Rating: 3 stars

The programme for At the Junction Café describes the play as an exploration of the way we choose to isolate ourselves in public places, focusing on our phones instead of talking to one another. But the play really seems to explore loneliness and our innate tendency to reflect on our own personal journey.

Mr Brockington (Jack Klaff) is a reluctant customer to a cheap and not-so-cheerful café, where Catherine (Kizzy Kaye) is serving him. Through broken monologues and interrupted trains of thought, the two narratives – Mr Brockington’s and Catherine’s – coexist on stage, and soon reveal themselves to be part of the same story, unbeknown to either storyteller.

This is a new play by Tim Coakley, who writes a funny, heart-warming, and sentimental script. Coakley allows both stories to breathe simultaneously, cleverly dictating when it’s time for one to overtake the other. That said, the arguably more interesting story of the way technology isolates us, and what would happen if two unconnected strangers began to share their feelings and hopes with one another in a crowded public space, was left untold.

After the early reveal of how Mr Brockington and Catherine are connected, once we’ve spotted the keys with the all-important keyring on the table, we’re left just hoping for a not-too-cheesy discovery. Still, it’s full of quirks and contradictions, such as Mr Brockington conducting pioneering work in the field of telecommunications, whilst remaining unable to use this medium to find his family.

Kaye gives a strong performance as Catherine, yet her character is unbelievable, as if two plausible characters – the moody, pissed off waitress and the incredibly intelligent but desperately shy computing student have been rolled into one. We see much more of the crotchety waitress in her.

Klaff pulls on our heart strings as the Scrooge-like Mr Brockington, who pushed away his family to make room for his money, but has lived to regret his decision. The surreal scene in which he physicalises an internal strop – after being told the café doesn’t stock his favourite spirit – before snapping back into calm, vocalised dialogue, is inspired.

Whilst the narrative descends into a clichéd plot line, the fundamental themes here of loneliness, heartache, and memory are poignant. It’s also a treat to see something from a Brighton company like Buckle Collective being performed as part of the Fringe.

At the Junction Café played the Brighton Fringe from 7 – 8 May 2017.