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The Cafe
Published on Friday, 18 May 2012

3 stars

Metrodeco (venue website)
15-17, 19-20 May, 7:30pm-9:00pm
Reviewed by Lynne Morris

 Warning: Contains strong language.
 World Premiere.
 2-for-1 tickets for Friends of the Fringe members.

Written, produced and directed by the young Ben Aitken, The Cafe is an enjoyable and entertaining observation of today’s multi-layered working world. Performed in the setting of a pretty cafe in Brighton's Kemptown, the piece offers a fly-on-the-wall view of the inner workings of an ordinary business. Multiculturalism, globalisation, the challenging economic climate, class and the idealism of youth are among the plethora of relevant and current topics touched upon in the 90-minute performance.

Witty metaphors and some gloriously caustic lines are delivered well by the stressed and opinionated cafe owner Marcus, played by Paul Lincoln. His hardline political opinions are almost well-intended, albeit potentially misguided, and provide young waiter Joe (Richard Rowe McGhie) with plenty of reason for discontent. The relationship between the pair soon becomes the focus of the piece, with a definite chemistry fuelling the sparring partners. Their running battle over austerity measures, free lunches, human rights and student loans is amusing if not entirely believable.

I almost wish that the two had been left alone to perform the piece.  The rest of the cast – the Turk, the Pole, the snotty young trial waitress, the ex pit worker and the irritating customer – all seemed to be there to tick boxes, or to provide occasional humorous interjections rather than offering any real depth to the work. Aitken is an intelligent and keen observer who has an obvious talent for softening challenging material with humour and irony. Simplifying the piece would help the relationships, issues and humour blossom, but for now it has moments of confusion and parts that are overly scripted.

The real-life cafe setting works on the whole. There are some obvious problems to address: key delicate moments between the cafe staff are lost, as the action moves to a spot at the back of the audience which is almost completely out of sight. Aitken set himself a challenge with both the material and the setting, and he does a sterling job of attempting to reach the target. The fact it falls short may be more to do with his limited experience rather than anything more concerning. Go along and forgive the flaws: Aitken is one to watch.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.