Wilmslow Express - - CITY LIFE LOCAL -

HE an­nual JB Shorts fes­ti­val has been set­ting the bench­mark for fringe theatre now for 12 sold out sea­sons.

Since 2009, when founders Trevor Suthers and John Cham­bers and direc­tor Roger Haines put to­gether the first fes­ti­val, JB Shorts has staged 72 world pre­mieres – and it con­tin­ues that le­gacy as it re­turns for 11 days of orig­i­nal pro­duc­tions (un­til April 25, no shows Sun­day April 19).

The premise of the fes­ti­val is sim­ple: one night, six plays, each one 15 min­utes long.

They’re per­formed not in a for­mal theatre but in a room in a pub, Joshua Brooks.

And, crit­i­cally, they’re writ­ten by play­wrights with ex­cep­tional rep­u­ta­tions; it might be new theatre, but there’s noth­ing am­a­teur about the pro­duc­tions.

This year, the six plays tackle plenty of top­ics – from pol­i­tics to mur­der, reli­gion, health, work and so­cial faux pas.

Coali­tion Night­mare, writ­ten by Dave Simp­son and di­rected by James Quinn, is an anx­ious po­lit­i­cal drama that projects a out­come at the May 7 gen­eral elec­tion in which Nigel Farage’s party UKIP holds the bal­ance of power in a hung par­lia­ment.

It’s not an in­con­ceiv­able prospect, in fact, and bring­ing this pos­si­bil­ity to life are John Cat­ter­all, David Crellin and Jenny May Mor­gan.

Diane Whit­ley’s Illusion, di­rected by Alice Bartlett, is an Ed­war­dian who­dun­nit fea­tur­ing Vanessa Hehir, Haydn Holden, Emma Laid­law, James Lewis, Alex Phelps and Joe Slack, while there’s an­other dose of se­crets and lies in Trevor Suther’s Karaoke Cara – star­ing Bill Bradshaw, Aaron Cob­ham and Denice Hope.

A tongue-in-cheek ti­tle for a se­ri­ous topic, Nick Ahad’s A Mus­lim, A Jew And A Chris­tian Walk Into A Room projects a fu­ture when all reli­gion is outlawed and peo­ple of faith are forced to gather il­lic­itly (direc­tor Max Shuell, and fea­tur­ing Garry Hay­den, Ka­mal Kaan and Mur­ray Tay­lor).

Com­plet­ing the pro­gramme are two shorts about life: Talk­Talk, by Catherine Hayes and di­rected by Liz Stevenson, ex­am­in­ing “the things you do for a living”; and Dick­en­sian story Safe In Our Hands, by Chris Thomp­son and Alyx Tole (direc­tor), in which Bun­yan has three ghostly vis­i­tors as he tries to cling to life (Joyce Branagh, Ralph Cas­son, Jack Dears­ley and Ethan Holmes star).

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