The six 10-minute plays, presented as part of The Park's New Festival, were high on entertainment and inventiveness

The 10-minute play is a curious animal: realistically, the time structure only allows for the development of the single idea, but if this idea isn't layered enough, it quickly gets repetitive. When it works, it works well — which explains the enduring popularity of Short + Sweet, an international festival of 10-minute plays that started in Australia in 2000 and is now annually held in 30 cities in seven different countries.

The festival debuted in Chennai earlier this year, and six plays that made it to the finals were presented again as part of The Park's New Festival. These plays were an engaging mix, high on entertainment and inventiveness. Having seen Short + Sweet in other countries as well, one appreciates it's an unforgiving format that offers one shot at getting the audience's attention, and little slack in terms of wasting a word or a beat.

Happily, the playwrights of the Chennai edition had demonstrably understood what make this format tick: the combinations of elements that include unusual settings, few characters, sharp dialogue, humour and the judicious use of peripeteia i.e., the sudden change/reversal of circumstances or the twist in the tale.

Unusual situations

Bizarre premises that would be hard to sustain in a full-length play, work rather well in the short format. Unusual setups in the Chennai plays included — spoilers alert — a unicorn trying to board Noah's ark (Because the World Needs Unicorns); a pair of angels trying to “collect” the soul of a sex worker (Breath of Life); a couple newly in love, who discover each other's identities are not quite what they seem (He and She); a pair of existentialist “Waiting for Godot”-like vagabonds who fight each other with fruit (The Fruits of War).

As for the two plays with a more commonplace setting — the artist on the verge of a big sale to a newbie collector (The Artiste), or an actor waiting for an audition to be translated into an actual film role (The Lost Audition) — plot twists offered nice surprises.

Edgy plays

The process by which the world of the play was revealed was largely well done. In He and She, for example, casting two women as the dating couple increased the viewer's sensitivity to gender and the themes of the play. The plays were edgy, often risqué and very high energy.

One criticism is that in certain instances, the writers/directors could have been more confident of their material, and allowed the pace to vary. While it is important to maintain the beats of the play — especially in the 10-minute format — and keep the energy going, equally, it is the quieter moments that punctuate and enhance the more energetic passages.

Overall, the six plays were well produced and presented a strong showcase of talents in the writing, directing and acting departments, which catered both to theatre enthusiasts as well as those looking for bite-size morsels of entertainment.

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MetroplusJune 28, 2012