JAMES & JAMESY: 2 FOR TEA

Wed 2nd – Sun 27th August 2017

reviews

Claire Louise Richardson

at 10:16 on 5th Aug 2017

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They are from Canada, this was by Lee Martin for Gag Reflex, and they are performing their piece James & Jamesy: 2 for Tea. It is a great piece starting with some exceptionally precise and witty physical comedy; finishing with more audience interactive material. The show is centred around two endearing male characters, and the tea party that they hold each week. It could be seen that this was a stereotypical Canadian make of show for the British because the content was tea, and later the war. However, here it will be seen that the section on tea was the best.

The first 25 minutes were brilliant. The choreography on stage was exceptional during the tea party. It was clownesque, and made for excellent situational comedy - was Jamesy a trained ballet dancer? He was a pedantic host, wanting all to go exactly as he had planned in his head. There was an incredible level of attention to detail, positioning and practice involved with the use of props, as well as Jamesy’s high kicks and arabesques. Every second was worth five with its level of detail. Jamesy also has a bizarre method of tea-pouring whereby he stands on a chair with one leg on the table – have these Canadians ever poured tea? It was admirable that the characters could play these parts without bursting into fits of laughter – rehearsals must have been great fun. Most of all, the relationship between the two men was exceptionally endearing.

However, the intimacy between the two characters that makes the first half of the play so special is lost later on. Upon James’ suggestion that Jamesy make tea for the army, the plot changes. The play diverts from its endearing tea party to a crazy trip through warfare, a hospital and purgatory, with the audience turning into Jamesy’s family and taking part in a photoshoot and group dance. It is hilarious and engaging, but the magic and the charm lay in the first half. The quirky characteristics that made bizarre Jamesy and awkward James so endearing are sidelined, because they are too busy shepherding the audience to create a very different type of comedy. For example, when Jamesy is lying on the knees of two members of the audience - his nominated parents - saying ‘stroke me like a baby lamb.’

In this showing, one of the members of the audience was asked to name three things about ‘life’, while posing as a doctor - she told us that ‘it’s long… it’s embarrassing… and…. It’s embarrassing’. This snappy and fast paced piece is the complete opposite. The two actors made the madness of the characters, and their embarrassing natures, feel comforting and homely. Certainly, I left the theatre having seen a story that I wanted to know more about, and witnessing characters that I wished I could meet. It was disappointing for anyone in the audience behind the front row to be told, during the distribution of tea in the warfare scene, that tea was for the front line only. I would very much like to go for tea at Jamesy’s. As James said in the play - ‘hell or high water. I’ll be there.’

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Kiya Evans

at 11:23 on 5th Aug 2017

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“Coming to Jamesy’s flat - sunshine on a cloudy day”

This line could not more accurately epitomise the comedy duo 'James and Jamey's show ‘2 for Tea’' at The Billiard Room, Gilded Balloon Teviot. Heartwarming refuge from the rainy streets of Edinburgh, the combination of Aaron Malkin and Alastair Knowles’ loveable characters and completely shameless comedy will not fail to make audience members of all ages laugh out loud.

At first glance, James and Jamesy may not seem to suit everyone’s comedic tastes. Exaggerated physicality to the point of absurdity and many, many tea-related puns may not immediately seem to be everyone’s cup of tea (sorry), but this production is a heart-warming masterpiece, which will provide guaranteed laughs. The actors themselves were caught on several instances to be laughing at themselves, or the wit of audience participants, something which characterises their generosity as performers rather than any fault in their abilities.

Jamesy is a caricature, something caught between an eccentric old man and a precocious young boy, a cartoon character perfectly sustained by Alastair Knowles. We relate more closely to James, played by Aaron Malkin, who has the comforting quality of making the audience feel as if they are in on a joke, put at ease in antithesis to the oddities of Jamesy’s characteristics. Although the audience seemed initially skeptical of the humour being presented to them - choreographed tea pouring and hips gyrating in your face being amongst the first moments of the play - it is not difficult to fall in love with these characters and their endearing brotherhood.

Whilst the pacing of the play is good, with most of the slowness occurring at the beginning due to the lack of familiarity with the characters, the sectioned style of the show - particularly in relation to the use of two separate weeks with little transition between - can create a sense of structural repetitiveness. Much of what sustains this piece is the use of audience members, a surefire way of encouraging audience engagement, but what drives it are the Mr. Bean-like mannerisms and quirks of Jamesy, paired with the trustfulness and sweetness of James.

The use of audience participation is masterfully overseen by Malkin and Knowles, who are as forthcoming in their sharing of the stage with unwitting members of the public as they are in their physical and emotional characterisation. The passion and pride in what they have put together is palpable, and you sense a genuine love and affection for the characters that they are portraying.

Go for the free tea. Stay for the insatiable humour and heartwarming characters. Like James, your “time with Jamesy [will be] peppered with magic moments”.

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