Now in its third year, the Short+Sweet entry-level theatre competition has expanded to nearly 50 short plays over three weeks. It's pleasing to see a healthy proportion of emerging New Zealand playwrights included in this first-week season of nine plays, and while the acting and directing is uneven, the constant show-changing - with suitable theme-supporting music - keeps things fresh.
My vote this week goes to Nic Sampson's amusing Lighthouse Keeper, the title referring to a robot (played with just the right digital intonation by Barnaby Fredric) rather than the human he replaced (Tom Sainsbury, in perfect red pompom hat and blue raincoat). Sally Sutton's Do Not Pull, about four tourist gal pals, is also charming and well-costumed, the only light slice of life among the skits, melodramas and monologues.
The Wisdom of Solomon is a piece of enjoyable nonsense, while the twist in Kerrie Ann Spicer's Stiff Justice is beautifully timed for the challenging 10-minute format. Actress Xavier Black stands out in Nine Types of Ice, in which two mothers face the aftermath of a school-bus tragedy.
The problem of suiciding when one has supernatural powers comes up in both The Flowers, a surreal monologue nicely acted by Sheena Irving and directed by Short+Sweet Festival director Jonathan Hodge, and the darkly humorous Supercide, about Aeroman who is feeling existential angst while fighting crime in Jaffatown.
Propaganda abounds: 50 Guns is semi-informative about semi-automatics and their evils, while those for whom abortion is a sensitive issue should know that Hope is an unhelpful piece of anti-choice spin, which involves an aborted fetus guilt-tripping its mother in rhyme. We would probably benefit from discussion of abortion (and miscarriage) onstage, but despite the good acting this piece is frustratingly insensitive.