Born and bred in Devon, I could not escape tearooms. Luckily, I
find nothing more comforting than a hot cup of English Breakfast,
so gamely tottered along to Tearoom, which has
set up shop in Lauriston Hall. It is a novel concept. The audience
sit on the fringe of the performance space, enjoying afternoon
tea, whilst eavesdropping on the actors who play out scenes centre
stage. Having successfully toured Dorset, So Far Productions bring
this highly interesting but flawed project to Edinburgh.
Unfortunately, the problems begin with Dawn Hollington, who just
is not very believable as Wendy, the owner-cum-waitress of the
tearoom. Her rather colourless delivery is highlighted further
with the entrances of Linda Denning and Lee Tilson as an
elderly couple who are stuck in a loveless marriage, harbouring
secrets, desires, and disappointments from each other. Tilson
makes Mr Baker an old-fashioned northern bully, but it is Denning
who impresses most as a cowering, nervous wreck, simmering with
pent-up frustration at her lost chances and fractured relationship
with her husband. Elsewhere, Georgina Waring, Eileen Rawlings,
Patricia Richardson and Louise Thomas all deliver both amusing
and poignant character studies, all recognizable figures who we
could easily encounter ourselves.
If the production suffers, it is largely due to the writing.
Tanya Alexander's overlong script drags the most in the second
half, and as a result, the acting feels weaker. The patter between
Ellie Cowley and Emma Moran delves dangerously deep into
cliche and appears forced and unnatural. By the time Alexander
herself has entered, proceedings have taken a sudden nosedive, and
soap opera style melodrama creeps ominously into the piece.
Attempts to be wonderfully realistic sadly fail, and even though
there is a breath of fresh air in the shape of Rawlings, whose
insightful musings on the differences between the sexes create
some laughter, our patience has all but run out.
I applaud the company's efforts with this ambitious new project
but must admit, felt a little disappointed at opportunities
missed. At £15 a ticket, one can't help wondering if the public
aren't left feeling a little shortchanged. Still, the cake was