Layla Chowdhury enjoys ‘Tappuccino’, a new collaboration between Durham Improvised Musical and Buttered Toast.

What can you say about Tappuccino? What does Tappuccinomean? Is it a concept? Is it the word of God? Is it a metaphor for Western consumerism? We will never know.

The lack of explanation around why we’re talking about a coffee bean is precisely what makes this piece so great. There are no hidden meanings, there are few jokes that aren’t there to simply make the audience laugh, and it is quite freeing to experience something with no hidden agenda or darker subtext.

Rosie Dart, as ‘a literal coffee bean’, and Rhys Rodrigues, as her ‘baRHYSta’ are a dynamic duo who’s chemistry was palpable. It was clear from the start this was a personal project to the both of them, who had taken real joy in creating the piece. This immediately fed into the atmosphere.

Set in the delightful Cafedral, created a very comfortable and intimate space to be taken into the life of the coffee bean. The setting helped develop the individualistic nature of the piece, it almost would have felt out of place on a conventional stage. The audience interaction was use to similar effect. It ensured people were engaged and attentive from the start, and rather than feeling uncomfortable, it united people in the ‘fringe style’ experience and made us completely aware that this wasn’t going to be a traditional piece of theatre.

Dart was a captivating performer throughout, her boundless energy and excitement fed into all of her songs and interactions with the audience. Even the unexpectedly moving moments, of ‘Billy the bean’ and the fear of the coffee machine, never let the energy drop, and gave a surprising depth of character to our little bean friend. Rodrigues’s performance perfectly balanced Dart’s high energy, with a deadpan disinterest in the bean. This was used very effectively and created some of the funniest moments of the night. It would have been nice perhaps to see a little more of their bizarre relationship first hand, and to engage more with Rodrigues’s character.

The only moments personally that I think lost a slight amount of the audience’s attention were the tap breaks. Obviously Dart is a very skilled dancer, and they were cleverly kept at such a length that people were unlikely to lose focus but there was a slight loss of energy from the audience. Perhaps it could be nice to use more audience interaction in these moments, allow the us to feel a part of the dance routine, with similar synchronised clapping or sounds that would almost cheer on her dancing. That said, the tap was often used to great comic effect and we were just left waiting, wanting to hear more of the story!

This is absolutely a show that I have never seen in Durham before, using multiple styles of theatre, creating high energy atmosphere of joy and experimentation. It really lives up to its claim of ‘fringe’ worthy fun. This is an experience of sorts and I urge the masses to witness it.

Tappuccino will be playing in Cafedral at 8:00pm on Saturday 9th March.