Tea Time Story
2 stars **
Zoo Pleasance (Venue 124)
SET MAINLY IN a Chinese labour-camp in 1969, at the height of the Cultural Revolution, Heather Lai’s monologue Tea Time Story tells of a young girl and a slightly older woman forming a friendship under the most difficult circumstances; and reflects on the meaning of freedom, which these characters can only glimpse in rare moments of love or respite.
The problem with this tightly-interwoven story, though, is that Lai and her director, Tea Poldervaart, struggle to find a way of communicating its full range and meaning through the monologue form. Switching constantly between characters with the aid of a single piece of cloth, on a stage drenched in flour to represent the domestic world where the two women meet, Lai rarely has the chance to settle into any of the play’s many voices. And the huge mess created by the flying clouds of flour eventually becomes distracting; in a production that has plenty to say, but that needs to say it with much more calmness and clarity, and with a stronger sense of the primary relationship, in solo theatre, between the performer and the audience.