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Organised Chaos Productions present Afternoon Tea by Lindsay Kernahan at Taurus Bar, Manchester

Published by: Caroline May on 23rd Apr 2010 | View all blogs by Caroline May

It’s been a long time since I saw a play at Taurus, and in the interim it has either been brilliantly revamped to make the tiny, cramped downstairs bar into a viable performance space with decent viewing lines, or emerging theatre company Organised Chaos have worked wonders to create an almost site-specific production which cleverly evokes the genteel and refined pleasures of an upmarket tearoom. 

We come down the basement stairs to find two couples tête-à-tête at neighbouring tables which are decked out with all the accoutrements of a leisurely and indulgent afternoon tea.  The white linen tablecloths, fine china, teapots and cafetières, not to mention the laden cake stands and mouth-watering array of pastries, made me want to summon a waitress and look at a menu at once - designer Alice Allen’s attention to detail is spot on.

What playwright Lindsay Kernahan and director Emma France then set up is a Siamese-twin of a comedy, with styles of writing and acting almost diametrically opposed, as the couples chat over their refreshments and intriguing stories come to separate but equally dramatic climaxes.

Jean (Celia Carron) and Poppy (Dianne Rimmer) are nicely turned-out ladies who lunch - or in this case, take tea.  Being of a certain age their conversations range across all the problems that can beset a woman in her middle years - ex-husbands, new partners, grown-up children, antisocial cats, transgender internet dating - that kind of thing.  With just a hint of the Cheshire Set about them (though that set is perhaps more Hollyoaks than Wilmslow) their bantering northern humour is reminiscent of Alan Bennett and Victoria Wood, and the characterisations are broad without being over-the-top.  I don’t know whether first-night nerves caused these scenes to played at a snail’s pace with Pinteresque pauses, but the snappy comic dialogue seemed to demand something a great deal less languid.

At the next table William (Laurence Pickford) and Abigail (Julie Burrow) are in a more modern and downbeat style of comedy.  William is divorcing his wife to be with his much younger girlfriend, but their long weekend away in the country is not turning out to be as romantic as anticipated, partly due to the age gap, and partly due to Abigail’s jealousy and William’s wandering eye.  The two actors establish a convincing relationship, conveying genuine emotion and even arousing our sympathy.  The humour comes less from the dialogue than the playing - small but true moments, such as when the slightly vain and self-absorbed William includes the whole audience in his lascivious stare, or glimpses his own smile in the wall mirror and stops to admire it.

Tonight’s performance really tweaked the audience’s funnybone.  If you miss the company’s work this time around there’s a further opportunity to catch one of their previous Taurus shows at the Buxton Fringe Festival this summer.


Evenings: 22nd to 24th April @ 7.30pm

Matinee: Sat 24th @ 5pm

Tickets: £7 (£5 conc) from Quaytickets: 0843 208 0500 or


Taurus Bar

1 Canal Street

M1 3HE



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