When I found out after the show that Coffeeshop Girl Joanie Little is just a character, I was amazed and a touch disappointed. Amazed, because the world created on stage was so real in every detail that I never for a minute doubted it; disappointed, because, well, Joanie is fun. I want to buy coffee from Joanie; surely everyone wants to be friends with Joanie; keen to relive the magic, I even bought a Coffeeshop Girl CD. Yep, that’s how much I loved this, the best solo show I’ve seen this Fringe.
Rebecca Perry – Joanie’s creator – is testament to the fact that there are stories everywhere, but the truth is in the telling. Here, she creates an adventure out of Joanie’s mundane job in a coffee shop, undertaken as a graduate anthropologist without an internship (’til now working for Gabe, the gorilla-esque café owner).
She makes equally hilarious characters out of a series of outwardly nondescript regulars – nondescript, that is, to anyone without Perry’s powers of observation. Sue the jogger, Monique the thé vert drinker, The Penguin from a local corporate, ex-boyfriend Mike, the mysterious Marco: all are subject to Joanie’s acute attention. She acts out her witty stories with gusto, so that everyone is not only as large-as-life but also familiar – recognisable even though you’ve never met them before. You feel like you know Joanie and friends, and knowing them brings warmth.
Happily, Joanie in turn gets Marco’s attention, with unexpectedly life-changing consequences. The story restores your faith in serendipity on life’s path – but no spoilers here.
Perry’s performance is nothing short of stunning, and proves two important theories: first, that life is what you make it (so make it fun), and second, that budget is not the key to a successful show. The stage here is relatively small, but Perry fills it with exuberant performance, connecting with the audience and never losing us for a second. The set is sparse but carefully created. Scenes are interspersed with fab renditions of ‘jazzy tunes’, which you, too, can buy on CD.
The whole show is so capably delivered from the off, that you know you’re in safe hands and can just sit back and enjoy. Perry even provides a helpful playbill with a synopsis, press quotes and ‘quick facts’ – which is how I find out that not only will this show air on Canadian TV in September but, importantly, that there is a follow-up show (yay!), Adventures of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl. Bravo!