‘Will leave you thinking & laughing throughout’: JB SHORTS 20 – Manchester

In Manchester, Opinion, Plays, Regional theatre, Reviews by Kristy StottLeave a Comment

53Two, Manchester – until 1 December 2018
Guest reviewer: Megan Hyland

As ever, JB Shorts has a great reputation and never disappoints. With its host of gripping, 15-minute plays by some of TV’s top writers and starring local talent, I would recommend JB Shorts to anyone looking for a great night out for less than £10.

This year opens with Lindsay WilliamsBest Behaviour, a heartfelt story of the relationship between George Best (Duncan Butcher) and his landlady, Mrs Mary Fullaway (Julie Edwards). It follows the pair from the moment George turns up on her doorstep, up until the point where it all starts to go wrong. Making his JB Shorts debut as Best, Butcher is superb, but what really shines through in this piece is the warmth between Best and Fullaway. Butcher and Edwards have an excellent rapport that breathes life into the piece and hones in on the tragedy of Best’s life. In the case of this piece, 15 minutes felt all too short.

This is followed by Trevor Suthers’ bizarre and captivating Madam Mantis. Mr Steinburg (Stephen Marzella) approaches the renowned lawyer Madam Mantis (Theone Rashleigh) in the hope that she will take his libel case. However, Madam Mantis has undergone a rather peculiar change. Suthers’ offbeat storytelling asks nothing more of you than to just sit back, ask no questions and get on board. What follows is a peculiar but compelling narrative exploring identity and workplace sexual harassment. Rashleigh is outstanding and eccentric as Madam Mantis, commanding the stage with incredible physicality and comedic timing.

Anyone who attended JB Shorts 19 may remember Dave Simpson’s charming comedy, I’ve Tried It Once, starring Victoria Scowcroft as widowed Audrey and Shaun Hennessy as her reserved husband, Godfrey. Well, Simpson, Scowcroft and Hennessy return this year with the equally hilarious prequel, I’ve Tried It Once…Again. This time, the story centres on Godfrey, particularly his relationships with his mother, his wife and his boss (all played by Scowcroft), and how they shaped his introverted character. Simpson’s characters are both endearing and familiar, and Hennessy and Scowcroft prove once again that they are outstanding.

Taking on a different tone, is Diane Whitley’s What’s the Good, depicting the melancholy tale of Private George Edwin Ellison (played by Marcus Christopherson), the last soldier to be killed in the First World War, just 90 minutes before the war itself ended.

The focus of the piece is the relationship between George and his wife, Hannah (played by Helen O’Hara), a bittersweet story of a wife who longs to have her husband home, and a husband who just can’t bear to leave the war behind. O’Hara gives a stunning and emotional performance that reflects the pain of those left behind, the truth behind the story making it all the more heart-breaking. Punctuated by war footage and Jake Ferretti’s narration of Geoffrey Kennedy’s poem of the same name, What’s the Good is an emotional and poignant tale that, 100 years on, shines a light on the needlessness of that last death.

Bringing the laughter back into the evening, is James Quinn’s Equivalent 2, a sequel to his brilliant and hilarious Equivalent that was a personal highlight of JB Shorts 19. Equivalent 2 follows art thieves Pickering (James Quinn) and Shirley (Meriel Schofield) in the aftermath of their last heist, including a rather obscure modern art piece composed entirely of bricks – a point of contention between the characters in the first instalment. We watch as Pickering and Shirley hilariously attempt to cover their tracks under the nose of Gina (Katy Oliver), Shirley’s assistant. Quinn’s witty excellence shines through once again, leaving us in suspense and anticipation of a potential third instalment.

Closing the evening – and certainly ending on a high – is Peter Kerry’s operatic musical, Corruption. Told almost entirely through song, Corruption is a twisted and thoroughly entertaining tale of murder, deception and the dishonourable dealings of the press. Katie Marie Carter steals the show as Maxine, the classic femme fatale, and the cast as a whole work wonderfully together, combining eerie harmonies and outstanding character acting. With Corruption, Kerry has taken the classic parlour-room murder mystery and turned it on its head.

In JB Shorts 20, there is no one piece that stands out. Each brings its own magnificent showcase of acting talent and skilful writing to the stage, taking on a variety of tones that will leave you thinking and laughing throughout.

-Megan Hyland

JB Shorts 20 runs at 53Two until Saturday 1st December 2018.

The post Review: JB Shorts 20 at 53Two appeared first on UPSTAGED MANCHESTER.

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Kristy Stott
Kristy Stott, editor of Upstaged Manchester, is an entertainment journalist, theatre critic and general arts lover. Kristy has been an avid follower of the Manchester theatre scene for as long as she can remember and has written for WhatsOnStage, the Library Theatre Company and Cornerhouse Manchester. Kristy is also news editor and presenter for Trafford Sound community radio.
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Kristy Stott on FacebookKristy Stott on RssKristy Stott on Twitter
Kristy Stott
Kristy Stott, editor of Upstaged Manchester, is an entertainment journalist, theatre critic and general arts lover. Kristy has been an avid follower of the Manchester theatre scene for as long as she can remember and has written for WhatsOnStage, the Library Theatre Company and Cornerhouse Manchester. Kristy is also news editor and presenter for Trafford Sound community radio.

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