Tea Time Story, Zoo Pleasance (Aviary), Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Ornamental Theatre
Tea Poldervaart (director), Heather Lai (writer and producer), Isabella Javour (assistant producer), Joseph Humber (lighting designer).
Heather Lai (Mulan / YingYing / Guard).
Running time

Eating is a social occasion in China, food is prepared in a way that is specifically for sharing. Here we partake in ancestral tales and dumplings.

The old noodle-seller stands amidst a drift of flour and recounts the ancient tale of injustice to Dou E; tortured to admit to a crime she didn’t commit, her innocence will be proven by a fall of snow in summer.

There are other, newer stories too, of people who were sent away in their hundreds by train to work-camp cabins on the very edge of the USSR. These are part of the common goal of the Cultural Revolution to remove capitalism, intellectual and traditional elements from Chinese society and amongst them are the “lower classes” of scholars, writers and artists.

In this bleak place, as Mulan struggles to cook for thousands, she reveals here own journey. It’s a tale of family circles and love in a landscape where adherence to the Party line is all and a misplaced word or betrayal have far reaching implications. It’s a world in which young YingYing is learning, not only to cook but also that there may be hidden depths as to why people are in this place, that sometimes there are no real choices. There will be lots of stories of injustice, love and taking the blame. There are questions too as to the nature of freedom and, if all is for the common good, who is actually happy?

This one woman show is engagingly and elegantly told in a style that feels authentic to its traditions. The simple space becomes a story book as a snow of flour lands at her feet to become the parchment for symbols, mountain ridges, circles of trust. The characters each have a distinct voice and appearance, keeping the narrative for the most part clear and the ability to transform between them is impressive. That said, the changes sometimes come thick and fast, line by line, and this feels a little forced. This is a debut production and should give confidence that will benefit the performance.

Carefully assembled from many elements, including true stories, the production cooks up satisfying theatre.

Show Times: 1 - 25 August (not 20) 2014 at 11am.

Ticket Prices: £7 (£5).

Suitability: All