G&J Productions’ Tea Time, written by Graham Edgington and directed by James Edgington, is a surreal dramatic comedy about three northern women on an apparently normal day, where the most important thing is getting tea cooked on time.
The play takes place in Joan’s cluttered kitchen and opens with Joan (Denice Hope) reading a very upsetting letter from the courts. Her daughter April (Elise Carman) is having serious problems at work and when Joan’s friend Sharon (Samantha Power) comes around for a chat, Joan reluctantly tells her everything, with the repeated refrain that she really cannot say anything more.
Sharon listens enraptured by April’s story, while steadily eating grapes as though they were popcorn, and drinking mug after mug of water which smells suspiciously like wine. With one eye on Joan and one eye on the window where Sharon’s nosy neighbour and brother, Gordon, watches her every move, Sharon begins to enthusiastically plan a holiday for her and Joan to get away from it all for a bit.
When April arrives for tea that evening, she seems very down and worried about everything that’s going on. She reinforces that it’s very important for Joan not to talk to anyone about what is going on, not knowing that Sharon now has all the details, and tries to help her Mum cook the tea as a distraction from all of her stress.
There is a lot going on this in this short play, with Joan’s anxiety over the court proceedings, April’s role in the detail of those, Sharon’s issues with Gordon and her surreptitious drinking, and lots more. There is also an eerie darkness hanging over the entire play, which leads to a feeling of ominous discomfort and makes it clear that not everything is quite as it seems.
All three actors portray their characters well, but the number of sub-plots and repeated refrains does mean there is some stumbling over lines. The different characters do all work really well together and Power’s nonchalance contrasts well with Carman’s sadness while both are balanced well by Hope’s anxiety.
The cluttered and colourful kitchen gives the set a cosy, familial feeling and the everyday task of making tea gives the piece an identifiable and familiar tone. There are plenty of laughs balancing out the serious elements as the characters reminisce about days gone by and reflect on their present and future.
Tea Time is a comical and cosy drama with some elements of kitchen sink theatre and a gentle analysis of how people with old fashioned views fit into the modern world. Creating the bewildering feeling you get when visiting someone else’s family of how they can rapidly go through various tangents which make sense in their house but nowhere else, it is a welcoming but voyeuristic peek into the gossip of someone else’s home, and looks at the secrets which are kept behind closed doors, even from the people safe within those same walls with you.
Reviewer: Donna M Day
Reviewed: 17th July 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★