White Tea (4 stars)

This article is from 2009

White Tea

Writer-director David Leddy’s latest piece requires its audience to robe up in white kimonos before embarking on an imaginative journey from Paris to Japan, without ever leaving the small room in the Assembly Rooms in which it takes place. Its use of music and projection on a simple set also moves us from one point in history to another, on both a personal and political level.

Naomi (Gabriel Quigley), significantly a scholar in the study of memory at a French university, is visited by her mother’s nurse (Alisa Anderson) on a mission of mercy. Naomi’s parent has succumbed to a stroke in Kyoto, but the young woman, long since estranged from her mother, a peace campaigner and survivor of the Hiroshima bomb, will only reluctantly embark on a journey to Kyoto to be with her. As their trip progresses, more is revealed about both the daughter and nurse.

Leddy’s script at times treads the borderline between a psychological study (mainly of denial) and pure, almost camp melodrama but contrives to retain its dignity with a rich symbolic register, encompassing both visual motif and an astonishingly literate text. Underneath the warmth of the story, lies a quite dispassionate examination of the anthropology of custom, as it works in both Asian and Western individualist models, particularly focusing on issues about family and love. Meanwhile, endless symbols, from the Japanese and British mutual love of tea, to the cleansing of water and on to the idea of bones and their relationship with history and custom, shimmer into sight at significant moments, each time transforming their prior meaning. Quigley and Anderson have much to do in the confined performance space, but show real conviction in conveying an emotionally dense, pleasingly nuanced text.

Assembly Rooms, 623 3030, until 31 Aug (not 18, 25), 2pm & 5pm, £9–£10.

David Leddy's 'White Tea'

  • 4 stars

A complex, multi-layered piece of visual theatre from this ‘brilliant site-specific theatre-maker’ (Scotsman) with a ‘propensity for fearless experiment’ (Financial Times). The audience wear white paper kimonos and drink white tea as they sit within a cocoon of paper prayer flags, origami birds and lush projections of…