Adventures of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl

Wed 3rd – Mon 29th August 2016

reviews

Christopher Archibald

at 13:32 on 20th Aug 2016

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After a successful, sell-out run at the Toronto fringe in 2015, Rebecca Perry has brought ‘Adventures of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl’ to Edinburgh. In the first show Joanie Little treated the coffeeshop where she worked as an anthropological study, but this sequel takes Joanie to "the real thing": a chimpanzee sanctuary in Tanzania. However, it feels like something is missing.

Joanie plays a variety of characters, complete with caricatured accents, stepping this way and that to simulate a conversation. This is funny to begin with, but increasingly the writing feels less like an amusing one-woman show than a play intended for several other actors, all of whom dropped out at the last minute. In this cartoonish show, ‘The Wild Thornberrys’ meets ‘Family Guy’ and begins to grate. The form fails to exploit all the potential interest of a trip to Tanzania, focusing on the heat, mosquitoes, and monsoon weather. Seemingly to keep continuity with her first show, Perry makes some tangentially related comments about coffee, and the emphasis feels laboured.

The story is interspersed with various songs. She has a powerful voice, and this is perhaps the best feature of the entire show. At points, I wonder if the whole thing is just a vehicle for her singing; certainly, some songs are shoved in with very little relevance. Admittedly, the execution is professional, with effective lighting, slick sound cues and careful pacing.

The show’s conclusion takes the opportunity to reflect on “this thing I call life”, accompanied by the usual stash of tired metaphors (“crossroads in life” etc. etc. etc.), and some Broadway belters from Perry. This might be inspiring, but Perry does not leave her cartoon world and the audience seems unaffected. Indeed, the audience is generally unresponsive. After some laughs at the beginning, this fades into titters until the crowd remains silent for the rest of the performance.

Either the loss of the original show’s amusing framework of coffee-shop anthropology or perhaps British audiences’ different sensibilities to those across the pond has left Perry’s show feeling not quite right. Something seems missing. This may be a matter of taste, and if you’re looking for a show with a cartoony enthusiasm, some cheesy musical numbers, and a closing reflection on “following your dreams” then Perry’s your girl. Despite definite potential, and Perry's success in Toronto, this show is strangely underwhelming. The audience is neither uplifted nor in stitches, and all I can muster is a shrug of the shoulders.

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Olivia Cormack

at 09:39 on 22nd Aug 2016

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A sequel to last year’s hit show ‘Confessions of a Coffeeshop Girl’ I have high expectations as I take my seat. I am not sure whether my expectations were raised too much by the reviews of last year’s show, but I find myself slightly underwhelmed by this production. Although perfectly enjoyable, the story does not quite grip me, and the moment of great dramatic tension at the end of the play I think would work well sooner in the show, it would be interesting to see where Rebecca Perry would take Joanie’s character after that twist.

However aside from perhaps slightly average writing, Perry’s acting skill is what redeems this show. Her creation and embodiment of characters is captivating and her caricature of Dr Jane Goodall is nothing short of hilarious – I don’t think I will ever forget the line “I’ve been groped by more chimpanzees than any of you ever will be combined”. Perry’s ability to jump back and forth between different characters, playing all parts in a conversation maintains a comic element throughout the show which keeps me engaged even when the plot falls a little flat. Her voice is equally captivating and I am seriously considering buying her CD of songs from the show. Not only is Perry’s voice pleasant but she is good at writing songs which fit strongly with the narrative whilst also maintaining a general appeal.

The venue is less than ideal and halfway through Perry’s show I begin to hear music and even muffled dialogue from the show in the next room. The stage area is also very restricted and it would be nice if Perry had a bit more room to move around without my worrying that she might topple off into the audience at any moment.

Ultimately an enjoyable but forgettable show I leave the theatre full of expectations that have not quite been met and a tune in my head that quickly fades away. Perry is a talented actress but I feel that this show does not show her to the best of her ability.

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