It has begun. The joy, the intensity and the collaboration of 10-minute short play festival Short+Sweet. Delivering fast-paced, bite-sized bullets of live theatre, the 2012 Canberra season of this world renowned festival is a highlight of the fringe theatre year.
The festival shows 20 short plays, together with a selection of edgy, wildcard entries. These escalate towards a final gala evening of the top 10 shows. While every night contains quality work, festival director Alex Broun says the final is a great occasion. ''There's a real buzz and energy - made all the more intense because the actors have just one chance to do their best work and impress the judges and audience. It's like the final dive for the gold medal.''
After the tussle to prepare work, the nervous excitement and adrenalin of getting each play to the stage, this is a unique way to experience theatre.
Director and playwright Trevar Chilver, who wears both hats in this year's festival, says Short+Sweet gives people a chance to interact with theatre in a more pure way. ''I mainly participate in Short+Sweet as a writer, but directing another writer's play as well brought me a lot closer to what was happening … You're working with the writer, you're working with the performers and you're working with the crew, and it's really exciting to see it all come together,'' he says. ''The 10-minute form forces you to strip away all the effects and just focus on the fact you are telling a story, or you're being told a story. Never mind fancy lights or effects or acrobatics or anything.''
Judge's choice and audience voting select the productions that go through to the gala final, Broun says. ''The important thing to remember in Short+Sweet is that judges are not just choosing winners based on the script. To have a winning show at Short+Sweet, all the elements of the production have to be right: script, acting and directing and, importantly, the combination of all three has to be perfect.''
With every minute offering something new, the success of the festival has a lot to do with the positive principles Broun brings. ''We're more interested in empowering the vision of the directors and actors rather than what we can impose. It's an exciting process to observe and I'm always fascinated to see how directors, actors and writers have brought their script to life.''
The show is a feast for the senses and it isn't just audiences who benefit. ''There are many examples of actors being discovered in Short+Sweet and going on to bigger things,'' Broun says. ''The most remarkable story is Bella Heathcote. She was in the wildcards in Short+Sweet Melbourne and from there was cast in the Australian movie Beneath Hill 60, Neighbours and then was picked up to star in Tim Burton's Dark Shadows.''
■ Arne Sjostedt is acting in The Commuter (written by Trevar Chilver) in this year's Short+Sweet.
■ Short+Sweet continues at the Courtyard Studio, Canberra Theatre Centre: Tuesday, August 28 until Saturday, September 1, 7.30pm, with a wildcard performance at 2pm, September 1. Cost: $27.50 adult and $22.50 concession for general performances. Gala final $32.50 adult and $27.50 concession. See canberratheatrecentre.com.au.
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