Older and wiser: growing up with your character
Rebecca Perry


Solo show Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl sold out every single show of its Fringe run last year, in large part due to the lovable, feisty character of Joanie Little.

Rebecca Perry talks about character development, how she built on the personality of Joanie writing the new show and how she thinks audiences will receive a slightly older, and wiser Joanie…

Everyone knows that a character’s origins are important, defining who they are and how they decide to live the rest of their life.

I grew up in the country longing to be an actor, and I was encouraged to follow that dream, so I moved to the city and graduated theatre school. My immediate realisation after that was that it was going to take a lot of work to create my own luck and opportunities.

Joanie Little grew up dreaming about working with primatologists, and her story began when she graduated with a major in Anthropology, but ended up stuck working in a coffee shop.

Not to be held back, this feisty redhead made the shop her own urban jungle, reporting on the “creatures” (customers!) as if she were Jane Goodall.

On her second date with new-found crush Marko, he introduces Joanie to Dr Goodall herself! Joanie truly impresses Jane, and Jane offers an intern position studying chimpanzees at the Jane Goodall Institute, Gombe Park, Tanzania. That story was Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl, and it ended with Joanie preparing for the trip of a lifetime.

I knew that this was not the end, with Joanie heading off into the sunset, but the beginning of the next step in her life. Therefore, one year later, we find Joanie getting on that plane, and thus begins Adventures of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl – the stand-alone follow-up to Confessions….

When I created Joanie in Confessions…, I drew heavily from personal experience. Despite graduating theatre school, I found myself picking up shifts behind a coffee bar, as most graduates do.

I realised the individuals I interacted with everyday were as important to my development as university was. Sure, I was a little sidetracked, but, at that time, I was the best version of myself in the shop. The real-life characters I met there – customers and employees alike – impacted me greatly, and many became caricatured in my show. Joanie Little came to life through the medium of Rebecca Perry.

So what is different about Adventures…?

Firstly, I take Joanie somewhere new. Her path is completely different to mine, and that is exciting. Joanie’s life – living out her dream, spending time with the world’s most famous chimps – is one I may only ever get to research, write and perform. That is her path, and one of the best feelings as a writer is being surprised by your own characters’ ambitions and life choices.

Joanie is not me – she is more of alter-ego. However, the foundation I created allowed me to have fun developing her new story with her, because I knew how she would react in so many situations. She still has much to learn, and her optimistic nature gets put to the test in Adventures…, as she faces challenging life lessons sooner than anticipated – and not always in the way she imagined.

I have more experience than when I wrote Confessions…, so my world view has widened greatly, and for the better. So has Joanie’s.

How will audiences respond to Joanie one year on?

I think they will see a young woman, proud of who she is, and keen to be her own self; who takes what she is given and works with that.

Yet, at heart, she is the same excited, passionate girl from last year – there will always be that warm familiarity about her. For anyone who did not see Confessions…, I hope you come and meet Joanie as she is now: braver, wiser, and excited about new opportunities. Just like me.

Rebecca Perry – Adventures of a Redheaded Coffeeshop girl, Gilded Balloon Teviot, 16:15 (17:15) 3rd – 29th (Not 10, 24, 17), tickets