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The Café, Sky1 | reviews, news & interviews

The Café, Sky1

The Café, Sky1

Slow-burn comedy needs a little extra pace

Ralf Little and Michelle Terry, stars and co-creators of 'The Cafe'

To start a new sitcom with 18 seconds of unbroken silence after the opening music has faded is a brave move. Such minimalism is not to everyone's taste and some viewers may switch off there and then, but others will recognise it as the calling card of minimalist comedy, which is unafraid of silence or indeed inaction.

To start a new sitcom with 18 seconds of unbroken silence after the opening music has faded is a brave move. Such minimalism is not to everyone's taste and some viewers may switch off there and then, but others will recognise it as the calling card of minimalist comedy, which is unafraid of silence or indeed inaction.

The Café's makers - writers Ralf Little and Michelle Terry, and director Craig Cash - are graduates of the “less is more” school pioneered by The Royle Family (the landmark television comedy in which Little and Cash performed together), The Office and Extras (in which Terry appeared), with unspoken thoughts and feelings conveyed by the merest hint of a raised eyebrow or a look to camera. Others in the genre include Pete Versus Life and, the cream of the current crop, Him & Her, which, like The Café, is essentially a one-room drama.

The one room here is Cyril's, a café on the seafront at Weston-super-Mare in Somerset (Terry's home town), a location that presages some stock West Country accents (some of them sounding vaguely in the right county) and a convenient setting for an "all human life is here" collection of characters. The set-up is that the café is not overrun with customers; it's owned by Carol (Ellie Haddington), whose dear old mum Mary (June Watson) sits on a sofa all day commenting on everything that goes on, while Carol's daughter (Terry) has come back home after being dumped by her London boyfriend. She is also an aspiring writer.

The writing and directing team of The Café will need to get a move on if their slow-burn approach doesn't begin to look like it comes from a paucity of ideas

Sarah once went out with Little's geeky Richard Dickens, a care worker and gifted musician who is so nice that he turns down a stadium gig as a backing guitarist because he has made a previous commitment, while Carol's love interest is David Troughton's flower seller Stan, who is oblivious to her charms but is unconsciously courting her through the medium of leftover flowers, laden with meanings of love and friendship. While much that passes between the leads is left unspoken and is all hints and meaningful looks, their friends - Phoebe Waller-Bridge's daft hairdresser Chloe, and Kevin Trainor as camp-as-you-like pier "life statue" Kieran - are allowed to fill in some broader comedy, she with her dopey and inappropriate “did you know” conversational gambits and he sucking coffee through a straw so he doesn't spoil his make-up.

Little, if anything, happened in last night's opener, but the characters were economically (if rather predictably) drawn. As I remarked in a recent review, it isn't fair to judge sitcoms on their first episode, but the writing and directing team of The Café will need to get a move on if their slow-burn approach doesn't begin to look like it comes from a paucity of ideas. Even when Sarah's former schoolmate John (Daniel Ings), once a chubster but now looking like a male model, drove into town in his Porsche to pay his sick mother a rare visit, the pace didn't pick up, and a rivalry between him and Richard (who is nursing the mum at the care home where he works) felt like it was being signposted a mile off.

But there some nice touches – everybody exits scenes with a chorus of “Laters!”, a nod to the comedic repetition of The Royle Family's characters – while there are neat little throwaway gags such as Stan affectionately calling Richard “Dick-Dick”, and it was beautifully shot on the few days in the year when the British weather was behaving itself. There were few big laughs last night, but it's low-fi comedy done well and looks worth sticking with.

  • The Café continues on Sky1 on Wednesdays
Little, if anything, happened in last night's opener, but the characters were economically (if rather predictably) drawn

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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Comments

What was the Cafe all about? there's no way this is comedy, it's not even drama, surely as nothing actually happens. Having watched both episodes and wishing I could have that hour of my life back again, I am still none the wiser. I live in Somerset, not far from W-S-M and must say I don't think its doing much for locals!! because we all say "Laters" down here you know. Please do not make any more series... save the money... buy an ice cream

Well, well, Lord M Parker, everyone is entitled to their opinion I suppose even if they are unable to spot comedic moments from everyday situations. Just as Little and Terry have done. The show was well drawn, the characters of such realism that they are recognisable and the situations they find themselves in were those we all experience. Drama comes from life m'lord and comedy from the recognition of the absurd in all our lives. I come from Weston-super-Mare and it showed the town as it is. Pleasant, quirky and full of people that will be able to say "Oh that is so true." Unlike you I am looking forward to the rest of the series.

This just does not look funny. Why those strange accents?

I have to agree. I am too looking forward to the rest of the series. I really enjoyed the first two episodes. It's serene approach was so nice to see. Lovely characters you instantly connect with and unlike a lot of supposedly great comedy of the moment, it didn't really on visual gags backed up with famous faces making pointless cameos. Loved this show a lot.

A little gem in my opinion - and I'm a Westonian born and bred. Almost makes want to go back...

I Have really enjoyed the series of the cafe.Yes it probably could do with a few more comedy moments but its still excellent and light hearted, all the characters grow on you as the series continues.My favorite episode so far as been episode 5 and it was the little subtle things that made it good - such as the human statue Homer diving down at the side when he was at risk of being seen and also the two children on the beach when the little girl sits on the sandcastle - its something kids would - great acting., I look forward to hopefully another series.

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