If only all afternoon tea could be served with a spoonful of Complicite. It was the creative learning arm of the renowned theatre company, that, this weekend, staged a pop-up afternoon tea event with dream-like qualities, transforming a communal lounge in over-55’s centre Dora House (St. John’s Wood, London), into a spotless, 1940’s-esque tea-room. Flanked by paisley wallpaper, sweeping net curtains and live classical music, an impeccably styled cast of waiting staff and actors played out themes of love, regret and distant memories as customers looked on in disbelief over a pot of Earl Grey.
Gaze upon your beetroot and horseradish sandwich for too long and you were sure to miss a trick; an overture of seagulls and crashing waves, a silent black and white film of dancing lovers projected onto the back of a menu, or how about a plate of sugar that dissolved before your very eyes to reveal a secret map. And that was before first sighting of ‘the trolly’, heaving with old-fashioned cakes. A slice of lemon and poppyseed didn’t disappoint yet such was the choice, there was very soon an unapologetic spoon in my friend Maggie’s wedge of chocolate and stout cake.
The theatre added a wonderful sense of playful mystery yet it was the original concept that provided the show’s ultimate authenticity. In collaboration with Complicite and director/designer Geraldine Pilgrim, TEA was founded on the memories of tenants of Dora House who aimed to ‘re-capture’ what afternoon tea really meant for them. Delicate rounds of sandwiches featured ‘Queen Alexandra’s’ chicken and tongue, plus a traditional show of egg, cheese and chutney and the ever-present cucumber – vinegared and crust-less. Washed down with a choice of either Assam or Early Grey, a tier of miniature pastries and cakes including summer bowl fruit tartlet and a particularly delicious ‘tiny eclair’ were almost too cute to eat. Almost.
Complicite are hoping to run the project again, and are looking for financial assistance to make it possible. If you’re interested in supporting TEA, please contact Poppy Keeling: email@example.com