Promenade of Shorts Season 2

A Promendade of shorts season 2 2023Red Phoenix Theatre. Holden Street Theatres. 12 Jan 23


The gift that Covid gave.

It was devised as a way to engage the city’s theatre people while audience numbers were limited to just 30.  A Promenade of Shorts was the 2020 canny solution - three audiences of 30 people each changing places in three proximate venues. It could only work at Holden Street. It did work. The first production was a triumph and now, reiterated as Red Phoenix’s opening presentation of 2023, it is a sizzling, unmissable, often hilarious winner.


Nine short plays are spread through the evening with two pleasant intervals. Chairs and tables are spread out around the venue and a fabulous outdoor bar keeps endless options of libations flowing to the accompaniment of live musicians. It is a world unto itself and a positively juicy night of entertainment.


The plays are offbeat, wildly dissimilar and superbly performed by a veritable showcase of stellar talent.


Colour-coded to the blue group, my first shows are in the Box Bar and the first wee play set a very high bar indeed.

It is The Last Time I Saw Her, written by Jane Anderson in 1995, directed expertly by Joh Hartog and featuring Lyn Wilson and Geoff Revell in an intense, often viciously funny dispute between a boss and an executive about privacy and when is sharing over-sharing.  Wilson is good. Revell is sublime. Every nuance! Every responsive flutter of an eyelid. He’s one of the city's finest actors, a joy to watch and a very hard act to follow.


Emily Branford is she who follows with a classic Joyce Grenfell vignette. She plays a harried primary teacher trying to impress a visitor while keeping control over an unruly Free Activity Period. It’s a wee bravura piece well executed. Finally, A Hot Brick requires Petra Schulenberg to stand sternly as a seasoned suffragette while young Finty McBain portrays the ingenuous keen bean would-be apprentice. It’s a nice piece of story-telling, again, well delivered.


After interval, audiences move venues and the blue group is off to the Studio for the next tranche of plays, the first two directed by the much-admired Nick Fagan and the third with Fagan performing as directed by Hayley Horton. The Processional is a totally off-the-wall playlet about a pastor rehearsing a wedding. With Jackson Barnard, Laura Antoniazzi, Tom Tassone and Brittany Gallasch as the wedding party, it soars as pièce de résistance for Rebecca Kemp as the pastor. Applause. Applause.


Confession is a tense police interrogation morsel with Stuart Pearce in a fine American accent as the suspect, displaying the skills of stillness against the ferocity of John Rosen’s detective and Joanne St Clair’s inexperienced stenographer.


The Chip comes as a zany contrast with Nick Fagan as the nice bloke, Vander, looking for a follow-up date with Rebissa, an artist. Here, Fagan takes an artful back seat enabling Claire Keen to give a sensationally interesting, funny, and committed performance - and, oh, the beauty of that actress’s voice.


Finally, after another easy interval, our blue group is moved, under the steady guidance of our “governess”, to The Arch for three more mini shows, these directed by Libby Drake who, indeed, is responsible for the casting throughout. 


Captain Rockets Versus the Inter-Galactic Brain Eaters is a very silly yet quite pertinent piece about conspiracy and reality, media, and the message.  Pin-up actor Brant Eustice is a funny and scary Captain Rockets but it is Cheryl Douglas who steals the show as his TV-show offsider, Luna, miming her way through attempted cover-ups of his ever-more inappropriate and outrageous hypotheses, she’s hilarious. 


Breakout, of course another off-the-waller, this one about corporate integrity, is yet another chance for Sharon Malujlo to shine in a cast of five while at the tail end of it all, Jack Robins and Jenny Allan present a tender morsel called Brian’s Got Talent.


It is enough. The audience has been challenged, amused and impressed.  It is an eloquent sufficiency. 


The Eustice Red Phoenix and Holden Street team has delivered a laudable quality product, complete with top techs, musicians, artwork, and all-round delicious creativity.

What a Happy New Year offering. 


Samela Harris


When: 12 to 21 Jan

Where: Holden Street Theatres