A little stroll down Roslyn Street, Potts Point, takes you to the Piccolo Bar; piccolo referring to the authentic coffee, as well as the size of the cafe itself. In a trick of the eye, the cafe seems bigger on the inside, furnished a warm and cozy red and lengthened by panels of mirrors. The wall opposite the barista enshrines countless photos of famous Australians who have frequented the eatery and, now the venue is also home to a one-woman cabaret show every Tuesday and Thursday night.
‘Piccolo Tales’ seemed a mystery to me before I entered the nook. Was it musical theatre? Performance poetry? Experimental theatre? To my surprise, the production was all that and more. Based on the life of the Piccolo Bar, from its establishment in 1952 until now, the play acts as both a social commentary as well as personal history. I was especially impressed with how well the space was used. Such a small performance had every corner and height utilised, both inside and out. Not only was the space so versatile, but so too was actress and writer Vashti Hughes. She had a very physical presence, holding us captive with her electric performance. The play was very dynamic having moments of genuine tenderness as well as comedic crescendos. The intimate space encouraged audience participation, but not enough to make you uncomfortable. Clever use of sound and lighting made use of every possible medium in which to immerse the audience.
Plotwise, the play was very meta, having included the real life protagonist, Vittorio, performing in his own cafe, inviting us to share in his life story. Yet, at the same time the play was so simple: the story of a café and the regulars that frequent it through six decades of distinctly Australian history. It doesn’t sugar coat or glorify the Cross, nor shy away from its reality either; it is what it is, come Vietnam War, the rise of the Kings Cross underground or immigration.
‘Piccolo Tales’ is distinctly Australian theatre. Production praise aside, this performance is so full of passion and authentic pride that it would be difficult to leave the cafe without feeling warm.