Short+Sweet Theatre: 10 plays of 10 mins each at Alserkal, Dubai

{Shoutout to The Junction for inviting me to their amazing Short+Sweet Theatre Festival. Kudos to all the actors, scriptwriters and directors <3}

Dubai theatre lovers, I’ve got the best thing to kickstart your 2019 weekend calendar! From 25th January to 9th March, the Junction Theatre on Alserkal Avenue will be hosting the Short+Sweet Theatre Festival every weekend. Dubai’s Short+Sweet has grown over the years to become one of the largest little theatre franchise in the world, second only to Sydney. I’m getting giddy just thinking about it 🙂

“I think it’s a fantastic event! Short+Sweet is a community event to promote grassroots theatre.  We encourage writers, actors and directors to come out of the woodworks! And everything is done in a way that makes it fun for the audience. 10 minutes is easy, right? 10 minutes you can do,” said Gautam Goenka, owner of The Junction Theatre. 

The stage is set! @TheJunction

“To be involved with Short+Sweet is such a goosebumps moment!” said Pavani Verma, from the cast of Psychic’s Prediction. “The whole time I was on stage I kept thinking about how I want to keep reliving this.”

“Short+Sweet has no check on language or age barrier at the door: if someone wants to put up a show they can. It’s a great equalizer,” he continued. “The festival is divided into two circuits: Top 50 and Wildcards. The Top 50 entries are based on the reputation of the director, cast or scriptwriter. Festival Director, Sahiba Majgoankar decides who’s into the Top 50 and invites back the Top 10 plays from last years’ performances as automatic entries into this year’s Top 50 contenders. If someone’s brand new on the stage, she’ll enter them into the Wildcards.”

My fellow theatre-loving friend, Aashna Bakshi and I attended the festival’s opening weekend where we were intrigued by a program filled with titles like “Marriage and Monsters,” “Rough Definition of Truth” and “Angelina Jolie is Stalking Me.”

Thanks for being the best, Aashna! 🙂

At the end of the night, we got to cast our Audience’s Choice Award vote for our favorite of the ten shows, who will advance into future rounds of the festival along with the winners of the Judges’ Choice Award and stand a chance to win the Grand Prize of Dhs. 20,000 not to mention some strong bragging rights.

Cast-mates Neha Ajmal and Saif Khan won the first weekend’s Audience Award for their comedy “Cindellala“, produced by Tall Tales and written by veteran scriptwriter Asad Raza Khan and Shefaq Zehra.

“What I like about Cindellala is that it’s a play about Dubai and it’s a comedy that still makes a social statement. Cinderella was all about the shoe, and if you know Dubai you know that it’s all about the [branded] shoe,” laughed Saif, who’s been acting for six years and plays a knock-off goods shopkeeper. “When I roam Dubai, I see Arabs and South Indians everywhere but it’s actually tough to mimic their accents.”

“People like it when you present day-to-day things,” added Neha, who is a first-time participant in Short+Sweet, “We wanted an entertaining act that people could relate and connect to.”

#nikitalyfe with Neha Ajmal and Saif Khan of “Cindellala”

As it was the first weekend, I found that the ten shows had some ebbs and flows. The mix of comedies, intense dramas, monologues and serious subject matters was excellent, and I’m keen to return for more weekends as the strong productions battle it out towards the final rounds.

Vaishali Balgu from The Drama Galleries spoke with me about her role in “Rough Definition of Truth” with Lionel Mendonsa which was one of the more serious plays of the night handling a sexual assault allegation in the workplace. “It was very special to me to act in such a play as a woman. The process was very emotional and after a point there’s only that much anger or sorrow that you can show on stage. I wanted to make the audience live with me. It’s tough to show all that in 10 minutes.”

Richa Anand Nigam and SaiLaxmi PS‘ “Memory Card” took the Bronze at the Judges’ Choice Award with a play that tackled tough subject-matter: a life-long friendship between two elderly ladies with dementia. It really made Aashna and I wonder if there was ever anything that a friend could do that would warrant one “deleting” the other permanently from their memory.

#nikitalyfe with Anchala Prem and Pavani Verma from “Psychic’s Prediction”

Heriot Watt University students, Anchala Prem and Pavani Verma enjoyed breaking the fourth wall in their criminal revenge play, “Psychic’s Prediction.”

“It’s an incredible opportunity,” said Anchala, who expertly improvised dialogue when a part of their set fell mid-scene. “I loved that I could interact with the audience with the way our show was written.”

Final Cast Bows at Weekend One of the Top 50 Short+Sweet Theatre Fest

At the end of the night, I asked some of the actors which of the other productions were their favorites.

Aradhita Basu‘s one-woman play, “Checkmate” about obsessive compulsive disorder stood out. “Her monologue kept me going, I wanted to keep listening and learning more and more about the character,” agreed Anchala and Pavani.

“Preparing for this role was utterly terrifying but so much fun,” shared Aradhita, “It was a journey and a huge adventure. I got to explore so much of the character that I felt myself turning into her. I even found myself checking and re-checking things around my house. I participated in Shorter+Sweeter last year and that was my first time acting ever!” Aashna and I were in disbelief at her level of sheer talent.

Ziyad Bangara and Sid Abbas were spectacular in “The Abyss”

“We really liked The Abyss. It was deep and the intensity of the acting by Sid Abbas and Ziyad Bangara was up to the mark. It was amazing; the concept, the storyline written by Akhil Kumar …everything,” said Saif and Neha.

“I thought The Role of Della was done really well,” said Aradhita. Noor Chang, Amina Elmasry and Christina Azzi from American School of Dubai went on to win the Judges’ Choice Award that night for their outstanding and energetic performance. As for the plot twist at the end: I definitely did not see that coming and I loved the ruthlessness of it!

As for the weeks ahead, Gautam concluded, “I am looking forward to seeing new talent on stage. That’s why I come to the festival: to scout out new people for my plays, to find out whose work to be excited for.”

The Short+Sweet Theatre Festival will be ongoing for the next six weekends at The Junction in Alserkal, Dubai. Tickets are for Dhs. 100 and available at the door or on Platinum List. I will definitely be returning for another weekend and hope to see some of you there! 🙂 Until next time, keep exploring! ❤ xoxo #nikitalyfe

shortsweet fest
With love, #nikitalyfe

Author: Nikita Taimni

A Dubai-based blogger, I write about travel, theatre and lifestyle in the cities I explore around the world. Follow me on Instagram @nikitalyfe and follow via email if you enjoy reading my posts!

5 thoughts

  1. Well-written piece, Nikita – interesting and details the full spectrum! Thank you for mentioning us/ our play too (Memory Card). Glad, we could entertain you & your friend 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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