The opening moments of 2 for Tea move quite slowly as we observe foppish Jamesy setting up for tea in a most acrobatic manner, but after the first 10 minutes or so, once his friend James enters the scene, things take a turn for the absurd and things get very fun and unexpected indeed.
The world that these two characters – James and Jamesy – inhabit is unusual and constantly evolving. Jamesy doesn’t notice the audience at first and is quite terrified when James initially points them out, but he eventually becomes as much a force for involving the audience in their games as James.
This show has one of the best relationships between performer and audience I’ve seen at Fringe so far. There is quite a bit of audience participation and even if you aren’t selected to come onstage you are guaranteed to interact with James and Jamesy’s strange world in some way. This would be intimidating under the best circumstances, but the rules for audience participation are laid out so cleanly and effectively that you don’t even realize that they’ve been laying down rules until you suddenly know exactly how to react in the way that will keep the show going. Whether it be studio-audience-style applause, sound effects, or an impromptu rave, this show demands your participation in it, so that by the end the quiet, alienating first few minutes seem a lifetime away.
James and Jamesy, our performers/characters, balance each other out quite nicely. Jamesy, as a sort of effeminate OCD contortionist (who is also capable of majestically galloping like a horse) is complemented by straight man James who may be less silly but is no less captivating – the moments where James demonstrates his excellent mime-walking skills as he walks through a thunderstorm and chases after an ambulance made me put down my notebook and just watch in enjoyment.
What exactly is this show about? It’s about tea partly, but mostly it’s about the friendship between these two strange characters whose unusual adventures draw everyone else into their weird and wonderful world. When they invite you to come and join them, don’t say no. Let it happen, and you’ll experience both alienation and almost total presence – quite the arc for a show without a cohesive plot to speak of.
2 for Tea
A British to British Production
Created and Performed by Alastair Knowles (Jamesy) and Aaron Malkin (James)
At Academic Hall