Theatre Tasters - Free

Fri 3rd – Sun 12th August 2012

reviews

Julia Chapman

at 09:54 on 5th Aug 2012

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Divided into three parts (described in the programme as the starter, main course and dessert), Theatre Tasters provided a story, a philosophical debate, and a diatribe against large coffee corporations. What unified the three performances was not plot or style but an international group of actors and writers finding their voices together.

The ‘starter’, entitled ‘The Misguided Tour’, was a monologue as told by a character who declared himself a former prison inmate and was now giving tours of his jail-turned-museum. While it was a promising premise, the monologue was filled with hackneyed ideas about prison life that were neither particularly funny nor insightful. The script was well-written but the lines with comic potential were not delivered with the same slickness.

The second performance, going by the name of ‘Lovely Burden’, drew the rather depressing parallel between the world of dating and old age. The two actresses, playing nurses in an old folks home, served as either side of a simplistic dichotomy of viewpoints on love and death. Despite a repetitive debate preaching the respective pros and cons of optimism and pessimism, both Torya Winters and Jasmin Egner acted their parts well, particularly whilst maintaining concentration on the various activities they were undertaking. Inexplicably, the discourse was accompanied by their juggling, trampolining, drawing, knitting, playing Twister etc. This made the limited space feel extremely claustrophobic and often meant that the action was hidden from many audience members.

The ‘dessert’, called ‘Team Player’, was both the most peculiar and the most intriguing. In this final story, a young man is offered a job at a coffee shop called Buckanero (presumably a play on Starbucks and Caffe Nero), joining the multi-national ranks of other generic baristas wearing morphsuits emblazoned with the Starbucks logo. This was where it became interesting. Three actors took to the front of the space, each reciting company lines in either English, Italian or German, frantically speaking over each other with their facial gestures betraying their words. Some quotes include ‘We don’t openly hate each other’, ‘We don’t wear the same pants two weeks in a row’ and ‘We have a very good working environment’. All the while, the actors were performing robotic coffee-making gestures. The scene was strange, to say the least, but the frenzied energy of the three international baristas held our attention and was also mildly comical.

Together, the tasters on show achieved little in the way of interest. The transitions between the three scenes were facilitated by some atmospheric live accordion music, but this could not provide the unity the show demanded.

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Yara Rodrigues Fowler

at 10:22 on 5th Aug 2012

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‘Theatre Tasters’ is a remarkable little production. Staged in a tiny space at The Phoenix on Broughton St, it offers its audience three short pieces or stories: a ‘starter’, ‘main’ and a ‘dessert'. Each is written by a different writer and performed by a different cast but all are directed by Flavia D’Avila. This set up is the result of a international collaboration of actors from “Scotland, England, Brazil, Australia, Norway-via-China, Germany, Italy, Spain and the USA” who together form Fronteiras Theatre Lab. The concept behind the company, set up by D’Avila, is to mix languages and cultures in theatre; it achieves this with watchable originality that distinguishes it from much of the Free Fringe work.

The play features many charming details. For example, the dialogue of ‘main course’ - a conversation between two nurses at an old people’s home reflecting on aging and relationships - was accompanied by a well-timed live accordion-player and apparently random actions, including juggling, twister and some live artwork. These actions, though puzzling, created a sense of time passing and of a conversation continuing without being discontinuous. Interestingly, the idea for the piece came from a text exchange between D’Avila and Irvine, the director. Some of their speeches are slightly unoriginal - however this is probably how most real-life discussions about love, relationships and honesty inevitably sound, and so adds to the piece's plausibility.

The ‘dessert’, which showed the interview and subsequent enrollment of a new employee at ‘Buccaneer’ Coffee (whose logo is suspiciously similar to that of Starbucks), really showcased the mulch-culturalism of the company with lovely overlapping translations of the Buccaneer mantra. Here the theme of the ‘dessert’ - the soullessness of the Buccaneer company - and Fronteiras met cleverly in the form of globalization. This section is neatly written, acted and directed, with audience members treated to German from Jasmin Egner and Italian from Sarah Cagossi. Special mention should be made of Jojo Lewis for her brilliant design of the ‘Buccaneer’ onesies - appearing suddenly for a unanimous chuckle. The first section - the ‘starter’ - written by Australian Angus Algie, and featuring both himself and Mark Young is competent but somewhat worn.

Although the overall effect of the three courses is somewhat underwhelming, the play does provide food for thought - perfect for a light lunch.

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