answer the one topic not answered in Sex and the City “what do you do if your friends still like the boyfriend you have just broken up with?” Directed by Jenelle Pearce, this play swings between scenes and settings intercepted by the occasional one liner from Lopes and a smart talking Fairy Bee Mother (Kath Perry). An extended comedic sketch.

Parramatta written and directed by David Allen is a lengthy interchange between Jacko (Elliott Weston) and Keith (Craig Blair) centres around a job Keith has sent Jacko to do. Some confusing blocking choices especially the gaze of Keith and a very monochromatic character sketch but contained well paced dialogue.

Push Yourself written by Kate Toon and directed by Deborah Peebles, explores the relationship between personal trainer Daniel (Craig Purdon) and his client Sarah (Emma Butschek). With a bright and easy to watch performance from Butschek, this play bubbles along nicely interspersed with suitably suggestive stretches.

Lester’s List is not a list but it is about a list. Written by Yak Aik-Wee and directed by Lucy Shepherd, this is the story of Lester (Dean Mason) who has everything, loses everything and then has everything again. Told in a four way direct address to the audience by Amy Wanless, Beth Shepherd and Eloise Snape, the story is a lesson in re-evaluating priorities. This is a well prepared piece which has simple blocking and lighting, but a little too simplistic and predictable.

Car Trouble is written by Graham Ring and Matthew Lyons, directed by Uma Kali Shakti. Gary Boyd (Rohan Brooker) has his car stolen in Redfern and goes to the police station and reports it to Constable Pemulwuy (Kathleen Hoyos). This script is a metaphor about the stolen land (and culture) of Australia’s indigenous peoples which is dealt with in a heavy handed fashion. Blackouts between scenes hinder the pace of this piece.

Six Minutes and Counting written by Jackie Greenland and directed by Allan Walpole is presented by Actors Anonymous. A farce involving one of the most impressive sets I have witnessed during a short play festival. Complete with drunk Irish Cleaning Lady (Christine Greenough), a foolish General Pollack (Leof Kingsford-Smith) and a clever assistant called Simpkin (Nick Mackenzie) this is well trodden ground. A farce which requires a little bit more pace in the script and in performance, but still a sturdy production.

…I AM… written by Mary–Anne Butler and directed by Zach MacKay, Dramaturgy by Peter Matheson and performed by Rebecca Clay. This play gives a voice to women who feel invisible “at a certain age”. A poignant look at a woman’s sense of self as she ages. The only monologue of the evening, it is clear there is a lot of ground covered (even to Calcutta) in this piece. This piece was produced for Short & Sweet Melbourne 2007 and a subsequent finalist.

The Needle and the Damage Done written by Angus and Jessica Brown feels like it was written by two people as the tone and style of the piece fluctuates as there are two distinct stories in this piece. Directed by Erin McMullen, this play examines secrets within the marriage of Louise and Thomas (Karen Bayly and Brett Heath).

The Sound Of Luftwaffen written and directed by Pete Greenaway, produced by Effigy Productions is a pot pourri of war-time re-written musicals and combines references to Mary Poppins, Sound of Music and My Fair Lady rolled into a farce. Though a strange uniform for the captain and all songs are performed without accompaniment, this is a well blocked piece and if there were a prize, it would win ”the most post-modern show of the night.”

A Man’s Not a Fruit written by Joanna Erskine and directed by Anne-Maree Magi, this play performed by Peter Moss and David Woodland is a conversation between two performers before they go on stage for their final show. An appropriate choice for this season, due to the nature of the entertainment industry: fickle and conditional as it is and it has an impressive level of production value. A well written piece which has been shortlisted internationally at the Bite Sized International short play competition finals.

And finally, 49 Stories about Brian McKenzie written by Greg Hardigan, directed by Felicity Nicol performed by Moss Halliday–Hall and a large ensemble of performers. This slide show is effectively tracks the life of Brian McKenzie. This is more a “piece” than a “play” and won several awards during Short and Sweet Melbourne 2007: (versions of the Melbourne production can be viewed on YouTube, though it is worth noting that Nicol’s direction is not a replication of this production and is a distinct creation, using many theatrical devices including free beer.)

Some productions are more sophisticated than others, some have more impressive production values, some have broad audience appeal, some not so much. Some of the productions are very clever, others desperately formulaic and clichéd. Some are ill-paced, overwritten, clumsily produced and two dimensional sketches. Some are beautiful, some poignant. Some scripts need more support. Some directors need more support. Some performers aren’t actors: they recite lines to the best of their ability. Although I have given a run down of each of the plays individually, I think it is worth noting that variety is the spice of life and I am a great fan of diversity in theatre: in short there is room for us all, somewhere in this landscape: but are all the plays truly the top 100? Or are they a random collection of 100 plays selected by a disparate group of directors?