Friday, June 9, 2023

Fringe Review: Caffeine Rabbit Hole

Who: Bandler Corporation
What: Caffeine Rabbit Hole
Length: 20 Minutes
Where: Hamilton Fringe Festival Digital Exclusives
When: July 15-25, 2021
Tickets: From $5 -$20 via the Hamilton Fringe Festival Box Office

Why are humans extinct? Over the twenty minutes of Bandler Corporation’s Caffeine Rabbit Hole, unidentified creatures Dara (Steph Christiaens) and Lenik (Jaclyn Scobie) attempt to find out by mimicking a simulation in a coffee shop. The result attempts to be an exploration of loneliness and human connection.

There’s potential in this premise, particularly as the province begins to reopen and individuals are able to venture indoors to socialize, ending an extended period of time where isolation was a frequent emotional state. And in brief moments of Christiaens’ and Scobie’s performance, there is a sense of what this show could be.

However, there is a lot lacking in this performance that prevent it from achieving the emotional intensity and profoundness that it searches so desperately for. The setting attempts to be a non-descript coffee shop, but is instead clearly a recorded zoom call in separate rooms, with a single camera pointed towards each performer. While Christiaens and Scobie both have individual moments that bring brightness to the production, their combined lack of chemistry and intensity suggests that their performances may have been recorded individually and edited together. Emily Wood provides a beautiful background soundtrack of a solo piano, but the music is inconsistent with what would be expected in a coffee shop- leading to a disconnect between the activity “on stage” and the emotional climax sought by the performance.

While regulations have required many performances to adjust their capabilities, Caffeine Rabbit Hole seemed unable to adapt, instead relying heavily on dialogue only to carry the show. As a result, its lack of direction and inability to use the performers and their individual spaces to their full potential create a shallow emotional journey that doesn’t meaningfully explore loneliness or isolation. I hope show writer, producer and director John Bandler rethinks this material, as this topic is so timely and there is a current need for this type of emotional exploration through theatre.   

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