Mocha Is Not Coffee review by Lyn Zelen

Mocha Is Not Coffee explores far more than the choice blend of mocha or macchiato. Norbury Productions opens up the discourse of well being and mental health concerns experienced by Law students at university, law school placements and in the wider community.

The brilliant cast; Eugenia Garci Rahi, Kate Tomkins, Joanna Bakker, and Julia Hanna, do Verity Norbury’s immaculate script justice. Her insightful first-hand experiences lift the “veil” off these complex issues in so many young vibrant minds and souls.

Mocha Is Not Coffee is part of Law Week 2019 at Gasworks’ Theatre. This evocative, profound production is not just another blend of the truth, like coffee, it wakes you up to the raw stench of reality.

All performances are riveting, realistic portrayals encompassing themes of family loyalty, rape, and suicide. Norbury’s complex script peels back the layers of the students psyche as they struggle for individual blends of justice. One student is missing; one student is in denial, one student dreams, and one student desperately tries to hold them all together.

The four students meet on campus. Their choice in law subjects and lifestyle is as varied as their hot beverages. Deb (Kate Tomkins) is an average student and casual barista. She provides astute life observations and coffee sustenance to their study group. Deb and the “privileged” Ledah (Joanna Bakker) enjoy skim milk lattes, whilst

Carolyn (Julia Hanna) blends working at her parents’ fruit shop with her study and social commitments—she accepts any beverage she’s offered.

All three enjoy a friendly jibe at Athena’s (Eugenia Garci Rahi) choice of decaf soy mocha. Athena appears to be balancing her study load with volunteer community law and writing a play. At first, her alternatives fuel her dreams and then lead to her demise.

The four friends graduate from university and their love for caffeinated stimulants is replaced with a hunger for law and justice. Ugly truths begin to permeate their group.

Ledah and Carolyn become confidantes and their friendship brews into love. Their class differences and societal reform, breed’s betrayal. Ledah shares a family secret—her brother’s “bought off” dismissed rape charge. Carolyn’s Paralegal position leads to long hours and short black caffeine shots and after work alcohol shots to forge alliances with corporate colleagues.

The threads of Norbury’s intricate story intertwine and cracks appear in all four lives. Optimistic Deb is the first to receive rejection application letters from legal firms and a shocking family blow.

Carolyn’s harsh words hit home with Ledah. To absolve her heartache and family guilt, Ledah plays the police interview of her brother’s rape victim to Athena, in the hope Athena might represent the victim. This backfires as painful memories from Athena’s past come to the fore.

Norbury’s clever storytelling and direction enlists the narrative of the “missing student” at pivotal moments for back-story, characters inner thoughts, and continuity. As the students search for their friend, the narrative reinforces their mounting anxiety, emerging beliefs systems during the course of their demanding studies and vocations.

The intimate Gasworks theatre envelops the audience to experience the students’ plight from a personal perspective. Norbury productions proficiencies and minimalist approach to props, lighting, voice over and effects, created an authentic point of view of the darker monologues.

Mocha Is Not Coffee is a refreshing frank interpretation of human truth. The gifted performers embraced Norbury’s enriched dialogue, and no lengthy legal jargon was necessary to raise awareness of the mental health issues legal students face on a daily basis.

Mocha Is Not Coffee grinds up emotions and pours out a warm feeling of justice and the beginning of healing.