Writers: Andrew Lynch, Perrie Balthazar, Lindsay Williams, Anita Pandolfo, Peter Kerry, Dave Simpson
Directors: David Fleeshman, Lucia Cox, Miranda Parker, Paul Blinkhorn, Caroline Clegg, Alyx Tole
Reviewer: Jo Beggs
Once again, JB Shorts brings together TV writers with local directors and actors to create six 15- minute plays in the atmospheric cellar of the Joshua Brooks pub. The tight space and strict time limit are pretty much the only restrictions and this year’s crop is the usual eclectic mix of domestic drama, political comment and off the wall comedy.
JB Shorts always delivers an interesting evening. As a fellow audience member mused while waiting for kick off, “there’s always two I love, two I hate and two that are somewhere in between”. There’s less here to love than in previous years though, none of the writers have created anything particularly challenging or that really take them outside their own TV drama comfort zone. Fighting families and cheating husbands are still very much in existence. That said, Anita Pandolfo’s squabbling siblings in Sugared Armour make up what is possibly the most successful play of the night. As Gemma (Jo Dakin), Annie (Victoria Scowcroft) and Andy (Derek Hicks) huddle in a hospital waiting room, sitting out the last few hours of their mother’s life, stories, memories and regrets emerge that speak of life’s highs and lows, a touching and plausible picture of a grown-up family thrown together after years of separation. The three actors put in great performances, equally comfortable delivering the script’s sharp comedy and affecting drama.
Lindsay Williams’s The Outing is the other high point of the evening. Two lonely people meet on a coach trip to the seaside. As they find out about one another some surprising secrets emerge. Nellie (Jeni Howarth Williams) has her reasons for keeping herself to herself, but neither is Frank (Josh Moran) all he first seems. This well-crafted script delivers the reveals at the perfect pace and the two central performances are utterly compelling.
Perrie Balthazar plays the least safe this year with All Items Of Value Have Been Removed, a post-apocalyptic farce in a world where the Blair’s and the Beckham’s are having a second celebrity moment. It’s a fun concept that falls rather flat in the delivery and might have worked better with more current references. There’s a nice performance from Alastair Gillies, though, which makes no attempt at impersonation yet somehow conveys much of the spirit of Tony Blair.
Andrew Lynch’s Emily and Dave Simpson’s Equal Shares both deal with adultery, treating it in different ways but Lynch’s script is rather too predictable and Simpson’s jokes fall pretty flat.
Peter Kerry takes the interesting idea of young people going off to fight in foreign wars, juxtaposing a distraught 1930s mother (Kerry Willison-Parry) and 2010s sister (Shila Iqbal) imploring family members not to sacrifice themselves for the Spanish Republicans and ISIS. Their one-sided, increasingly frantic conversations, create a collage of mirrored thoughts which nicely balance the personal and the political nature of the stories. The play, short as it is, could still do with some editing, though, which would make the text work harder and deliver a more forceful impact.
JB Shorts gives TV writers the chance to be playful and experimental, a chance they rarely get in the day job. If anything it shouldn’t always work and that’s part of the fun. Go and find out which two you love.
Runs until 14 November 2015 | Photo: Brainne Edge