Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

JB Shorts

Various writers
Realilife Theatre Company
Joshua Brooks pub, Manchester
21 March 2012 to 31 March 2012

Where else can you ‘down’ six brand-new 15-minute playlets in under two hours, for just £6, written by some of the country’s top TV and stage writers, directed by professionals, and performed by casts that include several TV faces?

This year that includes Hollyoaks’ Sarah Jayne Dunn as a lippy football physio; White Van Man’s Alex Woodhall as a supercharged stand-up comedian; Lunch Monkeys’ Christian Foster as a rock festival stoner; and the ubiquitous John Henshaw  . . . as a mournful pet dog!

Reallife Theatre Company are again to be commended for pulling together small-scale performances that prove good writing, acting and direction can transcend the need for scenery, props and other set dressing.

In the case of writer Lindsay Williams’ Pop the action does get a little hung up on the physical comedy of packing away a tent at a rock festival, but beneath this is the potential for a much larger play about four youngsters at a crossroads in their life.

Similarly Jane McNulty’s Sit, Stay, Rollover could be regarded as more of a comedy sketch, wrapped around the inhabitants of a dog’s home, but audiences who lap up its generous humour won’t be bothered by any such distinction. Peter Ash makes a scarily good pit bull terrier; Henshaw a convivial lap dog; and Tigga Goulding quickly relaxes into the role of Paris Hilton's 'ex' - puppy that is!

Chris Thompson’s Match of the Day is a much darker encounter set in a Premier football club’s physio room, with Sarah Jayne Dunn and David Judge on top form.

Peter Kerry’s Quickfire plays to the natural comedian’s strengths of Alex Woodhall, as he re-creates the circumstances of an observational gag. He’s on blistering form as an infant Rik Mayall character, strongly supported by Sian Hill and Steve Cain.

Bill Taylor’s Last Night is an intriguing power-shifting playlet about a teacher-pupil relationship, well served by Hannah Wolfe and Elianne Blythe; and Dave Simpson and Diane Whitley’s The Confession is an hilarious story of a semi-professional sperm donor given his comeuppance.

All this original entertainment for just £6. You really can't beat it.

Reviewer: David Upton


Comment by Alan Hulme

Absolutely agree, it's unbeatable, loved it. If only all theatre were as gloriously entertaining as this.

Comment by Kevin Bourke

Yep, you're both right, of course. This is great stuff - smartly written, to the point and terrifically acted. As I never get tired of saying, if the 'big' theatres put as much love, care and invention into their productions as, generally speaking, our thriving 'fringe' scene does, albeit very often by necessity, then the local theatrical world would be an even better place. JB Shorts goes from strength to strength and, if the packed audience the night I was there are anything to go by, then there's a real hunger out there for this sort of top-value entertainment. BTW David, "sperm donor given his comeuppance" - I say!

Comment by David Chadderton

Another great evening's entertainment from JB. Not all are perfect by any means, but all are performed very well with some great concepts behind them. The whole evening is slickly-organised, from showing people to the scattered seats in this oddly-shaped performance venue to the lightning-fast turnaround from one play to the next. Great stuff.