REVIEW | JBShorts 16, 53Two

Joan Davies on perhaps the best episode of short plays yet

Written by  Joan Davies | Follow @ | Friday, 4 November 2016 16:17


JB Shorts never fails: the quality is excellent and six 15 minute plays is a perfect formula for a fun evening mix of comedy and serious issues. 16’s crop is particularly outstanding.

If ever a work of literature was made for this style of race-through-it theatre, Bronte’s tale of moors and doomed romance is it

First up is Magaluf. Chloe (Amy Lythogoe) and Sinead (Holly-Jay Bowes) provide an entertaining snap-shot of two sixteen year olds on their first no-parents holiday. Will their friendship survive the pressure of booze, blokes and the rep’s ‘fun’ games? With a brief look at a serious issue Sarah Macdonadl Hughes’ writing creates sharp recognisable dialogue which the two actors imbue with life.

In Toil and Trouble three very modern witches are forced to hide their true selves while complaining of a lack of respect for their cultural identity. This ‘warts and all’ presentation sharply written by Trevor Suthers and directed by former Corrie barmaid Sue Jenkins is a pacey delight. Mammy (Maria O’Hare), Granny (Jenny Gregson) and Fanny (Jennifer Bray) prowl the stage brewing up potions and bemoaning the lack of ingredients available through Asda Arseholes and Tesco Tossers as trendy shoppers discover the delights of newt's eyes and frog's toes. The witch's target MacMeth (Peter Ash) is easily duped into potion consumption, keeping a weather eye out for when residents of the demolition-due Birnam Wood estate are relocated to Dunsinane. Excellent performances all round.

In My Shoes allows divorce-pending couple Carol (July Holt) and Peter (Murray Taylor) to see things from the other person’s perspective, literally. It’s a neat idea and the Bowie-inspired ‘Changes’ scene is fun and clever. It needs a little more pace in the central section. Presenting separate scenes simultaneously side-by-side on one stage is tricky, and the timings didn’t quite click. 

In A Grand Malaise and a Small Cappuccino writer Justin Moorhouse tackles the subject of fit for work assessments, in this piece known as Personal Independence Payments – cue Gladys Knight joke. The two-hander, sharply directed by Rupert Hill, presents claimant Martin (Lee Toomes) as a genuine chancer, a sloppy scrounger whose bogus claims are at least entertaining, pitted against Angela (Rosina Carbone) the claims officer highly dismissive of Martin’s claim and pushed well beyond her normal limits.  0It’s very funny, and very clever in the way it engages the audience and twists perceptions right up until the end.

.Manchester’s growing arts scene needs smaller places like 53two

James Quinn is a regular writer at JB Shorts. This time he’s teamed up with his daughter Aileen and director Megan Marle Griggin to present Rebrand, addressing the image of War (What is it Good For?). We’ve all been to those meetings where the PR people say ‘absolutely’ to no effect. Led by Stephanie (Danielle Henry) the team of Geoff (Toby Hadoke) and millennial Emma (Amy Gavin) take us through a very funny, excellently timed delivery of the rebrand meeting with, as expected, serious issues underlying. This on its own is worth the admission price of £7. I’m hoping James will put on an evening of his plays sometime soon.

The final show, Wuthering Heights at Hurricaine Speed, is exactly what it says on the tin. To my shame I’ve never made it through the book. Now I don’t need to. If ever a work of literature was made for this style of race-through-it theatre, Bronte’s tale of moors and doomed romance is it. The excellent Joyce Brannagh directs a joyful and mournful cast to deliver writer Lindsay Williams’ take on the story. Verity Henry as Cathy has brilliant broad Yorkshire pouts, Amy Drakes engages the audience, literally, as narrator Nellie. Richard Weston’s Heathcliffe is dramatic and headstrong while Robin Simpson as Lockwood, and many many other parts, is pure entertainment. 

Not only is this one of the most entertaining and Tamla-knowledge rewarding JB Shorts I’ve seen, you also get a chance to view their new location, the former Bauer Millett car showroom which has been transformed into 53two, Manchester’s newest arts venue. Handily positioned close to HOME, The Briton’s Protection and Deansgate-Castlefield Tram stop, this is a step up from their original home and a location that promises more entertainment, at least in the short term before redevelopment takes over.

Manchester’s growing arts scene needs smaller places like this, and the continued success of JB Shorts is a continuing delight.

JS Shorts is at 53two until Saturday 12th November. Tickets can be booked online.


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