Brighton Fringe 2010
Tales from the Coffee House
Venue: Caffe Moksha
Devised and improvised scenes from Final Edit bring the Caffe Moksha to life for an evening of serious and comedy theatre. Chris Orr directs.
Chris Orr introduces the evening. The actors approach us pre-show and engage us in conversation. Have we started yet? What will happen next?I was asked by a couple to help with clues to. Cryptic crossword. Suddenly there are snipets of conversation to overhear – what is real, what is staged in a place where the stage is the cafe in which we are seated? This is a refreshing site-specific show that had a lightness about it that was not slight, but more inviting and enticing. Short playlets, monologues, comedy skits formed the meat of the evening as were literally treated to tales from the coffee house.
I was impressed by the unhurried, non intrusive and easy style of this production. The space is inhabited, not taken over; the fourth wall is paper thin, sometimes it disappears This is what gives "Tales" its edge; the space is not the venue only – it’s one of the characters, it’s also the context for the piece; but context and character do not create an artificial feeling that we are in a cafe-turned-theatre. We are in a cafe, observing ourselves in a cafe as well as enjoying some playing in a cafe; yes, these players are playing in all senses of the world; their devising and improvisation involves playful experimentation with dramatic form, space and staging and acoustics; it also involves playing characters, it involves playing with the fourth wall and finally, it involves playing with audience vicinity, involvement and reaction. Well done Final Edit for such a play-full experiment in theatre.
The voice work and my ability to see particular table scenes was a bit uneven which meant you saw and heard some things better than others. Also the improvised comedy was a bit hit and miss, though mostly it elicited laughs from the audience. Many of these are gentle, touching conversations, literally tales from the coffee house that we are allowed to eavesdrop on. And that’s when it is at its very best.
The performers knew how to pause and were competent in their base line of naturalism tinged with enough stagecraft to pull this evening off as interesting, often intriguing theatre.
There are also helpings of comedy, for example monologues about various addictions. Particular favourites were addictions to chewing gun and hole punching.
It’s light drama, peppered with spicier fayre, particularly in the second half. Some of the pieces work better than others, the comedy isn’t always sharp but it rarely strays from fun and smileworthy.
With a very small audience, the cast worked very hard and on a few occasions director Chris Orr was akin to an Ahab trying to keep the ship on course on the sea of uncertainty that always accompanies a sparse crowd. Mostly, on this night, they succeeded very well..
One particular scene of someone reading a novel with a glass of red wine quickly brought the whole cafe into a state of silent, fascinated onlooking. Very well conceived and realised. it was a bit Tati-esque and that is to highly praise it. More of that would lift this unique piece of theatre into the ranks of outstanding. That said, this is still highly recommended. I hope it makes a return to a coffee house soon.