Happiness is a Cup of Tea

Life is transient. One day we’re here, the next day we’re at sea, a wisp or a distant memory. Happiness is a Cup of Tea, a one-woman show written and performed by Annie McKenzie, is a treatise on grief. In a Fringe packed with solo shows, Happiness stands out for its delicate simplicity. Don’t ignore the little things. In the end, God is in the detail.

This is a little gem that is not to be missed.

Fiona Nash has just lost her mother. She wasn’t with her when she died because her sister, Leslie, didn’t call her in time. She learns of her mother’s death from a voicemail.

Fiona’s journey through grief started with the loss of her father at age six. Her mum didn’t make the funeral, preferring to down a bottle of gin instead. Her sister delivered the eulogy and now, 20 years later, it’s Fiona’s turn. She struggles with what to write, pleading with the audience for support. What can she possibly say? What if her mother is disappointed in her? The worry here is that the writing begins to circle around on itself, but such is the nature of grief. If there is repetition it is only because she is trying to make sense of what’s senseless. She disagrees with Virginia Woolf – someone does not need to die so we can learn the value of life.

Carefully constructed, McKenzie has written a deft and supple script that address heavy themes without ever becoming self-indulgent. She is eminently likable and so clearly in control that we forget that she has achieved something remarkable – a 50-minute speech about death that is funny, moving and never boring. As Fiona’s monologue trips along another child-like narrative runs in parallel. It is a story of a lost fisherman told largely through effective puppetry as she stands in front of us in her wellies and yellow mac.

In the end, we are left with a handful of small miracles. She remembers that her mother’s hands smelled of oranges, that she liked baked beans in her spaghetti and that she once made the ordinary extraordinary, saving someone’s life over a cup of tea. This is a little gem that is not to be missed. 

Reviews by Aidan Stark

Sweet St Andrew's

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★★★★
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★★★★
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Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
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Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
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Performances

Location

The Blurb

During a stormy night on the cliff top at Beachyhead, Fiona Nash is facing her own mortality. Her sister has some news, and Fiona’s asked to write a eulogy – she didn’t even know her mother was ill. Now she’s just trying to figure out things in that head of hers. She should probably go home, but sometimes it’s best just to have a cup of tea and sit down for a minute. Storytelling, puppetry, ukulele and grief all collide in this show about family, being the youngest, and losing the ones we love.

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