/ Review / Writing: Journalism

The Alchemystorium (****)

Gomito Productions have created another physically complex, visually stunning and hilarious show in their piece The Alchemystorium; it’s cute, endearing and fits into a box, telling an endearing story of romance, work and where the two collide. It’s not as slick as it could be, but the slightly ramshackle nature of the performances is part of the charm here. At the Greenwich Theatre.

The Alchemystorium is a coffee shop, but not just any old high street chain – it’s an artisanal coffee cart, popping up in town squares and with a team of three hand-making coffee, taking Polaroids and offering a match-making service. However, the team’s squabbling leads to an unlikely romance, and as personal matters threaten to upset the delicate shop dynamic, all three baristas must decide whether their happy existence or these new, exciting feelings are more important.

And all of this without a single word of dialogue. Everything here is communicated through movement, clowning and the occasional unspoken utterance (think kids’-TV-character squeals and bleeps) – and it’s quite remarkable how much these performers are managing to convey with just expressions and physicality. Their interplay is one of the main highlights of the piece – they’ve clearly been performing it together for quite some time, and their physicality and confidence with each other allows for most scenes to go off without a hitch. This becomes especially noticeable during their outstanding puppetry work, where the over-the-top clowning is replaced by delicate and deliberate movement that gives the little coffee-sack dolls bags of character – and also when the coffee-making routine breaks down into some delightful mishaps.

Speaking of the dolls, this is a rather prop-heavy production, but never feels over-stuffed or complicated. The process of brewing the coffee is, as could be expected, chock-a-block with coffee-making paraphernalia constructed from other household objects used in wonderfully inventive ways. This then continues into the team’s personal belongings behind the set, including the cart itself, which seems to sprout plants and unfurl in even more peculiar ways with various pieces of pretty stage magic.

It’s all very accomplished, but it’s not perfect – the clowning is excellent, but occasional physical moments don’t flow where they should; it feels like the clowning and the physical theatre shouldn’t overlap, and when they do, things don’t seem quite as in control. Also, it’s a little long: there’s only so long that the cute quirkiness of it appeals, and I did find myself occasionally drifting out of focus, although its endearing nature did keep drawing me back.

However, when it does work it’s incredibly accomplished from all three performers, as well as an impressive accomplishment from this hugely impressive theatre company. They seem to be jumping from strength to strength, with their long list of impressive shows previewed in Edinburgh. Catch The Alchemystorium cart while it’s on tour throughout the UK!


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