The theatrical drought is well and truly broken with Red Phoenix Theatre making a grand entrance in a Promenade of Shorts.
This well curated mini festival of nine short plays with a garnish of street performers is an engaging experience. Red Phoenix maximises its performance opportunity in a COVID climate, by delivering a triple bill of plays simultaneously in each of Holden Street’s three venues (Box Bar, The Studio and The Arch) and rotating three audiences of 20 through each. The promenade of audience members short or otherwise following their designated “tour guide” to their next venue added to the fun.
There is a welcoming carnival air on arrival with eccentric roving characters, including a marionette named Albert, a pedlar selling his wares, and a speakers’ corner with three famous orators.
The nine plays directed by Michael Eustice, Libby Drake, Nick Fagan, and Brant Eustice are diverse in topic and genre but are united by a high standard of performance excellence that is maintained throughout the evening.
The Studio triple bill is Electric Roses, Intermission and Driving Mr Diddy, a mix of domestic drama, society gossip and romance, and a good helping of English situational comedy. Brant Eustice’s performance as the abusive husband in Electric Roses is uncomfortably realistic in this depiction of an escape from domestic violence. There is a lighter touch in Intermission with its witty dialogue, romance and a twist where Jenny Allan and Rebecca Kemp shine as the catty gossiping socialites and romance blooms between the writer Fahad Farooque and new acquaintance Kate van der Horst. Driving Mr Diddy completes the trio with Joanne St Clair (Margaret) and Brian Godfrey (Brian) accidentally becoming the getaway drivers for robber Nick Fagan (Darren “P” Diddy). Much hilarity and some dubious driving ensue. We followed our tour guide to the next venue in great anticipation.
At The Arch The Book of Leviticus Show, Auto Incorrect and Loyalties provide another interesting mix with some very dark humour, contemporary comedy and the pros and cons of nationalism. Ruby Faith as Lettie Lu, stars as the host of a DIY access tv show The Book of Leviticus in an initially funny but increasingly disturbing situation. In contrast the laughs come easily in Auto Incorrect when autocorrect takes over the brain of Nate (Tim Williams).
Loyalties debates the issues of nationalism versus individualism with Tom Filsell and Tom Tassone as the protagonists Rudy and Jacob. The divisive results split family and ultimately nations.
The power of words carries us to the Box Bar where Words that Matter, Up Close and Personal and Attack of the Killer Banana Spider! complete the promenade. Words that Matter is very powerful in a small intimate space. Stephen Tongun as Martin Luther King, Anthony Vawser as Robert Kennedy and Sharon Malujlo as Julia Gillard convincingly deliver their famous speeches simultaneously in a riveting performance. The audience then become the Singles Night participants in Up Close and Personal with some arch bitchiness from Petra Schulenburg (Roz) and Kyla Booth (Frankie) and a very good plot twist.
The final offering is Attack of the Killer Banana Spider! Flatmates Josh and Sol (Joshua Coldwell and James Fazzalari) discover an exotic spider in a bunch of bananas and the search and capture is hysterical thanks to some entertaining physical comedy and their excellent comic timing.
And all of this happens in just two and half hours!
Congratulations to all casts and crew. A Promenade of Shorts is a wonderful achievement.