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Review of Time for Tea at the Etcetera Theatre | Camden Fringe

Time For Tea - Photograph by Chantal Guevara
Time For Tea – Photograph by Chantal Guevara

We are informed that Time For Tea is based on the Cowgate, Edinburgh fire of 2002: one of the three characters, Max, gives real-time witness to the conflagration whilst sporting a Deliveroo jacket. Deliveroo was created in 2013. Forgive me then, if I say that this anachronistic mishap left me a little confused – one can’t blame a director’s misinterpretation of the script as the show is directed by writer Lita Doolan. Fortunately, I know Edinburgh well and thus could understand the multiple geographic references to the city but for those who don’t then constantly citing Cowgate, The Grassmarket, The Mound, St. Augustine’s et al might well leave uninitiated audience members a little bemused. So it’s a bit of an ITK play: those who are in on it are in on it and those who aren’t will probably find it floats over their heads a tad. It may be on its way to the Fringe which would be appropriate but the highlighted (in the programme) building of a modern hotel in the fire-created space never emerges as a theme in the play – except perhaps, somehow, in that Deliveroo jacket.

The three characters give what can best be described as three separate, but linked, monologues, with no interaction between them. This works reasonably well at the beginning but becomes a little tedious as the play develops as we crave some interplay, some actual relationships between the three and some character development which is a pretty limited commodity via monologues.

Abbi Douetil as Mila, a street-sleeping drug-user, who goes missing in the fire, is rather too shouty-screechy and hasn’t yet learnt to add some shade to her character, needing to realise there are several other notches on the volume dial between quiet and loud. There are moments, though, that she gets across some true pathos as a counterpoint to the in-yer-face street talk.

Jenny Rowe as Emily, Mila’s Mother, struggles with the monologue-esque aspect of the play and seems to crave the reassurance of bouncing off other actors. This is not entirely her fault as Emily is a very bittily-drawn character, the weakest part of the script, and it takes a while to actually get who she is.

Sean Huddlestan gives the most cultured and confident performance in the show, comfortable with the script, at ease with the character: but, boy, wouldn’t we like to see him freed from the shackles of monologue. There’s some clever stuff in Doolan’s play but it lacks conviction in its own hard-hitting theme. At one point Mila says that yoga is for people who can’t afford a gym membership – nice line! Time for Tea, one might surmise, is a play that apparently can’t afford a plot.

3 Star Review

Review by Peter Yates

When an explosion rips open Edinburgh’s Grassmarket, vulnerable lives fracture. Mila’s foster mother clings to the wreckage of a burnt out caravan and searches for her.

When Mila’s foster father is released from prison the city is in melt down. His daughter is missing. Her foster mother knows the girl is being stalked but refuses to speak to Police.

Mila runs away and tries to remain safe by giving her stalker the slip in cafe toilets. Fringe shows fill the city making it hard to spot a dangerous face in the crowd. Can Mila be found in time?

Abbi Douetil – Mila (above)
Sean Huddlestan – Max
Jenny Rowe – Emily
A new play by Lita Doolan, based on the 2002 Cowgate fire.
Twitter: @litadoolan
July 30th 12.30pm
Etcetera Theatre, Camden High Street, London


  • Peter Yates

    Peter has a long involvement in the theatrical world as playwright, producer, director and designer. His theatre company Random Cactus has taken many shows to the Edinburgh Fringe, the London Fringe and elsewhere and he has been associated with the Wireless Theatre Company since its inception where his short play Lie Detector can be heard: Wireless Theatre Company.

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