Welcome to Mariana's café, owned and managed by the wistful Rosa (Sylvia Medina). She runs a cosy space, is familiar with many of her regulars – and understands that different people drop in for their coffee at different times of day. And so we meet an array of diverse characters, including yummy mummies, backpackers, air stewardesses, soldiers and estate agents; each has their song to sing, and a comment to make on love, life, and their dreams for the future.
The intimate, immersive space certainly looks like a coffee shop, and the cast of seven are strong, all possessing great voices and playing multiple parts to maintain the illusion of a constant flow of customers. Many of the songs involve more than one of them, and the harmonies are fabulous.
I particularly enjoyed the ensemble number describing “commuter hell”, which perfectly captures something very familiar to those of us who’ve had to endure it. Robert Woodward impresses as the obsessive ex-boyfriend who doesn’t seem to understand the word “no”, while Rebecca Bailey is equally convincing in her pained responses to his advances. Matthew Boyd is adorable as the boy on the bus with a serious crush on the girl he always sits next to – and I loved the harmonies of the number he sings alongside Natalie Thorn.
After a while, though, I found myself desperate for more dialogue between the characters. I yearned to learn their back-stories; the snippets we did get left me wanting a little more. And although the musicians (Teddy Clements, Sam Dando and George Storry) do a fantastic job together, at times they overpowered the small space, making it difficult to hear the singers.
Saying all of this though, I liked the message in the finale, which carries an important reminder for us all: if we’re discontent with our lot, then it’s up to us to “live a different life”. Forget Costa, how I wish that I could find a café like Rosa’s – where people seem to find love over their cappuccinos, and there’s a song sung every time another latte is served.