Edinburgh Fringe 2009
Tea for Ten theatre company
Venue: The Caves 2.
Festival: Edinburgh Fringe
In Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey, celebrated great British wordsmiths congregate and wile away the centuries, awaiting the next party, and the new arrivals. Invitations are by acclaim only (being commemorated in the Abbey), and conditional upon being dead. Jane is a still very much alive former creative writing degree student who stumbles accidentally into the company of Wilde, Byron, Chaucer et al, and like them, wonders what she is doing there.
The idea behind the play is a good one. Constraining the characters into the words they are celebrated for (with a few exceptions), and leaving them conversing among themselves across generations in styles long since disappeared from popular useage is clever.
There are necessarily lots of in-jokes for the creative writers and poetry students in the cast and audience. And there are lots of opportunities to debate the notion of being celebrated and commemorated over time.
Its a young cast who are full of energy, enthusiasm and a variety of talent. The poets necessarily have the best lines. The university tutor is generally unpleasant and exploitative of his students (many a male course tutor will be left blushing). The students sadly can be overly bombastic, and its all a bit too over played.
If people could just relax into their roles a little more, and if their words could be a bit more subtle and under-delivered, then the contrasts between themselves and their world and that of the poets could become more engaging.
More conversation, less confrontation would be a good beginning. Whilst we are told that Jane Gathering will become very famous and a remembered writer, we never hear any of her own words, and from the tone and style of most of the lines she is asked to deliver, the audience never get a chance to hear the voice that will make her famous.
But there is enough in the play and the performance for this reviewer to encourage you to go and see it. It is one of those shows which is likely to grow, develop and turn into something quite special by the end of its Edinburgh run. The cast deserve support. They work very hard, and they have a great idea. They just need to let it be heard. If they can do that, this will be very good indeed. Support it, and when it is successful, you will be pleased you did.