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Don't Make Tea | Soho Theatre

Don’t Make Tea is a hilariously dark comedy shining a light on the issues surrounding those in power and their approach to disability. Following many successful productions, this groundbreaking show marks the Birds of Paradise Theatre Company’s 30th anniversary. Don’t Make Tea is a futuristic show, following an afternoon of a disabled woman (Chris) where she is being assessed by the government in regard to her ability to go back to work. This clearly unfair situation results in the audience feeling intense frustration along with our protagonist as she commits a heinous act, plunging the story into chaos as we enter act two.

Upon entering the theatre, the audience are immediately pulled into the world in which the story takes place, with a radio station from their futuristic world playing from the stage. Screen projections are used with BSL welcoming the audience, as well as audio description being displayed above the stage. Set design (Kenneth MacLeod) is simple - a normal living room with a sofa, table and bookshelf, however, integrated throughout these set pieces were highly technological items to enhance the futuristic quality that was intended.

As the play develops, the significance of technology becomes abundantly clear as the use of audio description and BSL allowed for an accessible experience that was wonderfully integrated; it enhanced the performance and these modes of accessibility became two characters, never failing to cause laughter. This provided an atmosphere in which accessibility for all was at the forefront, without the need for specific accessible performances as many other shows do.

When it comes to futuristic shows, one issue is the lack of believability and inability to connect to the with their world as it appears so abstract. However, this was not the case with Don't Make Tea as all the technology was presented as advanced versions of what we see now. The audience could feel fully integrated and identify with Chris in an all-encompassing way.

This of course also comes down to the performance of Gillian Dean (Chris) who created a grounded character with the ability to tug on your heartstrings with her gut-wrenching performance. Often portraying an authentic frustration, causing gasps throughout the audiences, making us sat on the edge of our seats. Another standout performance comes from Richard Conlon (Able) - playing a mere hallucination, this character could potentially be hard to engage with. However, Conlon captured the audience's heart with a loveable and hilarious approach to his character. Despite only actually entering the stage in act two (his work being voice-overs in act one), he certainly stole the show and it was an unforgettable performance.

Lighting design (Grant Anderson) plays a massive role in building suspense and foreshadowing the events to come. Flickers of light lead up to dramatic scenes, as well as a quick cut to full black-out when violent acts are committed, a clever technique leaving the audience hooked.

Don't Make Tea is an incredibly eye-opening piece of theatre. Presenting the problems surrounding disability care in an accessible way, but also using comedy and drama to keep audiences engaged. Don't Make Tea is a production that keeps the audiences wanting more and we would urge anybody to grab the opportunity to see this piece of theatre. Don't Make Tea runs at Soho Theatre until 6th April - for more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Andy Caitlin


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