Biscuit and Coffee

Fortune Theatre - Hutchinson Studio, Dunedin

24/04/2007 - 28/04/2007

Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, The Edge, Auckland

31/10/2006 - 11/11/2006

BATS Theatre, Wellington

01/03/2006 - 04/03/2006

NZ Fringe Festival 2006

Production Details

Written and directed by Phil Ormsby

Flaxworks Theatre

Biscuit & Coffee is the mythic tale of obsession, eternal life and the search for the perfect coffee. A brew so perfect that every sip is a life changing experience.

The show revolves around “Biscuit” and her dysfunctional and obsessive family, friends and colleagues as they search for the perfect cup of rejuvenating java. Ellis tells the madcap tale of conspiracies, potions and ancient prophecies through the eyes of six very different characters while downing endless espressos.

The fast pace, sly humour and lightning quick changes propel the tale to an unexpected and hilarious climax the Dominion Post described as “Quite extraordinary” and which is guaranteed to keep you enthralled to the last second. For more info go to

Alex Ellis

Comedy , Theatre , Solo ,

approx 1 hr, no interval

Frothy coffee

Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 01st Nov 2006

Writer Phil Ormsby and actress Alex Ellis have created a light injection of caffeine and fun, for an audience who enjoy their theatre with froth and a sprinkle of something nice and sweet on top. Biscuit & Coffee is entertainment for those who enjoy bright comedy.

As the house lights fade on a set comprising a mountain of sacks, full of coffee beans fresh off the boat, and four coffee making stations, ready for action, we enjoy in the darkness Manhattan Transfer’s appropriately smooth version of Java Jive.

Then Alex Ellis bursts into action. Nimble and energized from first to last cup, Ellis is the perfect player in this one woman show, as she hurls her elastic, fit frame at the six eclectic characters who tell this coffee induced Ground Hog Day tale. Central character Biscuit, (along with Uncle Dan the shark, Loretta the plastic surgery junkie, Mr Kite the boring suit, Jude the mad barista and finally, Gran); set a cracking pace as they unveil the mysterious power of the coffee bean.

For all this, at the end of 70 minutes, I found Biscuit and Coffee only mildly stimulating, rather than an addictive jolt of illumination followed by long lasting inspiration, that comes from a really well made espresso.
Ormsby’s writing, though flawlessly delivered by Ellis, who has excellent diction, is at times, too wordy, cute and clever for my taste buds. He sets a similar light tone throughout, and uses an abundance of adjectives, regardless of which character he is writing for, which makes Biscuit and Coffee slightly "one-note" after a while.

That said, Ormsby does pen some great expressions, such as "fiscal whakapapa" and indulges in some very skilful word play involving sheep, dogs and death. His musings on the word "vacuum" were also well received.
But while the script is full of funny facts and manufactured larger-than-life anecdotes, they don’t draw the audience into the story enough to care or empathise with Biscuit or any of her madcap acquaintances. Perhaps the fusion of coffee and mythical tales is not in itself, enough to work with here?

However, despite these shortcomings, Ormsby and Ellis create a strong finish, with a tidy climax that ties up all the loose ends in a manic yet satisfying way, that showcases Ellis’s craft extremely well.

Biscuit and Coffee is a well performed, upbeat, entertaining work that was enjoyed by the warm opening night audience. Personally, I hope for a meatier work of substance from this motivated dynamic duo in the future.


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Addictive theatre

Review by Lynn Freeman 06th Mar 2006

COFFEE has provided the aromatic zest of civilisation for 3,000 years.

It’s also more addictive than heroin and cocaine and causes the body to expel more fluid than it ingests. These are just some of the many coffee related facts and figures contained in Biscuit & Coffee.

The programme notes tell us it was thought up during an intense coffee drinking session between the writer/director Phil Ormsby and performer Alex Ellis. That explains a lot. The script and performance are full-on, fuelled no doubt by Ellis downing half a dozen coffees during the 75-minute play. Our heroine, Biscuit, is the product "of a gene pool steeped in blandness", daughter of middle-of-the-road accountants. Biscuit can’t escape being good with figures but discovers a passion for coffee and lives with a man whose only redeeming feature is his genius for blending coffee beans and determination to find a blend which offers eternal youth. And an inventive script and delicious performance make Biscuit & Coffee addictive theatre.

Coffee, yes, but no biscuits for the stars of the following Bats show, Please Don’t Feed the Models …


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Quite extraordinary

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 03rd Mar 2006

Wellington’s coffee culture has been immortalised on stage in previous Fringe Festival productions, but coffee as the elixir of life and its defining effect on the lives of six people has never been portrayed in the way it is in Biscuit and Coffee, the early evening production currently playing at BATS. 

It’s yet another of the many solo pieces in this years Fringe 06, this time performed by Alex Ellis, who, in conjunction with writer/director Phil Ormsby, plays out in masterly fashion the story of Biscuit and her coffee fetish, surrounded by various pieces of coffee making paraphernalia. The only child of a boring, bland couple who die in extraordinary circumstances, Biscuit is left in the care of her Grandmother and Uncle Dan.  She eventually becomes an accountant like her father then meets and moves in with Jude, a nerd trying to make the perfect brew of coffee. 

What happens next becomes somewhat absurdist and although the piece overall is a little too long it’s a well written script with punchy dialogue and clever word play that allows Ellis to exhibit her considerable acting skills with confidence and style, slipping in and out of character better probably than any other solo performer this Festival.  The final moments of the play where she plays all six characters within the space of a minute or two is quite extraordinary. 


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Most wired performance

Review by John Smythe 02nd Mar 2006

The award for most wired Fringe performance so far goes to Alex Ellis as the solo performer in Phil Ormsby’s Biscuit & Coffee. While brewing and imbibing endless shots of coffee, live, on multiple devices, she peoples the stage with a bizarre range of broadly physicalised friends and relations while maintaining an endless barrage of richly-wrought verbiage.

It’s a tour-de-force that showcases her undoubted skills, honed in Melbourne and infused with its distinctive comedy style. Biscuit’s Gran, Uncle Dan, Catholic school room-mate Loretta and barista-boyfriend Jude all come alive in cartoon manifestations rooted in identifiable truth. Unfortunately the densely-written text lacks dramatic purpose. It’s like being trapped with a compulsive raconteur who just opens her mouth and goes for it without doing anything to enrol her listeners in the course – and its many tributaries – her flow of words embarks upon.

There is a quest involved, for the perfect blend, although anyone who tries to find it by adulterating pure coffee with anything at all, let alone garlic or fish, has lost me. There is structure, too, in the characters’ stories. Poor little rich girl Loretta, especially, becomes a poignant portrait as she pursues perfection in her own way. And her story does collide with Biscuit’s, in the bedroom Jude has taken over with his freak-out experiments.

The ingredients are there. Biscuit & Coffee should work. But the fact is my mind kept drifting elsewhere. I had to keep forcing myself to reconnect with the show. And there were very few laughs.

Hopefully the promised sequel, on chocolate, will be more inviting.


Anonymous March 3rd, 2006

Being in a small theatre like Bats is about being close to your audience. This performance was fairly rushed and did not really give the audience much time to connect. Alex gave a good performance of playing a large number of characters and there was a strong story - but I cant help thinking that the play could be presented better by another medium - perhaps radio.

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