DramaNorth WestReview

Tea and Two Sugars – 53Two, Manchester

 Writers: Crystal Williams and Rachel Isbister

Director: Chloe Patricia Beale

Reviewer: Sam Lowe

Getting the chance to walk through the set, in order to take our seats is not done often. This is executed to great effect in this play. It makes you feel like you are in Hannah’s living room in this intimate, 53Two theatre space – looking rather pale and white like a hospital ward.

This is a drama, motivated by true events and verbatim interviews, about two sisters: Izzy (Williams) and Hannah (Isbister). Two sisters who may argue and clash with one another but there’s no denying they have an indissoluble connection. When Hannah is diagnosed with cervical cancer, their relationship is massively put to the test as nothing can prepare them for what lies ahead.

Williams and Isbister make up Two Time Theatre, described as, “Manchester’s brightest, emerging creatives.” This couldn’t ring any truer based on tonight’s production. The premiere is supported by the 53Two FOUNDation bursary. Tea and Two Sugars examines the all too relevant discourse regarding the age of screening and coming to terms with this tragic disease which affects too many people.

Both sisters possess contrasting personalities, but this balances them out. One helps the other. Izzy starts off as a prepubescent girl, sassy with a mischievous attitude. But this isn’t a stereotype, the writing adds much more depth to both Izzy and Hannah. Her experience of going to parties and dealing with Hannah’s diagnosis is the catalyst for her gradual maturity, as she experiences complicated emotions. Hannah is a level-headed, snack-loving writer. Or at least she appears even-tempered. Moments of solitude in the poignant and pitiful silences disclose a young woman trying somehow to make the best out of a bad situation and take things one day at a time.

A ritual occurs at the end of every scene where a selfie photograph of the sisters is hung up on some fairy lights. The transitions are intentionally long: a time for reflection; a time to process like the characters are compelled to constantly do. Although the sections are broken up, each individual scene feels like it naturally plays out in real time. Most of the narrative is dedicated to conveying the idiosyncratic relationship between the two sisters, it’s the ordinary moments that are extraordinary. There is a gentle crescendo to tension or drama in scenes. After Izzy finds out the news about Hannah, presented are touching moments of intuition between them both. Instances where they collectively avoid talking about the dreaded “C” word and instead let the good times become centre of attention.

An emotive choice of music is used throughout as well. The music evokes a certain kind of affection and warmth. It’s like the sisters are eventually past the point of sadness and now at a stage of acceptance. They let their relationship, memories, and love flood their thoughts and hearts. The only minor constructive criticism would be that facts and information surrounding cervical cancer is a touch lacking. But again, this is only a minor comment.

Here we have a story that explores the symbolism of the brew. It’s an opportunity to relax, talk, and connect with a person over a cuppa. A window to express your worries and fears, your love for something or someone. It’s a normal activity when you’re handling something as earth-shattering as this situation.

Two Time Theatre have devised an extremely strong piece of theatre and they are only at the very start of their career. This play in conjunction with, expressive actors, and the intimacy and versatility of 53Two’s Theatre space equals a magic result. Theatre that is cathartic, raw, and emotionally fickle.

Runs until 22 February 2019. | Image: Contributed

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The North West team is under the editorship of John Roberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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