Directed by James Winter
6 Roslyn Street, Kings Cross
Season: 16 February – 31 March (8pm Tuesdays and Thursdays)
Doubtless any passer-by in Kings Cross would notice the community’s vibrant colour. A suburb with a gritty underbelly crossed with contemporary gentrification – you can run into people from myriad backgrounds during just a casual stroll in the street. Needless to say, Vittorio, a café owner in the quaint café ‘Piccolo’, nestled in the Cross now for 50 years, has met innumerable bemusing characters each with their respective tales. Vashti Hughes has pounced on the golden opportunity to mine a bountiful mass of stories perfect for the stage, writing and performing Piccolo Tales (she takes the role of Vittorio, with Vittorio also notably featuring in the show). And where better to stage the work than the café Piccolo itself? Blurring the boundaries between quasi-stage and street, the audience is treated to a hearty history of the creatures of the Cross, fostered by the actual noises, people and atmosphere of the area today.
In this unique site-specific performance environment, there are three manners in which you can enjoy the show. 10 people can fit snugly inside the café, for an up close and personal experience with Hughes and Vittorio, experiencing the café in all its charm. On the footpath outside the café there are seats, viewing the action inside the café and in prime position for when the action spills onto the footpath. Then if you choose, you can sit across the road at the park, with headphones to hear the words spoken – whilst an unorthodox theatre viewing experience, it certainly is exciting. I watched the show from inside the café, however through hearsay I can tell that you can make some very fascinating observations whilst seated across the road, noticing the peculiar reactions of the public, as well as the audience in their interaction with the performers.
From the very beginning, Hughes enters the café with an electrifying presence. Donning just a white t-shirt and overalls, she morphs into countless figures – and the electricity never fizzles. If anything, it surges more strongly. She traverses outright hilarity and tragedy with ease, fully present in every moment. Often the vulgar and humorous nature of the characters is very apparent, skirting on caricature, however the characterisations are rooted in truth, which is why I think they resonate so strongly with observers. She engages with the audience very cleverly, so that the audience becomes an integral part of the performance. As well as giving strong performances in providing the core narration of the work and dramatic monologues as various characters, she also sings a range of original songs as each character so that the show takes the form of a cabaret. The songs are energised and catchy, with a little crass humour thrown in for good measure. Vittorio pipes up throughout the show, delighting audiences with his dynamic presence. His grace and poise as Madama Butterfly stood out in my mind, revealing of his quirky and essentially peaceful nature. Hughes and Vittorio engaged very well with each other, evidence of the warmth in their relationship. Hughes’ writing of Vittorio’s character voice, and hearing Vittorio himself speak shows a seamless synchronicity in life and art, highlighting Hughes’ ability to be truthful and yet still immensely entertaining in translating real life to the stage.
Piccolo Tales is supremely unique, pervaded with charismatic energy. Hughes is a scintillating storyteller, and a rarity. As we are exposed to the Cross in a different light and allowed to sink our teeth into its glistening history, nestling into this little café and exploring its history with Hughes and Vittorio is a delicious treat.