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Tea In A China Cup, written by Northern Irish playwright Christina Reid, completed a two night run under the supervision of director Sabrina McNally and producer Sam Monk. A bittersweet, bleakly-observant play, the script focuses on three generations of women maintaining dignity and tradition in the midst of war, Protestant-Catholic conflict and community crisis. That makes it sound much heavier-handed than it is. Thankfully, the play contains many wonderful set pieces and genuine comedic nuances which tinge the melancholy and despair with everyday humour.
Tea in a China Cup
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The cast do especially well in maintaining this balance. Easily the stand-out performer, Liz Boardman as ‘Sarah’, a performance ranging from a young woman to an old dying woman, is the real heart of the piece. Boardman, in her last performance for LUTG, delivers such a precise performance that you’re almost left wanting when she’s not on stage. Moving deftly from comedic childbirth to touching scenes in her old age to defiance in the face of terror, she never loses the true essence of her character. She is an ordinary person in a conflicted world who is equally proud and ashamed of her life. Honourable mention must also go to Eleanor Forrester, doing her best to keep control of the potential caricature ‘Aunt Maisie’, even if she does occasionally channel Petula Gordino, and Kate Macdonald who had the unenviable task of being a po-faced narrator. Culminating in a fraught scene of ironic confession for protestant ‘Beth’, Macdonald allowed the audience to see the inner turmoil of the character, building a strong rapport with Boardman.
McNally is clearly passionate about the play – each scene was lavished with precise attention to detail – but is let down by the sporadic pacing of the script. Whilst the first half of the play zipped by with sharp dialogue and interesting incidents, post-interval the scenes felt a tad overlong and wrung-out. Whilst the Protestant-Catholic divide is clearly a significant theme of the play, the references become too familiar and similar, making some moments repetitive. Some scene changes felt lengthy and weren’t perhaps as smooth as they could have been. On top of that, the ending became a bit Lord-of-the-Rings-esque, having just one scene too many.
Nevertheless, the play was a well-acted, well-directed production that showed the importance of the ordinary and unity in times of strife, a message that resonates throughout timeand is easily identifiable for any audience. Despite being let down slightly by a sluggish second act, Tea In A China Cup was well worth a watch, proving a provocative and emotive piece of theatre. Didn’t half make me fancy a cuppa after it, as well.