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It’s all about saying it in a nutshell. At this year’s Short+Sweet Dubai festival at The Junction, which runs from January 25 to March 9, competitors get a 10-minute slot. And in these 600 seconds, they must tell a story. The mini showcase then jostles for the top spots — Judge’s Choice and Audience Choice — with more than 99 other applicants.

The festival was launched in 2013 in Dubai — a local edition of an international idea, which first took flight in Australia in 2002.

Diverse casting

Greg Lunn, who’s been with the Dubai version for about four years, said in an interview with Gulf News tabloid! that while he was involved in theatre in his native UK, he was pleasantly surprised by the talent he found on the local scene. “The Short and Sweet is a fantastic, very, very special festival. It kind of brings everything together. It’s got some stunningly good 10-minute plays and it’s such a surprise when you see a 10-minute play and how good and how funny some of them can be. It’s very inclusive as well; it’s all different nationalities, all ages and all different genres of play as well so it’s a fantastic electric mix as well,” he explains.

Idea behind community theatre

It also offers a great sense of community and fosters friendships, say veterans. For The Junction’s co-founder Rashmi Kotriwala, Short+Sweet was a catalyst in establishing the community theatre space. She recalls her first directing gig at the first edition with pride. “I had no clue how to begin in [2013]. Somehow got going. It [ her pick] did really well in the Wild Card... It went on to the Gala finals and then it went on to win the judges choice as well as the audience choice. Considering we were just a cast of three people who had not really invited anybody from anywhere, but clearly the play won [over] many people. It won the best actress award, the best actor runners-up award so it was very, very heartening.”

“[The experience] became a starting point after which I sort of was very inspired to make this into something more than just a passion project. And that’s how actually the Junction happened.”

‘Safe space’

Osman Aboubakr, who has played actor, director and now judge at the Short+Sweet, says the format is one that encourages creativity and community. He calls it a ‘safe place’. “What I like about it you tend to have the involvement of a lot of people who are in the theatre community who generally do plays or poetry or any of the other entertainment and everyone will try their hand at things they don’t normally do, like writing or directing… It’s an outlet to experiment. That and being a part of a very encouraging community where they urge you to try [different things].”

New beginnings

The festival has also played the role of career guide for some. Actress Aswathi Menon, for instance, who worked with Kotriwala in 2013, is now working in Malayalam movies. For Asad Raza Khan, it meant a dive into Bollywood. He recalls a moment [in 2015] when he performed a monologue called ‘It’s All The Rage’, which followed a stalker with nefarious plans, he was not only pleasantly surprised when his friends needed time out to divorce him for his ‘character’ but it also meant a meeting with a director who raved about his performance. “This director walks up to me out of the blue and he says, ‘You did a fantastic job, would you like to star in my movie?’ And that’s how I got my Bollywood movie,” he says. For once-shy actor Roli Agarwal, it meant a foray onto the stage and getting over her fears.

They say a person’s got 15 minutes of fame. During this fest, that’s lopped down to 600 seconds. It all about making your point quickly; keeping it short and sweet.

Don’t miss it!

Short + Sweet Dubai runs on Fridays and Saturdays, from January 25 to March 9, at The Junction, Alserkal Avenue. Timings vary. Tickets start at Dh80.