Review: Piccolo Tales (Piccolo Bar)

piccolotalesVenue: Piccolo Bar (Kings Cross NSW), Feb 3 – May 28, 2015
Playwright: Vashti Hughes
Director: James Winter
Cast: Vashti Hughes, Vittorio
Image by Roslyn Sharp

Theatre review
Vittorio has been operating the coffee machine at Kings Cross’ Piccolo Bar for 50 years. He has seen the area through phases of evolution, and calls himself “the last man standing”. Vashti Hughes’ Piccolo Tales chronicles Vittorio’s experiences, observations and reflections on the people and life of Kings Cross, perhaps the most colourful locality in Australia. The script lovingly captures a character full of verve and vigour, and details the ups and downs of his days as a stalwart of an extraordinary community composed of people from every class and vocation. Hughes’ writing is documentary, but rich with comedy and drama, powerfully assisted by Ross Johnston’s music (original and curated) that works to further amplify emotional dimensions of each wistful anecdote.

The production takes place in the very caf√© from which Vittoria sees the world. Ten members of the audience are squeezed inside the tiny interior, and others contend with watching from outside through windows and a doorway. Hughes performs the key role, as well as several diverse incidental characters. Vittoria is himself positioned inside so that he is free to interject and on occasion, take over the stage for short, but very satisfying, spurts of flamboyant displays. Hughes’ remarkable skills as entertainer and storyteller are beautifully showcased in depictions of exciting personalities, with complex shades of light and dark, and an ubiquitous, tender pathos. The largely monologue format requires that the actor finds strong rapport with her very intimate audience, and she connects impressively, whether scenes are buoyant or introspective. Direction by James Winter is consistently sensitive and thoughtful. His work is melancholic, but has an optimistic sensibility, with an irresistible comedic tone that never has to try too hard. A generous spirit that embraces humanity in its many unfathomable forms is evident in the production, and we luxuriate in its unique glowing warmth.

Inter-generational dialogue is not always easy, but we have much to learn from our elders. The histories of our homes are of utmost importance, but finding out about them are seldom part of our daily priorities. Piccolo Tales addresses the need to preserve priceless memories, so that all who live in Kings Cross, and those who go through it, can gain a better understanding of its enigmatic glory. Without legends and connections to history and community, homes are only houses, and the meanings of things are banished to emptiness.