Ginger Hibiscus | Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: Tea Set by Gina Moxley at the White Bear Theatre and Barons Court Theatre
Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: Tea Set by Gina Moxley at the White Bear Theatre and Barons Court Theatre
Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: Tea Set by Gina Moxley at the White Bear Theatre and Barons Court Theatre
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12 Dec REIVEW: Tea Set at the White Bear Theatre and the Barons Court Theatre

Engaging, moving and at times, harrowing, Tea Set is a one-handed play that demonstrates perfectly that extensive visual stimuli aren’t required for a performance to pack a punch. Delivered by Amy Molloy, Gina Moxley’s play takes us back to “the millennium,” to that one tick of the clock so unlike all the others, that heralded the start of the next 1000 years, that was expected to unleash ”the millennium bug,” and that for me holds uncomfortable memories of being crushed in the crowds outside London’s Embankment tube station. The millennium was one of those events – if it could be called an event – that almost everyone can recall. Most people could tell you where they were at that moment, who they were with, and whether or not they were having a fabulous time.

The fact that most people have a memory of that night, makes the millennium an incredibly powerful focal point of Tea Set, injecting a relatability to the story that might otherwise be absent. For the young female soliloquist, the millennium was an opportunity, to make some quick cash by being paid way above the odds for caring for the elderly Mrs A. But what she didn’t know when she arrived, is that Mrs A had very recently been involved in a hideously brutal event, the tremors of which would continue to rock the house, and the body, that Mrs A inhabited, fighting to cut itself free.

With uncomfortable subject matter, it’s difficult to write about Tea Set without revealing exactly what happened to Mrs A, since large swathes of the dialogue serve exclusively to anticipate and deliver her explanation. Whilst fluently and absorbingly expressed, what happened to Mrs A is far less compelling and interesting than understanding the consequences, both to her and to those around her. Both are touched upon, but it feels that the focus lies slightly in the wrong place; perhaps we should never find out her full story. Just knowing that she finally shared it with her carer is enough to keep the focus on the burden of knowledge and the agony of isolation, without making the story so specific to one situation and therefore less applicable to every other.

As is probably clear, it’s not the kind of play that leaves you desperate to watch again. Walking out, you’re more likely to feel quiet, pensive, and almost hurt; a sign that something within it has clearly got under your skin. A significant part of that is due to Amy Molloy’s delivery of the script. In a depiction that’s still, understated and brilliantly acted through her face and voice, she breathes life into the characters, with a remarkable portrayal of profound anxiety.

Far from the light hearted Christmas fare you often find at this time of year, Tea Set gives something a bit different – a timely reminder that there are people in our society experiencing isolation and loneliness. Arguably missing a degree of optimism, at moments it can be a difficult watch, but is ultimately a strikingly compelling story.

Dates: 7th-8th December 2014 White Bear Theatre and 19th-25th January 2015 Barons Court Theatre


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Star Rating

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