Tea Time Story

How many kilos of flour does it take to tell a good story? In the case of Heather Lai, over fifty during the course of her Fringe run and every gramme is put to excellent use.

This production reveals Lai to be an accomplished performer and writer

Lai’s story is based on the harrowing experiences of her family during the harsh days of the Cultural Revolution. It is 1969 and Chairman Mao’s campaign to rid the country of counter-revolutionary elements is well under way. Neighbour denounces neighbour, relationships are torn apart, families are separated and those who do not fit into the new regime are sent to work camps.

Against this bleak backdrop Heather Lai tells an endearing tale in the most exquisite manner. She creates an air of calm in her opening scene, as the snow falls and we become absorbed in her captivating movements. Then she assumes the first of many roles in her saga , which is alive with clearly defined characters. For each she has a voice, mannerisms or a posture and even in the quick-fire conversations she moves effortlessly from one to the other. Her shiny eyes and expressive face enhance the visualisation of these people, although from time to time words are lost in the accents and range of voices she uses.

The set has an appropriately functional, stark simplicity, but this is a very visual production. In the snow, Lai translates her words into patterns, symbols, Chinese characters and landscapes like pages from a children’s storybook.

This production reveals Lai to be an accomplished performer and writer who has benefitted from the sensitive direction of Tea Poldervaart. If you enjoy a good story filled with wisdom you will be enchanted by this delightful tale of injustice, companionship and enduring love. Oh yes, and dumplings! 

Reviews by Richard Beck

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The Blurb

China. 1969. Mid-summer. Cultural Revolution. Snow starts to fall. YingYing and Mulan meet in the harshest Chinese work camp. Surrounded by cruelty and sadness, the two women find strength in each other. Based on her family's experience, Heather Lai tells a tale of injustice, of companionship and enduring love.