Edinburgh Fringe 2015
Joanie Little wants to follow in the footsteps of her heroine Jane Goodall, but is instead working the coffee counter. Perhaps she’ll find all manner of animal magic there ..
Writer/Performer Rebecca Parry plays Joanie Little, and delivers a charming monologue (with songs) about life behind the counter of a coffee shop. It goes without saying that this is likely an artisan establishment with Fairtrade beans that pays its share of taxes rather than any franchise high-street name you may be aware of. The name of the show invokes that movie trope Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and as such there is just a dusting of whimsy and wish-fulfilment on top.
Parry tells us about the day-to-day existence of working the coffee counter – literally, a Java script – but ‘confessions’ is not really confessional enough: there’s nothing said here that you think Parry wouldn’t feel happy telling us for free while giving us an extra stamp on our loyalty card. It’s a Nora Ephron mocha, with no hint of bitter aftertaste. There’s a nice central idea: Joanie’s frustrated interests in anthropology break out into her observations of the regular customers and co-workers, but once that central idea has been explored, it’s clear that we are here more for engaging company than a driven narrative. That’s not to say that there isn’t a story here, but that storyline is somewhat slight. Although Parry is Canadian, there is more than a touch of mid-eighties American comedy in the mix with a smart and engaging central heroine frustrated by the more base instincts of her everyday companions (think Kate & Allie). In fact, the arc of Confessions .. has something in common with the arc of the Linda Lavin sitcom Alice (although no doubt coincidentally). When a new romantic beau comes on the scene, it’s difficult to avoid the assumption that some of his main attractive qualities are the fact that he owns a local swish restaurant, and is very well connected. He comes across as something like Christian Grey, but with respect for women. Perhaps a hour isn’t long enough, but Little’s life has little problem or challenge – there is not much in coffee to grind her down.
There’s an old joke that many coffee shops are mainly populated by frustrated writers creating their semi-autobiographical pieces about undiscovered talents trapped in coffee shops. It’s tempting to draw a similar conclusion here, but it’s certainly true that Parry is a very engaging personality who makes a great coffee companion for an hour.