Café Chaos

The Kosh
Unity Theatre
12 -13th March 2013

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

The programme says this is a 'dangerous comedy' but at times it was a lot darker than that. Nevertheless it started mundanely enough with the staff at a present day London Cafe preparing for another day.

Light-hearted and whimsical activity morphs into idiosyncratic banter, as the cheery Greek of the waitress and the ethnic Russian accents of the two male characters intermingle and you realise that this is not a typical Cockney run business when the Jewish owner appears. The cosmopolitan customer base adds to the mix and becomes the catalyst for a series of interactions, funny, farcical or worse.The play is directed by and choreographed by Sian Williams who plays Mrs Burstyn; the dancing on the tables scene was well thought out and demanded agile activity on the floor as well, but there is plenty of action in the constant coming and going in various guises, from all the cast via the black curtained backdrop to the stage.

Bubbly Katerina(Joanna Croll) and Nikolay(Sam Parks) wait on a tawdry selection of interlopers some who treat the staff with distain. Others want tea or sympathy, like the old tramp who falls asleep at his table only to be transformed into a heap of rags after a scene change, an hilarious row between a married couple and the mix up of a food order, and good use of props like an interjected 'No Smoking' sign, or judicious mention of the toilets in a table upgrade. Clever use is made of an on stage CD player to change the mood music and the 'Faulty Towers' like stage play begins to bring into focus what has only been hinted at before; that there are, despite the bonhomie, prejudice and indifference are lurking just below the surface in this claustrophic inner space where the the sun never shines.

Gyorgi(Jamie Matthewman),the chef, when serving up, doubles as Professor Torristor who has celebrity status with Mrs Burstyn until his holocaust denial rant. Very dark memories are trawled up in a painful montage of twisting entwined figures and a battered suitcase and the clever paper lantern projection of cattle trucks and bodies crumpling into pits, which brings the full horror of Hitler's death camps into poignant starkness and triggers catharthis of a sort at the end.

The 3 year gestation period of this project, under Producer Michael Merwitzer, shows the whole teams resolve to get it right and the multi-experienced cast carry it off with a professionalism this emotional and fast flowing one act of 80 minutes deserves, as the appreciative response from a nearly full audience showed.

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