Unlike some of my theatrical colleagues, I have no qualms about one woman plays. Personally, I quite like internal monologues being blown wide open on the stage, however sometimes the stereotypes can ring true. Annie McKenzie’s ‘Happiness is a Cup of Tea’ is one of these shows. Set on top of a cliff, her character has run away after finding out about the death of her mother.
The technical aspects of this show are wonderfully done. The sound design really evokes a windswept cliff and detailed observations in sound levels mean that it feels wholly realistic, which when combined with some effective lighting and the natural atmosphere of the venue means that the setting is perfect.
However, the excellent technical aspects almost makes this show harder to watch because the play itself fails to live up to the level of the setting its in. The script meanders around and at times it feels like just a collection of clever phrases that the playwright daydreamed and then shoehorned them all together to make a play. Unfortunately doing this just doesn’t work as a monologue as too often it drifts into self-indulgence and repetition.
As a performer, Annie McKenzie has flashes of raw emotion but for the majority of the performance her pacing and presentation aren’t engaging. It’s not mentioned whether this show had a director but it feels like there wasn’t. Without clear direction, McKenzie has a habit of spiralling into fast-paced and inaudible dialogue which may be realistic but doesn’t work as a performance.
Happiness is a Cup of Tea could have been an interesting performance but unfortunately there were too many issues with the script and acting to hold the audience’s attention. While my heart went out to McKenzie as this is clearly a personal show for her, it just didn’t make great theatre.
Reviewed by Roz Carter