‘Eavesdrop: A Coffee Shop Show’ tells compelling stories over coffee

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Coffee shops really do seem like a place where stories can collect. People lingering over cups of coffee and making connections, or not. Swallow-A-Bicycle Theatre’s Eavesdrop: The Coffee Shop Show runs along these lines and brings the theatre to the people, in coffee shops. The company is running Eavesdrop in Weeds Cafe in the North West, Cafe Beano just off 17th Avenue and Vendome Cafe in Kensington. Audience members get to wear a wireless headset that features the soundscape created by Ryan Von Hagen and Brock Geiger and see the action unfold in front of them with Genevieve Pare, Ian McFarlane and Wil Knoll playing the various characters told within the soundscape.

This version of Eavesdrop is redone from its original premiere back in 2012, with dramaturgy from Shari Wattling. I didn’t see the original production, but this production of Eavesdrop made for a great theatre experience in Weeds Cafe. Swallow-A-Bicycle has managed to blend together three separate stories: three old friends getting together to chat, Eloise (Genevieve Pare) and Rutger (Wil Knoll) who are concerned about the mental health of Francis (Ian McFarlane). Strangers Mark (Wil Knoll) and Hal (Ian McFarlane) who wind up playing a version of twenty questions, and Myra (Genevieve Pare) who is trying to write a novel.

The unique aspect of Eavesdrop is that the actors are not actually speaking; they are just mouthing the words and providing the movement, in sync to the soundscape playing in the earphones. If this wasn’t timed perfectly or if the actors couldn’t be completely expressive without words, the play would fail. Fortunately, there were no technical issues and the play features some great talents. Knoll and Pare shone in their storylines while McFarlane came off as flat in some scenes.

The play also does a great job at going deep into characters that are interesting within a short period of time. The fact that you can experience this great piece of theatre while sipping a latte at your local coffee joint is a fabulous added bonus.

Swallow-A-Bicycle’s Eavesdrop: The Coffee Shop Show runs until May 1st at various locations. Visit their website for more information.

Photo: Wil Knoll and Genevive Pare
Credit: Cassie’s Camera

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