Edinburgh Fringe 2011
This is set in a coffee shop, the type that might be doodled by Audrey Tatou’s Amelie one summer afternoon, and which is represented by a set full of flapping doors and curtains (its first reveal deserves – and receives – a round of applause all of its own). There are just three performers, and no dialogue is spoken – although that doesn’t stop a character managing to communicate the classic question ‘Your place or mine?’. They also have a cute habit of emitting grunts, squeals and snores that sound directly channeled from the Gremlins.
The gag of the piece, speaking broadly, is that you can order a life partner in much the same way you order a coffee: Skinny? Tall? (luckily, nobody gets as far as asking for their coffee to be black or white). This is played out a couple of times with members of the audience (not as scary or as intrusive as it sounds), but things begin to go wrong when two of the workers seek to repair their fractured relationship by partaking of the product themselves. It seems that if love is the drug, then coffee is the gateway.
While the two young love/hate birds begin to abandon their duties, their boss has to try and run the business on her own, her own cute sexiness never overplayed, and belying her subtle back story (she’s suffering from a bout of unrequited love). All three performers are charming and quite prepared to be silly, although it’s worth pointing out that that silliness is absolutely disciplined, and never overloaded or tiresome.
A great strength of the piece is in repeated scenes, told in somewhat different ways, so, despite the fact that no words are spoken, audiences are very swiftly able to pick up on the storyline. Sometimes, it’s delibatraely written quite obvious – such as when the team discover if a client would prefer a boy or a girl for their date – and often, it’s significantly more subtle than that.
The entire piece takes great care to be unashamedly silly throughout, so it’s surprising – and impressive – that the final five minutes or so are touching, moving, and likely to leave you with something sticking in the throat. Literally, one lump or two.