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).