‘Tea with the Dames” is a concept film and the concept is as brilliant as it is simple. From my very first encounter with the pre-publicity I was at a loss as to why someone hadn’t thought it up years ago.
Simply get a few of Britain’s leading dramatic figures, in this case ladies who have been made Dames for their services to the dramatic Arts, plonk them around a table somewhere, get them talking and film the result. After all, this lot are the very best in their craft and have been around for decades. For once lets have a “fly on the wall” documentary where the participants aren’t retards and actually have something to say that is worth listening to. It’s a revolutionary idea and as far as I was concerned, well overdue. From the first trailer I was interested, since anyone who knows the theatre knows that actors are the most gifted speakers of all, as well as being the best tellers of stories. Just from the trailer I was almost forcibly returned to the foyer of the theatre, where post rehearsal or performance, the cast would gather for a wind down that became increasingly convivial as the cask of Chateau Cardboard red became progressively lighter, and eventually the floor became the inescapableplace to sit. They were crazy days and heady nights and though I had no stories of my own to share being too young, I was welcomed as a worthy listener and in retrospect learnt far more than I ever realised at the time.
If you followed all that you should know that “Tea With The Dames” is very like it – these remarkable ladies, veterans all, are all are long-time friends, very good natured, witty and consummate story-tellers. If you’re anything like me, you pretty quickly forget that you’re sitting in a film-theatre watching a film and not sitting in a very pleasant English country garden with some some of the most delightful people you’ll probably never meet in person. My mouth hung open, partly in wonder at the space I was in and partly in the pathetic hope that I would be taken pity on meand feed one of the little cakes from the table. I laughed a lot, overjoyed by the (frequently very earthy) humour of these great ladies.
The tea party is sometimes interrupted by historical footage of the subject of conversation at the time. But these insets are always apt, sometimes funny and never jarring or overly long, instead they add to the words fleshing out the memories of the person speaking and drawing you into the action in a quite delightful way.
Now I will admit that my odd personal history makes me either a very knowledgable reviewer of this film, or perhaps an overly partial one; anyone who has read this far will be aware that I liked this film a very great deal indeed. Anyone who is unable to separate my views from my perceived partiality should be aware that the lady I went to the film with has Greek as a first language and although she didn’t have flashbacks caused by the film and didn’t laugh (nearly) as much as I did, did laugh and did testify afterwards that she liked it a lot, too, even if that *is* hearsay evidence.
Remarkable stuff and a priceless historical resource, I wish it had been longer
Copyright 2018 Alex Rieneck..