Set on Beachy Head, Happiness is a Cup of Tea is a monologue written and performed by Annie McKenzie.
Fiona Nash has received a voicemail from her sister informing her that their mother had died and could she write a eulogy. This news was a complete shock to Fiona who was completely unaware of her mother’s illness. It was a painful reminder, of the often difficult relationship she had with her mother and her older sister and she realised that they had kept her in the dark about many things, including this. Their recent behaviour toward her had also brought to the surface repressed feelings of anger at being shielded from the truth all her life, most notably when their father died suddenly during her childhood. Although, how exactly do you tell a 6-year-old that her father has died and she will never see him again? Fiona’s opinion was that people should be honest with the child, telling them straight, no matter how difficult it may be.
The set is stark – a park bench, a backpack containing a couple of flasks, and a phone box which rings intermittently throughout the play and also doubles up as a puppet theatre. The play’s soundtrack, particularly as you enter the theatre, is atmospheric, managing to transport you to a bleak clifftop on the South Coast of England.
McKenzie’s storytelling is good with a mix of raw emotion, confusion and anger. Her delivery of some difficult lines is heartfelt and her eyes are full of tears as Fiona looks back at her life; distant memories of days out with her dad, his tragic passing, and her mum being too upset to attend his funeral, preferring to drink gin instead. One of her abiding memories of her mum was her being the only person she knew (and possibly on the planet) who liked baked beans in her spaghetti bolognese!
Interspersed with the dialogue is a puppet show which tells the tale of a tragic lady and a fisherman. The final scene is both touching and heartfelt and helped ensure I left the theatre thinking maybe, just maybe, happiness is a cup of tea away.
Review by Karen Pond
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 been 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 a sit down for a minute. Fiona would like to say a few words about her Mother. A few words. It’s time.
Story-telling, puppetry, song and grief all collide in this show about family, being the youngest, and losing the ones we love. Happiness is a Cup of Tea is written and performed by East 15 graduate Annie McKenzie and directed by Michael Tonkin-Jones (of Pipeline Theatre’s Spillikin: A Love Story), with music from Jack Lawtey.
27th November to 1st December 2016