Don’t come for the breakfast. A wilted croissant, a cup of coffee and a handful of strawberries to be eaten without a plate in a dark auditorium do not make for a pleasant dining experience. But please, please do stay for the plays. They are more than worth the insult of the sad expatriate pastry flaking butter dandruff onto your lap.
A rotation of three ‘menus’ present a different set of short plays each day. Showcasing sharp new writing and wonderfully versatile performers, the set I saw (Menu 2) was the best start to the day since the invention of espresso. Five ten-minute pieces formed a balanced meal, including some gentle absurdism, a touching monologue, and a hilarious skit that could have been a highlight of any ‘Best Of’ Monty Python collection. The latter, ‘The Needle and the Damage Done’, was the most memorable piece from an excellent set. A stereotypical 1950’s domestic scene became a hilarious subversion of expectations with one twist following the other. ‘Hitched’ was another crowd-pleaser: on her wedding night, the bride’s zipper gets stuck and outrageous measures must be taken. It had just the right blend of smut and second-hand embarrassment, and the parents’ attempt at helping was pitch-perfect and oh-so-recognizable.
The addition of a thoughtful monologue about life on the tightrope - ‘Thin Air’ - provided a pause in the comedy and demonstrated some genuinely touching acting. Less successful was ‘Drury Lane’, which saw a pair of 18th century actors rehearsing their own lives. A tragicomedy with an interesting concept, it didn’t quite convince despite maintaining the high standard of acting on offer throughout. ‘Elephants and Coffee’ made the biggest beeline for the absurd; on her way to the therapist, a woman bumps into an elephant who looks for all the world like a man in a baggy grey suit. The maybe-elephant is loveable and weirdly believable and the sketch charms despite a slightly heavy-handed commentary on psychiatry and social ills. Yet any weak points are soon forgotten as you get stuck into a morning smorgasbord of witty writing. You will certainly come away feeling hungry for more.