Edinburgh Fringe 2016
The therapist is sitting waiting on his new client. When the new client arrives he is strange and yet very clear about his intentions. As the conversation unfolds we learn that the client was disabled by his therapist in a previous existence. It leads to a very tense standoff involving the ashes of a dead loved one and a knife branded at the chest of one of them.
Spoken in Korean with English surtitles, this is a very claustrophobic affair. The therapist who has set up his practice in the tea room of his dead wife welcomes his new client in. The discussion centres around how trust should be built between them. After a short few interchanges this develops into a conflict that exposes a previous encounter between them which was far from positive. Rather than becoming defensive and trying to wriggle out of the accusations the therapist, a former cop, laughs and tries to humour his new client round. When he client reveals what is in his bag, the therapist, who recently lost his wife, turns and it could have ended very nastily. Instead we get a strange musing on how trust should be built.
The text was very good and enjoyable. Even though we had to read the script this was a play that worked on almost every level. The acting was superb and believable, the set was detailed and good and the way in which we go introduced to the client’s disability – caused by the therapist/cop – was inspired. I sat writing that there was something wrong with the theatre arts in my notes until it was revealed why these choices had been made.
The Fringe does attract a high number of very good Asian companies and with Korean and Taiwanese seasons upon us in Edinburgh this year it is easy to allow yourself the opportunity of just luxuriating in their mastery of theatre. Black and White Tea Room adds to this and whilst some of the acting and the script might not follow Western standard (clichéd) norms it is all the better for that.
I was very glad that I had followed my instinct and booked in to see this as I left asking myself about the nature of trust and how I had been fooled into the misunderstanding of how things were not working.