REVIEW: Tappuccino, Brunch Bunch Theatre Company (VAULT Festival)

Here at The Family Stage we are big fans of tap dancing. (As regular readers will attest, this is something of an understatement – Mummy is strongly of the opinion that there is no musical that wouldn’t be improved by the addition of a tap number.) The adult members of the household are also complete caffeine addicts and, like many others, we are currently grappling with how best to minimise the environmental impact of our lives. So a musical about a tap dancing coffee bean on a mission to save the rainforest sounded just up our street!

Tappuccino tells the tale of Beanie (Rosie Dart), a literal coffee bean (according to her beanie hat) who has been tap dancing since she was teeny. Having seen the impact of deforestation on her home she embarks on a journey across the world in the pursuit of 3 aims:

1. To keep tap dancing and never stop.
2. To make a new friend.
3. To save the rainforest.

The bold bean is soon tapping her way across the world to a coffee shop in in Switzerland where she befriends a barista named BaRHYSta (Rhys Rodrigues). With goals 1 and 2 ticked off the list, the unlikely duo enlist the smallest members of the audience to help them achieve their environmental aim.

From the moment it starts, Tappuccino is good frothy fun, thanks to Dart’s infectious energy and fancy footwork. Not content with just showing off how well she shuffles, she also sings (accompanied by Rodrigues on the keyboard), performs shadow puppetry and even chucks in a diabolo for good measure. It’s funny and charming, although there is a bit of a disconnect between the different elements of the plot, which feels like it can’t quite decide what direction it’s going in.

It begins as the story of the brave bean who is determined to keep on tap dancing despite it being an unusual pastime for a berry* destined to become a beverage. Once Beanie makes it to Switzerland there might have been mileage in exploring how a coffee bean ends up best friends with a human whose job involves grinding her kind. (This is the angle Mummy – who likes her musicals as dark as her coffee – was hoping for!) Instead it takes an environmental turn which isn’t completely convincing. The messaging isn’t clear and it seems almost as if this part of the plot has been added into a show that doesn’t need it in order to make it educational.

Although there are some suggestions of things that people can do to to help the environment (such as avoiding single-use plastic), they’re not explicitly linked to deforestation. And while the children are encouraged to get involved at this stage, Tappuccino probably underestimates their ability to understand the issues. The environment is a hot topic in primary schools these days, so it might have been nice to get the kids coming up with their own solutions, instead of spelling them out for them. Mummy also wasn’t entirely sure about the wisdom of firing party poppers to celebrate saving the environment!

All in all, Tappuccino is a fun show that shines in the moments when it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Although it’s squarely aimed at children, there is plenty for the adults to enjoy, particularly in the witty song lyrics. Dart and Rodrigues are both engaging performers who have come up with a truly unique concept which could be an absolute hit. Although more of an unripe green bean at present, it could easily be ripened into a full bodied roast by spending less time hammering home educational messages and more on tapping along to catchy tunes. After all, you can’t beat a good tap number.

*Yes, coffee beans are technically berries. Wikipedia told me so.

RATING: Raindrops, Whiskers and Kettles (aka 3 out of 5 of my favourite things).

Tappuccino played at VAULT Festival from 29 February to 1 March 2020. We received complimentary press tickets to the 29 February performance (although we also bought two additional tickets).