#3 Elsa

Cabaret ( Storytelling, Comedy ) Assembly Hall

Strong, one-woman sung-through cabaret storytelling about Elsa, the girl who works at the café. Elsa feels that the people, the women, she encounters at the café, are all hiding their real thoughts and feelings. Elsa imagines their life stories and shares them with a sequence of songs, reflecting on her own story on the way.

Theatrical (dramatic?) storytelling, tackling the issue of life as a performance for others. Drawing on a distinctly female perspective, Elsa is about the pressures of presenting yourself to friends, to society, to the Internet, and, ultimately, to yourself.

Impressive singing from the multi-talented Isobel Rogers, with capable guitar strumming to accompany. Intimate, wily delivery of this meta-gossip and Elsa's inner monologue. A highly polished, meticulously rehearsed show years(!) in the making. Confident performance. Gracefully navigated (hilarious!) technical mishap just before what must be the most challenging part of the performance - see here a trained pro at work.

Speaking of the rapping sequence, definitely more on the fringe-worthy rather than cringe-worthy end of the scale. But rap is not about careful planning and choreography. Speaking the truth in this case somewhat sidelined for the showbiz. A knife can take only so much sharpening, before eating too far into the edge.

The carried theme of modern womanhood and questions of real versus performance in life were left as a calm undercurrent. Not quite strong enough writing to keep the subject matter front and center.

Yet the writing is formidable, and surely much funnier with this lighter delivery. Pop/lit references fly by fast, as they should, on the asides of the sung verses. Rogers' wit and keen eye of observation are evident - there is a voice here to listen to.

Beautiful visual storytelling, from kicking leaves out the door, to geese flapping their way in. Fantastical poetry of life, in the charming manner of Amélie Poulain, and Science of Sleep -auteur Gondry.

Unlike in Amélie's vibrant world, in Elsa's world men are barely present, and merely as sexual partners at that. Both Amélie and Elsa are daydreamers, but where one is flawed and relatable with her insecurities and emotion, the other is left a weak non-subject living solely in her head. Elsa freely imagines life stories for the women she meets, but keeps a safe distance. Even the release of her bottled frustration is quickly swept aside as a non-event.

With deeper drama and a good punch, there would be greatness here. Still, the straight-blank description, and the equally blank-faced picture do this show no justice. This is entertaining storytelling cabaret from a smart new talent with imagination and human understanding.

Sit down at Elsa's café for a cup of coffee and hear these delightful vignettes of coffee mornings with the girls.