This is a show for anyone who has loved, anyone who has loved and lost, anyone who loves a good song and story, anyone who is passionate about what they do. Come to think of it, this is a show for everyone. The show is set in a real café, so it feels very authentic and it’s almost like people watching. I take my seat at a table in Café L’Arte and sip my drink as I would in any other café.
Emily has been running Café L’Arte for the last five years. She lost the love of her life and changed direction, opening the café instead of setting up a theatre company which had previously been her dream. Joseph walks into the café and starts to tell Emily that he is a ‘Psychic Songwriter’. Yes, I know, I was sceptic about that too. But Joseph puts his business card on the notice board and starts to engage in conversation with Emily. She too, is sceptic, after all who has heard of a Psychic Songwriter? He says to Emily for her to give him a chance and he will prove it. What has she got to lose?
We focus on a father and daughter who are sitting at a table in the café talking. She wants to be an actress but he says that is fine to do as a hobby but it’s not a real job. Suddenly, she bursts into song ‘What’s It To You?’, telling him how she wants to do this and feel free. Oh, how this touched my heart and tears sprung into my eyes as it brought back memories of my own very similar conversations when I was a teenager. The focus switches back to Emily and she tells Joe that although it was really cool to hear that, she isn’t ready to share her own story. Joe agrees to let her hear a few more stories. We hear about Debbie who has already had a bad year and now Alfie is in the café breaking up with her. But music is her best friend and she is stronger now as she sings to the café. Another customer on the next table keeps tearing sheets of paper out of his notebook. He is frustrated writer and is struggling to find his muse. He bursts into song telling the café what a creative roller-coaster it is.
Emily is impressed with all these songs sharing her customers inner emotions, that she can hear with the help of Joe and asks him a favour. Can he get any information about Robby, her employee, as she is often late into work and looks tired. Robby is shy and rather reluctant to speak to Joe. But he notices something about her and suggests she practice telling Emily her secret on him. Her secret will resonate with all Furrys. Finally, we hear Emily’s story and her heartbreak of losing the love of her life. But this is therapy as she works through it to realise she should follow her heart. Joe then confesses his own secret…but I am not going to tell you anything more about that.
The show is an amazing roller-coaster of emotions; full of laughter and tears set in such an intimate setting with the actors on the café tables next to you. Gaby Polcino plays Emily and along with her lovely natural voice she gives the show its heart. The audience are hanging on to her every word and feel her pain and warm to her personality. Gaby is fantastic and very natural. Owen Brown plays Joe and gives a very realistic performance of a psychic. His manner is a bit scary at times, and you do wonder what Joe will do next. After all anyone can walk into a café for a coffee.
Robby is played by Darcie Copus and she gives a great performance of shy Robby. Robby is also passionate about a charity she helps out with and Darcie provides a good insight into all the different aspect of her personality. Joe calls Robby strange but to me that is a great compliment to someone who has many layers to their personality. Darcie portrays these perfectly, knowing how much to give and yet still leaving us wanting to get to know Robby better.
Ginny Davies plays Debbie and her performance of ‘Stronger Now’ is so powerful that the audience who until now have sat like cafe shop customers burst into spontaneous applause. We can genuinely feel her pain and many have been in her shoes. Ginny is a wonderful actress and also plays Jeanette in the show, a woman who is really trying hard to keep her charity going. Ginny plays both characters with such a legitimacy that you could forget they are both Ginny. The whole cast each bring something to the show, each character adding weight and another dimension.
The show is written by Frank Scarito and he also plays the keyboards in the show to accompany the songs. Each song not only tells a story and has great composition, but are the building blocks in the show, letting us know a bit more about each character and moving the show along. Not one of the songs felt out of place or a weak link.
Cafe L’Arte - It’s a great name. Arty but pronounced like a Latte. And the programme is set out like a menu. You feel like you are eavesdropping on the next table as the conversations feel very realistic and the setting adds authenticity. It feels truly immersive and is so unique to have it set in a real café that cast are lucky I didn’t stand up and burst into song myself.
This show is truly exceptional. If you have lost your way and need to find your muse, go have a drink at Café L’Arte – eight songs that can change your life!
Photographs by Heidi Voigtlander and Josh Vickers.