Dear Tamara It was interesting to read your review of the Skinners Tea Party. My experience was quite different. I was Uncle Jim at the Tea Party in question. I think the crucial thing you have failed to understand is that there were also players of the game present at the party you attended, I was one of them. And Lord Farquhar was also one- hence the jarring modern dress and the lack of contribution to the afternoon. I would say that I think you get out of such an experience what you put in. The very nature of an interractive performance requires the audience to interact with the action which is possibly why you mistook me for a performer. I was invited to the tea party before yours but was asked to stay on for a little longer, I think, because I was engaging with the characters and in turn they had something to feed off - besides the Battenburg. No matter that I wasn't dressed as well as Lord Farquhar, or even that he wasn't as inclined to chat to the family as I was. As for the details, it's a shame that you pick out things like double glazing as potential sticking points. You may as well argue that the whole street should have been transformed to its original 50's look and all the neighbours dressed accordingly too. The point is that you are invited to play, and there is an onus on you to meet the actors at least part of the way to suspending belief- the party before yours were dressed in 1950s clothes and brought with them gifts for Aunty- an M&S cake being one of them. Perhaps you were just unfortunate to attend a party where not enough audience were playing. I can assure you- the one you missed was a much better laugh. Jim from next door.
At Home With The Skinners
Taking the cake? Tamara Gausi is refreshed but doesn't quite get her fill of a 1950s tea-party-cum-performance in celebration of Vauxhall's Great British Road Trip
Punchdrunk’s sister company Gideon Reeling is known for its ‘bespoke performance events’ and Vauxhall is famous for making shiny new cars. Put the two together and what do you get? A 1950s tea party-cum-performance installation at a secret location in where else but Hackney.
Guests were invited over to the Skinners’s to celebrate daughter Eva’s birthday and enjoy an hour of tea, cake, ‘Maybe It’s Because I’m a Londoner’ sing-songs and pass-the-parcel. The link between car manufacturer, old-school east end hospitality and cake may not be immediately obvious, but the performance was part of Vauxhall’s Great British Road Trip interactive treasure hunt, in which participants take day-trips (or longer if time permits) to visit as many pre-selected destinations as possible. Video and photo footage is uploaded to chart the journeys and the contestants with the most points win a place at The Reeling Family Wedding on March 21.
While the concept may not win any awards for its environmental credentials, the idea of exploring journeying through participation is not only in vogue this week (check out Cycle East on Sunday and Drive Walk Ride on Tuesday at the East Festival), it’s also pretty intuitive. For what is theatre if not a grand expedition of thought, place and time? At Home with the Skinners’ did feel somewhat embryonic in its ideas and presentation (it was difficult to ignore the double-glazing, sunken ceiling lights and carelessly strewn M&S cake packaging, and some of the characters such as Lord Farquhar made no contribution to the afternoon whatsoever,while others such as Uncle Jim were in jarring modern dress),. But the performers still managed to create a genuine sense of intimacy while providing an interesting platform to explore the internal journey theatre audiences have to go on to suspend belief.
Shame then, that the performance was cut so awkwardly short (we were told the family had to go to the hospital to visit their dad, but the queue of people outside told us we had to get off our theatrical conveyor belt so that others could get on). It revealed what happens when one suspends belief and theatremakers carelessly cut the rope: you fall down to earth with a bump that is only partly salved by a slice of cream cake and memories of a very special tea party.
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