The first thing I notice when I meet Catherine in a cafe in Coburg are six miniature bow ties laid out on the table in front of me. Before I have any time to register what is happening she jumps out of her chair, warmly welcomes me as if we are old friends and orders me a chai latte. And so begins this interactive and immersive Melbourne Fringe Festival show for an audience of one, Cafe Play!.
Created by Pearce Hessling and Catherine Holder, Cafe Play! is a thirty-minute 'catch-up' between two friends. I first encountered Holder's work at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe Festival, with her one-on-one interactive show Sonder. Her care and attention to my needs then were impressive and in Cafe Play! that same level of attention is present, albeit in a very different environment. She does a great job of making me feel like an equal in this conversation while guiding and driving the narrative.
Part of the charm of this show is how it looks to the outside eye, to people who don't realise that this is a show and think it's two highly organised and slightly controlling people planning their friends' wedding. While I did pick out one subtle eavesdropper, it would be interesting to see this play out in a more public place where there is a greater chance of people coming across this and observing their reactions.
While Holder is the "star" of the show, it is only as fun and surprising as you make it. I am able to make decisions, suggestions and add to the narrative any way I see fit. I can disagree with Catherine about the flower arrangements or where Aunt Margie should sit. The more involved I allow myself to be in this "story", the more invested I become in the wedding where I have to remind myself that this is not real (but I just love planning things).
Before I know it, my 30 minutes is up and Catherine has to dash. Suddenly I am left alone to finish my chai latte and think about how incredible Darcy and Alex's wedding is going to be. Of course it's all make-believe but that's the appeal of Cafe Play!, allowing us to get creative, use our imagination and find the joy in playing.
Venue: Provided upon booking, but in Coburg.
Season: until 22 September | Thurs - Sun, every half hour between 12pm and 3pm.
Length: 30 minutes
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival - SOLD OUT