The Manchester festival of short plays, better known as JB Shorts, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.
Dreamt up over a pint by writers Trevor Suthers and John Chambers, over 120 plays have since been performed since it started.
To mark the milestone JB Shorts: Reloaded, now playing at Deansgate venue 53 Two, presents a collection of the favourite six that are taking to the stage once again.
Kicking off the night in style is At the End of the Day a side-splitting satire on football punditry written and starred in by Early Doors actor James Quinn.
Think Match of the Day or Sky Sports gone wrong and you have the perfect recipe for mayhem and hilarious innuendo. Great performance put in by National Youth Theatre’s Callum Sim as a Gary Lineker esq host plus the rest of the 5 strong cast, some of which play multiple roles.
From laughter to drama, the second offering, Banal Encounter, presents a 1940s period drama set on a railway platform as two characters Laura Littlewood (Lottie) and Andrew Bentley (Wilf) find themselves constantly bumping into each other as they wait for their train to arrive.
A parody of the black and white classic Brief Encounter but with a twist in the tale that is unexpected and played out well by the duo.
Blind Date by ex-Emmerdale writer Dave Simpson proves to be one of the audience favourites of the night with a laugh out loud observation of the trials of online dating and comedic catfishing.
Susan McArdle as bespectacled Angela is a joy to watch and clearly needs her own TV show. McArdle’s characterisation is perfect and her rapport with co-star Will Travis as her ‘potential perfect partner’ Andrew has you rooting for the two of them to ‘get it on’.
After a short interval, a cast of four take on the complex truths behind 50 years of a ‘happy marriage’ in Snapshots written by Diane Whitley. You would be forgiven for thinking how such a long time can be condensed into just a quarter of an hour but Whitley cleverly does it by getting the actors to recreate tableaus from old photos.
Beth Nolan and Sean Ward take on the roles of a young Bill and Sally whilst the older pair played by Julie Edwards and Glenn Cunningham comment on what was really going on behind the scenes of those shots. If you loved the opening sequence of Pixar’s UP then you will find this as moving and as heart-warming to watch.
One of the stand out actors of the night appears in The Outing, a play that uncovers a woman’s dark secret during a coach trip outing to Conway. Jennie Howarth-Williams is mesmerising as Nellie, plagued by her family circumstances and the weight of guilt burdening her shoulders.
There’s an intake of breath from the audience when her secret is finally revealed and in doing so it packs a powerful punch. Great support too fellow actors from Richard Hawley as Frank and Kerry Willison-Perry as Veronica.
Finally, to round up the night on a high, is a totally bonkers and brilliant comedy Can We Stop It There– a play within a play to excess! To tell you any more about this would be to give the game away but if you are not in fits of laughter by the time you leave I will eat my hat.
This is the biggest cast of the night at six in total and each one of them delivers some fabulous characters showing the range of their acting skills off to the max. Watch out for Allo Allo’s regular Parisian policeman Arthur Bostrum in this one (minus the dodgy French accent) acting up a storm.
JB Shorts: Reloaded is a fantastic night at the theatre and is perfect for anyone who likes a quick fix. The 15-minute duration of each play keeps the pace snappy, the audience engaged and leaves them wanting more, or like I was, spoilt for choice over which was my favourite. Here’s to another decade of delights from the JB Shorts family.
JB Shorts: Reloaded runs until 30th March
Venue: 53 Two
Date: 22nd – 30th March 2019
53two, 8 Albion Street, Manchester, M1 5NZ