It’s not a secret. There is an abundance of short form theatre proliferating on Sydney stages. And it’s not just in the independent and amateur sector – with two of Sydney’s main stage companies turning to short form theatre to fill their season – Sydney Theatre Company’s Money Shots (6, 15 minute plays about money) and Belvoir’s The Kiss four short plays bundled together from Australia and beyond to examine The Kiss.

In 2009 I was included on a panel at Griffin Theatre to launch a collection of short plays published by Currency Press hosted by Lee Lewis containing Tom Holloway, Hilary Bell and Australia’s most prolific 10-minute playwright Alex Broun. Which really became a bit of a wrestle about opportunities for new writers – and an advertisement for Short and Sweet. Last year I was interviewed by Jo Litson of The Australian/Sun Herald after being referred to as a spokesperson on Short form by Tom Holloway and Caleb Lewis. And after 45 minutes of extolling the virtues of short form the resulting article was this:… (N.B the facts about Brand Spanking New are not quite correct – being held at the New Theatre – no director was paid for their contribution to the festival) but it became a large expose on the politics of Short and Sweet festival – the leviathan which now reaches it’s hydra heads all around the world.

In the passed 4 years I have directed at least 2 short plays a year – both by Australian and international playwrights. The form itself lends it to my busy schedule – 15 hours of rehearsal per play is easy to fit around the multiple demands of my life – especially when one is working in a co-op structure. I have been very lucky to have worked with the playwrights I have – and have developed relationships with many of Australia’s pre-eminent playwrights including the 7-On Playwrights, Tom Holloway, Caleb Lewis, Alana Valentine, Van Badham, Lachlan Philpott, Nick Parsons, Kate Mulvany, Tahli Corin, Rick Viede, Rebecca Clarke, Jonathan Gavin and Suzie Miller to name a few… and they are all very different and utterly fascinating and unique thinkers and writers. I have also found it easy to excavate and promote emerging writers when they are housed within a suite of plays that also include established playwrights. It’s been very mutually beneficial to have all level of writers under the one banner – for me it opens up the celebration – becomes inclusive and the feel of such a festival is collegiate. And that is very important to me. Nothing is worse than artists competing endlessly with each other. And practically speaking – there is safety and strength in numbers – no playwright has to bear the burden (financially or creatively) of the production, this is in reference particularly to Stories from the 428 and they are freed up to be inquisitive, excited, innovative.

Building community amongst playwrights disintegrates negative or competitive behaviour… which allows the freedom to explore narrative, form, structure, character – when everyone is in the same boat – no one wants it to sink.

Short form gives a chance for a creative partnership to develop: If directing a full length play is likened to having a baby – then a short play is a kiss and a cuddle. Why not let the director and playwright date before asking them to marry and procreate? And short form allows this light touch – this soft entry point into formulating a common language or aesthetic.

It can also be a great opportunity to keep the writer’s audience muscle flexed and limber – or to clock up those precious 10,000 Malcolm Gladwell writes about.

As Short and Sweet demonstrates the festival format of 10 or 11 plays in one evening’s performance guarantees a full house – no need for massive publicity budget when you have a cast of 30 and a crew/creative team of 20 all bringing their parents and friends. However, for my taste, I find the curation of S&S a little problematic and the quality of writing and directing hit and miss. I believe that good things come in small packages – and I prefer the intensity and the power of a condensed form of ideas sometimes – not always.

That being said, I completely agree with Noelle Janaczewska’s observations about short form distracting from the main game and you can read more on her thoughts here.

There are also comments that short form has reached saturation point. That it diminishes the role of full length work – I personally still appreciate a full symphony even though I listen to Motown ditties… size doesn’t matter it is definitely what you do with it that counts.

The benefits for an Independent artist such as myself are huge – but I’m a little skeptical about the mainstage companies adoption of the form – it feels like a means to beef up statistics on new work, or development. And I heartilly encourage the production of new work – and yes the STC’s production of Ross Mueller’s Zebra! has sold out nearly completely…. (I’m very impressed and must say congratulations to all involved!)… but surely the role of the mainstage is to demonstrate professional theatre at it’s fullest? I’m not sure – I could be being unnecessarily harsh about this? Happy to hear your thoughts and to have my perspective/ mind changed.