Tasting notes at Southwark Playhouse

Tasting notes. Sam Kipling and Wendy Morgan. Photo Chris Marchant.

The plot in Tasting notes is not without holes. Dissatisfied with a critical incident having a significant impact on one or more of its characters, there are many. A lot is packed into a twenty-four hour span in a production that’s meant to depict a day in the life of its six characters. But what happens is getting more and more implausible to the point that your reviewer has started to wonder if this is some nonsensical play.

The storyline returns several times over the same twenty-four hours, albeit from a different character’s point of view each time, which invariably leads to a lot of unnecessary repetition. Admittedly, this narrative device stands out from the more conventional use of flashback scenes, but it still feels like we’re sitting twice in a trilogy. For someone, having one glass of wine, for example, actually means having six. No complaints from me on that front, but when someone kicks the bucket, that person has more resurrections than Jairus’ daughter, Lazarus of Bethany and Jesus of Nazareth combined.

The musical is not free from stereotypes, like Joe (Stephen Hoo) who goes to the wine bar where the show takes place every day before finally being asked to leave, and George ( Sam Kipling), whimsical and campy, with an involuntary reflex which consists of striking a pose even while playing matchmaker for others or serving a customer at the bar. I couldn’t figure out for life why Kipling’s George finds himself singing an entire number in a falsetto voice. When Jimmy Somerville does it, it’s moving – here I regret to say I found it shocking, not least because I couldn’t understand what was being sung.

LJ (Nancy Zamit) runs the wine bar – I gather from the staff uniforms that the establishment is called LJ’s, and it seems the audience decides for themselves if it’s unimaginative, narcissistic or both. Either way, the production paints the manager in a likeable light, the kind of local business owner who knows his clientele well enough to come and check on the well-being of a regular who doesn’t show up on his hour. usual but gave no indication of going on vacation or being on a business trip.

Eszter (Wendy Morgan), the chef de partie at the bar, has probably the most interesting point of view: being a Hungarian woman who speaks English but not fluently, her conversations with her adult son in his mother tongue cannot be understood by other staff members, but are translated later, with his innermost thoughts. The asides in programs like Miranda and Fleabag come to mind, and more use could have been made of direct addresses to the audience throughout the performance.

There’s also Maggie (Charlie Ryall), an actor whose audition for a role isn’t going well. Oliver (Niall Ransome) loves the company of his cats so much more than the company of other people that he gets an entire musical number emphasizing that personal preference, in a show that’s already too repetitive.

It would be too harsh to consider an off-stage car crash as a metaphor for the show as a whole – there were decent enough punchlines to elicit hearty laughs from the audience, and the various narrative points are connected by the curtain call. . It’s an ambitious production in some respects, but it deserves a few tweaks: the “blah, blah, blah“Dialog truncations when the story is told from George’s point of view, apparently because he’s too self-centered to listen to anyone else for very long, is a step in the right direction. At least the actors seem to be having fun, which carries over to audience responses to the performance.

3 star reviews

Comment by Chris Omaweng

For 24 seemingly normal hours, ‘Tasting Notes’ delves into the life of a wine bar; the people who serve, the people who drink and the people we meet on our way to wherever we go…

Stephen Hou
Sam Kipling
Wendy Morgan
Niall Rancon
Charlie Ryal
Nancy Zamit

Creative team:
Music and Lyrics Richard Baker
Book and Lyrics Charlie Ryall
Director Shelley Williams
Music Director Richard Baker
ScenographyJustin Williams
Lighting Design Alex Musgrave
Production Manager Laurel Marks
Work of Art
Produced by Caroheda Productions Ltd.
Caroheda Productions Ltd presents

Tasting notes
Music and Lyrics Richard Baker
Book and Lyrics Charlie Ryall
Directed by Shelley Williams

Southwark Theater
77-85 Newington Causeway,
London SE1 6BD

About Michael Brafford

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