In the artistic world, it is said that even two minutes are enough for an artist to give a memorable performance. Kieran Foster, Aishveryaa Nidhi, Leanne Zaccar and Susan Stapleton had ten minutes between themselves to prove the point in Mandragora and take the play to glory at the Short+Sweet Sydney 2009, the Biggest Little Play Festival at the Newtown Theatre. David Sharpe’s intriguing and thrilling Mandragora edged out equally popular Bridgette Burton’s At the Threshold to earn the Judge’s Choice as the winner in the Week 1. The two plays were neck and neck the entire week with the final count giving it to Mandragora by just a single vote. Making her directorial debut, Lisa Eismen deftly extracted moving performances from Kieran Foster, Aishveryaa Nidhi, Leanne Zaccar and Susan Stapleton.
Mandragora, which in December was runners-up at Short + Sweet Melbourne 2008, with the Best Dramatic script, becomes the second play to be invited to participate in the Gala Final of Short + Sweet Sydney 2009 at the Seymour centre on February 20th and 21st. Mandragora was pushed all the way by At the Threshold, which took a very unusual look at the path to infidelity, featuring stunning performances by Roanna Dempsey and Andrew Doyle with Dempsey also directing it. In third place in the Judge’s Choice, in what was a very strong programme, was the haunting and at times disturbing Night Vision by S L Daniels, featuring a tour de force performance by Stef Dawson with detailed direction by Stephen Wallace. In an impressive double Mandragora also won the People’s Choice for the week, voted by audience members, with 20.75 of the votes received.
“It was a sort of personal experience but not as serious,” said David Sharpe about the script. “It happens when you meet with an accident that you tend lose your memory for some time, may be due to shock. And then you try to piece together the events to come back into the present.” Mandragora attempts at highlighting such conflict of memories in a person who was not sure of himself and doubted if things really happened.
The results were a wonderful end to a great second week of Short + Sweet, where the biggest problem was trying to fit all the audiences in with every night sold out.
So with Short + Sweet Sydney 2009 kicking into overdrive next week with the launch of the Seymour Centre Downstairs programme, audiences are urged to please book early to avoid disappointment !
Abhinay Theatre’s Artistic Director and Actor Aishveryaa Nidhi alongwith Suz Mawer will be performing in lead roles in Almost Boiling written and directed by Elizabeth Warning, at the Seymour Centre Downstairs.
The Festival features some very well known names among its writers, including Movie Extra host, Renee Brack, whose play “One Star” based on her recent trip to Iraq as the host of an entertainment tour for Australian troops. It will be directed by Jennie Bazell and appears in Newtown Theatre’s Week 1 program.
The oldest playwright in the festival is legendary 94-year-old Victorian writer, Julia Britton, the subject of the recent documentary “Fearless”, whose charming and delightful play – “Space Travel Unlimited” will be a highlight in Week 1 at the Seymour Centre; John Derum directs.
The bulk of the 306 plays short listed are from Australia (226) and – in great news for the state of play righting nationally – every state and territory is represented. The top state is Victoria with an impressive 114 plays short listed, more than a third of the entire shortlist! Next comes up NSW with 93, followed by Queensland (7), Western Australia (6), Northern Territory (4), Tasmania (2) and the ACT (1).
Of the international entries the USA has won 41 places on the shortlist, followed by Singapore with 29, showing the huge boost that Short + Sweet has given to local theatre writing since its inception there in 2007. Malaysia is next with three plays short listed followed by New Zealand (2) and Ireland and Canada (1 each). “I was very impressed and of course very pleased with the incredibly high quality of plays submitted to Short + Sweet Sydney 2009,” said Broun. “In the end we had 984 plays to consider and the standard was even higher than in previous years. As Sydney Short + Sweet falls at the end of the international Short + Sweet cycle we are in the privileged position of being able to consider the best plays from the Singapore, Malaysia and Melbourne Short + Sweet Festivals as well as the plays entered just for Short + Sweet Sydney 2009. “High quality plays make for a high quality festival” explained Broun, “and our Short + Sweet directors had the thrill of choosing from some wonderful scripts this year – and fighting over them in some cases.