James Quinn, Peter Kerry, Dave Simpson, Diane Whitley, Lindsay Williams and Trevor Suthers
52two, Albion Street, Manchester, M1 5LN
19 March 2019 - 30 March 2019; 1hr 45min inc interval.
Long renowned for producing some of the very best nights out you can possibly have in a theatre, JB Shorts is celebrating 10 years of success with a ‘best of’ - six 15-minute plays from the archive by experienced, mostly TV, writers, chosen from an astonishing total of around 120.
Alongside the emerging talent that has always been such a strength of JB, the current 21-strong cast features familiar faces including Richard Hawley (Coronation Street), Arthur Bostrom (‘Allo ‘Allo), Darren Jeffries (Hollyoaks), James Quinn (Early Doors) and Sean Ward (Our Girl/Coronation Street).
I don’t know how the six here were selected and there’s no doubt they are a highly-varied bunch, but the great strength of JB Shorts has always been that if you’re not that excited by what’s before you at any given moment, it’ll be only a few minutes before something else takes the stage.
On reflection I liked virtually everything.
At The End Of The Day, by and featuring founder member James Quinn, unmercifully takes the mike out of football interviewing and punditry, building the laughs as various interviewees vigorously launch into graphic sexual metaphors.
Banal Encounter by Peter Kerry (one of 17 for JB) has echoes of Brief Encounter but chillingly reveals the location to be Nazi Germany.
Blind Date, by another JB stalwart Dave Simpson, is an amusingly observed hook-up for the digital era that underlines the fact that human behaviour in these circumstances is pretty much what it always it was. A warm-hearted, sad little coda had the audience around me going 'aaaah' in sympathy.
Snapshots, by Diane Whitley is a cleverly-constructed mini family saga across three generations, with several twists and more depth than you might think possible in such a short timespan.
The Outing, by Lindsay Williams, is another encounter with highly disturbing undercurrents, as a friendship (?) develops between a seagull-decorated widower and a fellow female traveller.
The hit of the evening however is Can We Stop There?, by Trevor Suthers, an inspired satire on the rehearsal of a play within a play within a play and so on. It’s a sort of Russian dolls structure and is very funny indeed, a great way to send audiences out into the night - or to the bar.
JB is currently in larger premises than the original Joshua Brooks pub that gave the enterprise its title and is still selling out, often to people who don’t see live theatre as a first choice. It’s a proud Manchester institution.
I learn, however, that the always-hovering Manchester cranes are to move in on the present venue and so far JB hasn’t a new home. Let’s hope they find one for JB Shorts 11.