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Celebrity Night at Café Red

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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There’s a chain of bars in France called The Frog. Could the choice of name be a shameless appeal to tourists, a willingness to accept derogatory stereotypes or simply an indication of how ignorant the French deem foreigners? Clearly the bars aren’t meant to be frequented by natives of France, and nor are they - rather more Brits on a stag night or backpackers with a sense of humour.

This debut by actor, writer, director Lily Beven, who appears as Hillary in the play, seeks to pay homage to Britain’s own love for restaurants, particularly so-called French and Italian ones, where faux culture can be handed on a plate.

Wonderfully designed by Giuseppe Belli the set has everything, including checked table cloths and even onions attached to a bike, and the cosy studio feels like you’re diners in the same restaurant. But really it’s all about two couples and a group of three girlfriends each seated at three different tables.

Over the course of the play the dialogue alternates between each table. At one of them sits a naïve young lad who has taken his French-only speaking girlfriend Sabine on a date, another is a couple on an awkward anniversary, while three girlfriends are seemingly only there because one of them has had a fling with philandering chef Roly (Mike Wozniak).

Ironically the play’s faults lie in the very thing it’s taking the piss out of, namely it can drift into the realms of broadness, while some may find the nature of the stereotyping annoying. Nevertheless the waiters (Fred Machin and Alys Metcalf) - wearing French berets, of course - get the most laughs and Metcalf’s mimes really steal the show in one of the funniest physical performances you’re likely to see for a long time.

- Will Stone


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