JB 16 was cast by Michelle Smith and played out at a brand new bigger venue at 53 Two, which is fast becoming a mecca for Manchester’s finest fringe theatre. It’s fair to say we at Casting Networks enjoyed the show, as always, and could not be more proud to continue supporting the event!
The night began with Magaluf, written by Sarah McDonald Hughes, in which we were taken on a farcical journey with Chloe (Amy Lythgoe) and Sinead (Hollie-Jay-Bowes) on their stereotypical teen holiday. I was reminded of a two-handed, modern day Bouncers and Shakers, due to the non-stop laughs and fast pace of the piece. A well-directed, wonderful piece of theatre, and a brilliant choice to open the show.
Second on, and the first of two classics of British literature broken down in to fifteen minutes of pure entertainment, was Toil and Trouble, written by Trevor Suthers. A truly original take on the story of a certain Scottish King who, for our own sake, is named ‘MacMeth’ (Peter Ash). Three terrifyingly hilarious “hags” steal the stage for fifteen minutes in the forms of ‘Mammy,’ ‘Granny,’ and ‘Fanny’ (Maria O’Hare, Jenny Gregson, and Jennifer Bray). With constant cleverly written filth throughout, and an energy on the stage that clearly stemmed from the great direction of Sue Jenkins, meant there was no respite for the aching jaws of the audience.
Guiding us into the interval was In My Shoes, written by Dave Simpson. You’d be forgiven for wondering how on Earth they could keep up the same levels in every performance; surely there will be a slower paced piece at some point? Not this one! Alyx Tole’s creative direction earned the first standing ovation of the evening with a superbly done Freaky Friday-style body swap. Peter and Carol (Murray Taylor and Judy Holt) swap not only their entire outfits on stage but even manage to swap hair. This beautifully and comically executed set piece, together with great use of music, kept me tittering throughout the break.
Moving in to the second act with A Grand Malaise and a Small Cappuccino, written by Justin Moorhouse, I felt this portion of the evening had a much needed serious edge. Not that it wasn’t very cleverly written and kept each of us chuckling throughout, which it did, but the subject matter was that of benefit thieves. The serious issue was mirrored by the more realistic character of Angela (Rosina Carbone). However, with clever direction from Rupert Hill and a very entertaining performance from Lee Toomes as ‘Martin,’ the audience was treated to laughter, but also were also given a stimulating reminder of the moral difficulties that befall your every day social worker.
The penultimate display Rebrand came to us from the established mind of another JB veteran, James Quinn, this time in collaboration with Aileen Quinn. The two writers find a way to provoke independent thought about a very serious topic, War, whilst still engaging the audience and keeping with the tone of the night. When Geoff (Toby Hadoke), Stephanie (Danielle Henry), and Emma (Amy Gavin) debate how they can rebrand to make War popular among the public again, as in “the good old days,” what could the answer be? Team GB to the rescue . . . right? Exceedingly accomplished performances all round, with direction to match – a classic JB piece.
How to finish off an evening of this magnitude and keep with the pace, comedy, and quality of the night? Enter JB legends Peter Kerry and Lindsay Williams, joined by direction from the talented Joyce Branagh, with their mind-blowing Wuthering Heights at Hurricane Speed by Emily Bronte. The title says everything that need be said about content, however mere words can’t describe exactly what happened during that “precise” fifteen minutes. An incredible pace throughout kept up by this four person cast of Verity Henry, Amy Drake, Richard Weston, and, the star of the show for me, Robin Simpson. Each cast member took on countless different roles, sometimes switching on stage, in a breathtaking, Brechtian style performance that capped a top quality evening.
JB Shorts, you’ve done it again!
Thank you Dave, Diane, and James.