Friday, 14 November 2003

Red Shorts, Red Stitch, Nov 14, 2003

Red Shorts  
3 short play sby Therese Cloonan,  Patrick Van Der Werf  Chris Howlett 
Red Stitch Actors Theatre
Rear 2 Chapel St. St. Kilda,  November 14 to 23, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on N0v 14, 2003

Red Stitch Actors Theatre leaps into a new form of work with its Red Shorts program of short plays directed by Greg Carroll.  

Not only are the three writers winners of a competition, they are Australian. This is a first for Red Stitch who, until now, has staged only works from overseas.

The program is an eclectic trio of half hour pieces by three local writers, Therese Cloonan, Patrick Van Der Werf  and Chris Howlett.

Skin Deep,  by Cloonan, is theatrically the least successful. It is a series of short scenes beginning with Sally  (Laura Gordon  accusing her lover (Brett Cousins) of infidelity.

From that point the intention of the character is unclear and, indeed, that of the playwright. The script lacks structure and direction.

Sally talks to her dog and the Devil, (Verity Charlton)  the Other Woman, (Ella Caldwell)  and we hear her two dolls version of her life. It is all very thin.

Van der Werf's play, Shelter,  is a different kettle of fish and the best play of the three. It is well structured and layered with compelling characters, dramatic tension and taut direction.

Geoff (David Whiteley)  picks up Snake  and Jaz  a suspicious couple (Dion Mills, Ella Caldwell)  on the country road near his isolated house. After that things start to get dangerous and unpredictable.

Geoff's wife, (Verity Charlton)  is wary - and she is right. Snake is cunning, secretive and threatening. The story unfolds cleverly to reveal everybody's secrets.

Johnny Flip, by Howlett, is a quirky and funny take on the concept of determinism and fate. Fate (Whiteley) is both a mysterious cosmic force and a disgruntled public servant. He manipulates lives all day but is dissatisfied with his lot.

To spice things up he tries to alter the direction of boring little Johnny Flip's life. Awkwardly, Flip (Cousins)  is happy being a labeller living with a shop mannequin.

The performances are strong from the Red Stitch actors and Carroll keeps the pace moving and the energy high.

The entire cast of Shelter are strong but Mills, as the insidious Snake, is rivetting and frightening. Whiteley and Cousins are particularly good in Johnny Flip.

The scripts may have variable levels of quality but the evening is entertaining and a great new venture for Red Stitch.

By Kate Herbert

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