Review: 3am Waitress *****

3am Waitress

Dance, Physical Theatre and Circus

C Venues – C South, Main Theatre

Aug 18th to 27th

19:10

***** 5 Stars

3am Waitress is an original piece by RoguePlay, a Birmingham-based theatre company seeking to engage audiences in unconventional ways. Laura Vanhulle plays the eponymous waitress, sentenced to purgatory at a diner at the end of the world. She knocks over sugar dispensers due to extreme fatigue, sweeps up the sugar, and listens to the radio. As the radio on the diner table crackles with static, this acts as an interlude between music and the inventive and dreamlike poetry of Lorna Meehan.

I can’t decide which I enjoy more – the dancing or the poetry. Laura and her co-performer Tim Clarke artfully blend many dance styles, creating stunning displays of strength and grace. More risky maneuvers and stunts, such as the pair counterbalancing on rickety tables or a stack of disused car tires, makes me momentarily worry for their safety. It all works out in the end though, leaving me impressed and entertained.

Meanwhile, an ethereal voice-over tells the story of the 3am Waitress, recounting her feelings and thoughts as she struggles to find the energy to continue her tedious tasks, or alternatively break free from her drudgery. Lorna’s words manage to sound sepia-tinged, yet still transgressive. They allow the waitress’s yarn to be spun with sadness, from studying an unromantic and repetitious present, while retaining soft hope for a better future, involving fortuitous connections and expansions of possibilities.

A strong sense of loneliness (from being detached from the world as well as one’s true desires) is reported beautifully by the physical movements of the performers, as well as the minimalist staging and creative use of sugar. The pattern of spilling, sweeping, then messing up the sweet stuff with fast feet and exuberant play causes me to consider the attempts we make to order our lives, and control our reactions to our lives, only to find various ways to mess them up again with mischievous, life-enhancing chaos.

There is a certain amount of intrigue involved with a show involving an unclear narrative or setting. Is this a real place? Or is it a memory, a movie, or a dream? It doesn’t feel important to know. The finale, featuring a striking aerial silk performance and a single word uttered by the 3am Waitress, leaves me in a charged state of vitality and reverie. I will be thinking about the meaning of that word for some time. 

Review by Joanne Harrison