BUGfest: A Festival of Short Plays

Schonell Theatre (Underground Productions)


A workplace comedy about fairies, dwarves and wizards, a psychological piece about a young man dealing with his relationships, and a short look at two interstellar heroes as death approaches are the standouts at BUGfest, a season of seven short plays presented by Brisbane Underground Productions.

Lizzy King’s Magic Inc. neatly ties together the woes of the workplace; even this workplace, employing fairies, a dwarf, and a pothead wizard has all the problems of a mundane job. Rachael the fairy (Jamila Hall) is about to get fired, which seems odd as Blossom, another, overly-happy fairy, played by Rosie Fundar, has just been hired and spends a suspicious amount of time with the boss. Grumpy the dwarf (Alex Smith) is a pleasant soul indeed; the only thing that makes him very angry is the suggestion that dwarves’ names must match their dispositions. Ned the wizard (Guy Brunel) spends the whole day stoned while Maxwell (Tom Walter), a fairy who explains he is in fact a fairy, explains the way of this workplace to Blossom. King takes what could be a preachy, boring topic, the oppressive and unfair nature of work, and makes it funny with absurd commentary and over-the-top characters.

Jeremy Wood’s Break at the Bend is a little confusing in parts, but has some genuinely touching moments between Chris (Tom Galloway) and his girlfriend Grace (Sophie McBean). The action jumps between Chris and Grace swinging from tenderness to anger as they deal with a gradually-revealed tension and Chris at a session with an analyst (uncredited). It the way the analystssessions are dealt with that leads to some confusion; the author may need to rethink this way of presenting inner psychological conflict, although clearly some effort had gone into making it as clear as possible. On the other hand, maybe the author wanted people to feel confused; by the end of the play things were clear, so maybe this was a message that we just have to work at understanding what is presented to us.

Tail of The Tale: Saviours of the World and Destroyers of Stars by Tim Hutton sees two heroes, Jean (Meg McKimmie) and Scott (Christos Mourtzakis) face death at the end of an adventure in which they’ve saved the world in two different time-streams. There are some technical problems; the actors simply could not be heard over the sound effects in the first minute or so, although it was obvious they were in a ship that was having a big crisis. McKimmie doesn’t seem commanding enough to captain a spaceship to me, and the literary references towards the end felt tacked-on. But these problems are put in their place by the sparks of affection and clear friendship the two characters have for each other, the anger and fear that increases as it looks less and less likely they will be re-rescued from their crippled spaceship, and the message that life is worth living, no matter how we die.

Two other actors who deserve a mention are Jeremy Wood and Cecelia Devlin as the appalling Mr and Mrs Sturling in Clive McAlpine’s The Luggage. Wood perfectly plays an arrogant, loud bully with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement. I loathed him from the first words he spoke. Devlin plays Mrs Sturling well, as a woman who takes the emotional bullying she gets from her husband and turns it into brittle, politely-expressed hatred for him and anyone else her nervy personality can aim it at.

BUGfest is playing until 31 October.

— David Jackmanson
(Performance seen: Wed 27th October 2010)