Set up behind The Grand is the quaint Pleasance THAT; a nice space, if not slightly marred by noisy passers-by. I’ve come to see Tea Set; a thought-provoking play about unspeakable violence and trauma.
This one-woman show, written by Gina Moxley and performed by Amy Molloy, is a weighty play that recounts an elderly lady’s life-changing ‘incident’ from the point of view of her carer and unintended confidant.
Tea Set raises important questions about dignity, independence, tragedy and ‘moving on’; a deeply upsetting story told with true conviction.
This company has gone one step further than simply representing these important issues; they have joined with a number of local and national charities that aim to improve the lives of the elderly. For that, they have my respect and admiration.
It’s New Years Eve, The Millennium, and the “cup o’ kindness” has been smashed to pieces.
The audience come in to a lone woman, piecing together the shards of a teacup; her eyes already filling with tears. From the outset, we are unsettled, afraid and tantalised by the desperate dedication this women displays. The moment this woman looks up to address us, it becomes clear that she is not what we might have expected. This is not a ‘soft’, delicate creature; instead we meet face to face with a hardened loner. This is a clever twist; making the tragedy of the tale even more colossal. Whatever we are about to face has brought this strong, fierce women to the edge of despair – it feels likely that we will soon join her.
The script is composed well; told for the most part in hindsight by The Carer but with well-executed moments of multi-role. Moxley has captured the detailed psychology and perseverance of a women too familiar with loneliness yet forced into deeply connecting with another’s suffering. This play also includes economic and effective portrayals of Mrs. A (the elderly woman) and Mrs. A’s Daughter, which brings the story to life and reinforces our relationship with the subject. Tea Set is suspenseful and revealing; it holds nothing back. We are made to bare witness to a confessional tale of injustice and sorrow; The Carer puts herself on trial whilst sharing the dark history of Mrs. A like a twisted eulogy. This play also comments on the cyclic nature of violence; how hearts are changed by the horrors they have witnessed, spreading like an infectious disease. Moxley, and the company, have a clear social agenda; their passion and assertion is evident and truly affecting.
Molloy is, as Alan Rickman rightly said, a ‘great and courageous young talent’. To begin with, the way in which she realises each of the three characters is very special. The main role, The Carer, is racked with more emotional turmoil than most can comprehend; yet, Molloy makes the grief, the hatred, the fear, the guilt (the list goes on) come alive on stage and at the drop of a hat. Mrs. A, in particular, is treated wonderfully. Only ever present in small stints, Molloy paints the perfect picture of a women who is wise and experienced but has suffered more than she can bare. Molloy carries this heavy story on her shoulders and we can see how much it hurts to do so; sometimes, it’s overly hard to watch her wince and brace herself against it, but these choices are fairly justified as the play concludes. This actor is commanding, vulnerable and versatile. A fascinating watch.
All in, Tea Set is a heartbreaking and thought-provoking play with a strong social spine.
What this play does exceptionally well is marry the dark and the grotesque with the influential and the sincere. Often, I have found that plays succeed in one or the other; dark but too trivial or sincere but too ordinary. Not Tea Set. This play is well-rounded, dramatic and intelligent.
A superb performance of a superb script – be prepared for a difficult watch because this is not one to miss.
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