/ Tandanya Cafe

Love, Loss and Lattes

I met Missy about a week before this performance and she told me that Tandanya offered the smallest-capacity venue in the Fringe (still over a hundred seats) that provided full rigging for trapeze work. And the idea of circus designed for an intimate space intrigued me – acrobats have so much scope in which to tell stories through physical performance, and it's always a delight to see where they take it.

In this respect this show works very well. Missy's aerial work is impressive, but the manner in which she incorporates facial expression and body language into her performance is just as crucial to the success of this show. She is talented enough, in this respect, that where she made a pretty obvious mistake her recovery was subtle and graceful enough that I almost questioned whether it was all deliberate after all.

Thematically, however, this show comes across as a bit modular and sometimes vague. Much of this show focuses on Missy's time spent studying, for example, and we get a set-piece where she does pole work while holding an empty coffee cup. As in all her work, this was an astonishing feat of aerial work – especially, as my friend quipped, as someone who can't get out of a pool.

But I wasn't sure what was being implied, there. Pole work has an association of working your way through your studies which, together with the coffee cup, implies Missy worked as a barista – an implication the poster image supports. But from her monologue it seems she only likes coffee a lot, and never actually worked in a café, which renders the segment not only a bit meaningless but also a bit impersonal.

There was more than a little promise in her final aerial-hoop segment, however. I have an annual award for "Best Sex Metaphor in a Fringe Show", and this show is currently my top runner for those nominations. Missy is a sweaty, sensual, delighted mess for that performance: a clear indication that she can cleverly integrate storytelling and circus into a solo show.

My biggest complaint about this show was that it was very heavy-handed on the sound design: the tinnitus like reverb, and weirdly off-putting slurping noises, couldn't be less immersive or more ill-conceived. One of my friends was plugging her ears, and the other was giving me a look like she'd just licked something she found on the ground.

Aside from the complaints in terms of thematic resonance, and literal resonance, there was a lot to love about this show. Missy is a beguiling, dynamic and powerful performer, able to astonish and delight in equal measure. I just hope to see her tackle subjects of a little more substance in her future work.

★★★½