Tearoom

Mon 22nd – Sun 28th August 2011

reviews

Xandra Burns

at 10:58 on 26th Aug 2011

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Tearoom: the play that comes with free food and urges you to eavesdrop. An innovative, immersing experience, it is not at all gimmicky; rather the attention to detail, from the delicate table decorations to the menu-styled program, is matched by Tanya Alexander’s clever and captivating writing, which weaves together the stories of several parties of tea-goers.

Wendy (played by Dawn Hollington), the shop’s owner, enjoys her own cup of tea before other guests arrive, indulging in how “you feel the smell of tea.” This appreciation for the mysterious restorative quality of tea is shared by her customers, and is perhaps the reason that the tearoom attracts the emotional drama that it does. Although the conversations we witness are heavy and life-changing, Wendy remarks that it’s been an “average day.”

All of the stories are powerful, some uplifting, some left despairingly unresolved, because of course, we cannot follow them once they leave the tearoom. At times it seems too coincidental that so many significant conversations are happening on this one day - are all tearooms are full of this much misery?

The cup of tea in front of me distracts on occasion, perhaps because the play does require blatant eavesdropping, which is unnatural at first - but this strange discomfort shows Alexander’s success in creating the act of witnessing a real conversation. Indeed, these characters are among the most identifiable I have witnessed in theatre. In particular, Esther (played by Eileen Rawlings), spouts such erudite life lessons that I take a page full of notes for my own benefit rather than for the sake of this review. Through the healing powers of tea and Wendy's intuition for knowing just what to say to each guest, the characters grasp hope in even the smallest quantity by the end of their visits.

At many points heartbreaking and at others hilarious, Tearoom brings significance to everyday struggles, and reminds us that someone just one table over might have be going through similar troubles to our own. Tearoom is a unique play as warming as a cup of tea and comforting as a conversation with an old friend.

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