If you have have never wondered what a mix of rapid fire quiz round, a reality show and some good old theatre would feel like, then just show up at the Short+Sweet festival happening at Ranga Shankara during the current fortnight rather than thinking too hard. The festival traces its roots back to Australia and is a decade old. Alex Broun is the festival director for the Bangalore leg of this event. The format comprises 10 plays running for no more than 10 minutes each. A nice brochure is offered to every member of the audience that gives out the name of the play, the troupe members and a one line description and this is immensely helpful.
There is no set theme connecting the various plays neither can one find an overlap in the participants across the plays. This gives us a nice mix ranging from borderline sitcoms to some fairly dark themes. The time limit forces the screenplay and direction to be extremely efficient and cut out the dull moments that one encounters ever so often in a 100+ minute show. It also requires them to go easy on the props, the number of actors, characters and the scene changes. The plays featured this weekend had a largely humorous tone even in a few cases where the premise of the story was a bit grim. The languages covered wide ground: the plays had a mix of pure Hindi, Hinglish, Kannada+English (Kinglish sounds too weird a word), English English, Indian English, and any other variants you can imagine. The same goes for the scripts: originals, adaptations, occidental ones as is, regional and the list goes on. The whole thing makes a reviewer’s job hard since going into the specifics of one or even a few of plays would seem unfair. All I can say is that I really loved most of them (7 for those you thinking I’m just trying to be polite) and certainly look forward to seeing more of this. The only cruel part is that this is actually a competition of sorts and it feels sad to see a bunch of them getting voted out in the end. If you think you aren’t going to be a reviewer yourself, then you are wrong again as the expectation is that you vote at the end for exactly one of the 10 plays.
And now for some technicalities. The stagehands do have a high pressure job switching the scenes in between the runs. One can actually find a large number of small markings on the stage that helps them out (if you are interested in the mechanics of running a show). Lights and sound also happen to be done by the same set of folks across all the pieces.
This weekend (Feb 25-26) featured 10 plays and another set of 10 is slated for the coming week. In fact, the counting of the votes and announcement of the results happened right at the end of the show I saw and it and the entire atmosphere after the show was an event in itself worth watching as the drama unfolded (pun unintended). There were two plays chosen by the jury and two by the entire audience. The 3rd place from jury section actually made it in the top two of the audience choice and vice versa. The top two themselves from either category had no overlap. The final showdown is slated for Sunday the 4th of March but there is another round of 10 plays in the fray that shall be performed before that. So in case you couldn’t make it this weekend, you haven’t missed all the action.