Visit this large gracious room, the pale green and white of its walls reflected in pictures and laden tables, in serviettes and crockery, all pleasantly accented with pink. Choose tea or coffee provided by Frederick Street’s eteaket – there will be more at the interval – and find your table, one of the large ones making up an outer circle. Cake will be brought to you, delicious sponges and slices from Henderson’s of Hanover Street, and you can enjoy a good chat. Oh, you don’t have to have brought a companion for that – the conversation isn’t yours once this play starts, for at those smaller inner circle tables there will be plenty of talk for you to enjoy: not just the fascinating snatches you pick up in a café, wishing you could know more – in Tanya Alexander’s Tearoom, presented by So Far Productions, you hear the full stories.
A fine cast of twelve infuse these vignettes of lives with some great characterisations brewed in the impressive writing. Linda Denning as Mrs Baker, very much controlled by her husband, is mesmerising, a very real person whose hope and pain touches the audience. A couple of friends reunited develops into a very strong piece, and the waitress and all her customers are recognisable, all having something interesting to share in their relationships with friends, spouses, other kinds of family and the world in general. A great deal of humour threads through the pieces even while reasonings behind behaviour are explored, with some interesting considerations and a satisfying amount of pithy descriptions of life and living.
Dialogue is particularly well-written, Alexander‘s own eavesdropping yielding fine fruit, deftly picked, but the often striking metaphors and language can become somewhat overblown in lengthier dramatic speeches. Here the repetition, cliché and cod-psychological advice that people do use in real life are not always condensed enough – with only their essence plumbed – to fully hold attention and there is some belabouring of ideas. These moments, though, are few are far between, Denning excellent in dialogue and monologue and Alexander herself managing to warm into her longer periods of speech. There are also a couple of single visitors with a lot to say in more comic monologues who entertain beautifully, especially Esther (played by Eileen Rawlings) who expounds on men and women with wry humour and provocative insight.
Tearoom provides both obvious and subtle entertainment. More could be done to interlace the presentation of the stories and none of the characters really seem to notice what happens at other tables – the very behaviour the whole production has been built upon – but these are minor quibbles.
Humour, deep emotion, real observation, a talent for insightful description and some fine cake make the taking of light refreshment at this Tearoom an entertaining and discovering experience, titillating both taste buds and interest in other people’s lives.
By Danielle Farrow
22 – 28 August, 10:30 (12:30) + 15:00 (17:00) @ Lauriston Hall