JB Shorts 11, Joshua Brooks, Manchester - review

Victoria Brazier in A Great War, one of six plays at JB Shorts 11.
Victoria Brazier in A Great War, one of six plays at JB Shorts 11.

Nobody gets short-changed at another of this tiny pub theatre’s sparkling showcase of productions.

With almost as many professional writers, directors and actors involved, as there are audience members watching, it’s the usual heady cocktail of six 15-minute (or thereabouts) original performances that burnish the reputations of many of the region’s key theatre makers.

There’s several familiar TV faces among the cast lists in a venue that lets you get closer than any paparazzi.

As always some of the work takes the form of a short, sharp comedy sketch, while others hint at being portions of what could become much more significant drama.

Whose Dog Is It Anyway falls amongst the former, an intense and funny telling of a three-way relationship with soap star Susan Mcardle and Andrew Pollard.

Break manages to concentrate humour, drama and strong story telling into a teachers’ staffroom encounter and could be easily seen as the second act of a much larger work. Likewise, I See Dead People, by another TV writer Sarah Bagshaw, seems almost constrained by the Shorts format and could flesh out into a 90-minute spine-tingler.

The Ballad of Valentino Rivas is an ornate Mexican musical about a star who sells his song to the devil. Like all the performances here it’s packed on to a stage area not much bigger than a ping pong table.

Manchester comedian Justin Moorhouse turns playwright to cram comedy and pathos into Leaky Bacon, a genuinely-moving tale of the concealed truths within three generations of women.

Finally, A Great War imagines how a 24-hour rolling news station – Brittania Steam News - might have covered the First World War. Co-writer James Quinn and his studio sofa companion, a delightfully dead-eyed Victoria Brazier, front a programme of jingo-jangling, pun-punctuated reportage that has something of a Sixth Form Revue sketch about it, but is very, very funny in its political incorrectness.

The Reallife Theatre Company are to be congratulated, yet again, for compressing so much entertainment into such enjoyable packages.

Squeeze yourself in before April 12.

David Upton