Theatre review: The Cafe at the Coffee Works Project

The Cafe at The Coffee Works

The Cafe at The Coffee Works - Credit: Archant

Site-specific play about a cafe – and performed in a cafe – is an absorbing satire

If someone were to approach you with the set-up “a Pole, a Turk and an Englishman work in a café”, you might just brace yourself for a modern twist on that age-old and politically incorrect joke.

However, these are simply the nationalities of the protagonists in a site-specific play by newcomer Ben Aitkin.

Opening with the tiresomely recognisable strains of We Are Family by 1970s disco stalwarts Sister Sledge, the scene is soon set for an involving drama of biting social commentary – with added comedy.

Marcus Dearing is the owner of a struggling café that needs to make cuts, but his hostile penny-pinching creates a line in the sand for his employees.

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Forging an ‘us and them’ divide, one of the waiters, a frustrated Marxist with ideals beyond his reach, tries to organise a strike.

You could be forgiven for thinking that this sounds like hard work, but The Café covers these topics with a breezy barrage of smart one-liners and wry quips.

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The cast are uniformly excellent and imbue their roles with humour and depth. It could be said that Rose, played by Sophie Dickson, is not as effectively drawn as the rest of the cast, but it is inevitable that some cracks will appear in order to satisfy the taut one hour running time.

On the whole, the ingredients make for an absorbing hour.

* The Cafe is at the Coffee Works Project in Islington High Street, N1, until April 6.

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