On Thursday night I attended a tea party at the Jericho Arts Centre, the first tea party I’ve been to since the ones I used to invite my stuffed animals to as a child. I must say, this tea party was every bit as silly and imaginative as those. But a smidgen more mature, or at least, with a little less ‘fluff’ and more actual tea (maybe just the latter). All in all, it was a bloody good time! The ridiculous and charming British comedy duo, James and Jamesy (Aaron Malkin and Alastair Knowles) brought their show 2 for Tea to Vancouver this week. The two distinct physical comedy performers and former clowns shared some silliness, some laughs, a couple of photo-shoots, and few Cuppas with us.
Upon arrival, guests were offered steaming cups of Tetley tea with sugar cubes, and a choice of rum or scotch: a little liquid courage for the extra special audience members who would be plucked from their seats, unaware, to participate, and transform the night’s show.
2 For Tea opens with a pair of hands floating out from behind the curtain holding a dainty teacup and a pot of real Tetley tea (courtesy of the show’s sponsor). Shortly after, out glides the rest of Jamesy (Alastair Knowles) limb by limb, jerk by swish, spastic body movements that are both graceful and chaotic. Right from the start you can tell that this character is out of the ordinary, and a puzzling delight to watch. However, the show itself is like a cup of tea. At first the humour is faint, the tone almost undetectable. You must wait patiently while it steeps, and two unusual characters meet for tea, just like they do every week, but the flavour gets stranger and bolder the longer it brews. The show takes some unexpected and exciting turns, and the music and sound effects really amplify the fun. Things really get going when the two friends decide to write a letter to the British General asking if Jamesy’s special tea might be served to the military’s front line troops. James and Jamesy’s synchronized finger dance while typing on an invisible typewriter could not have been performed any better! Their clowning tricks and miming techniques are utilized throughout the show and really help bring the weird n’ wacky world to life. It is true, at times the storyline is a little incoherent, but the humour is fresh and honest. Much of the show is improvised and dependent on audience participation. Each night and each performance the show cannot be the same because more than half the cast is made up of audience members, my favourite element, the pure unpredictably.
The lady chosen to play the General on the night I attended, assured me had she known of the heavy audience participation required for this show, would never have chosen to sit in the front row. But that said, she did a marvelous job serving tea on the front lines. And everyone else who was chosen contributed to making the show hilarious and unique.
“Well, that was different” I overheard someone say at the end of the show.
“Kind of like Sesame Street.”
“He must have taken a lot of yoga classes – I think he did like six different poses in there.”
No one knew quite what to make of the message or conclusion, but by the sound of everyone’s cheers and the constant laugher throughout the show it was obvious, we all enjoyed the ride.