Camilla Cha Small

Afternoon AbsurdiTEA with Camilla Cha

Space Theatre, September 26

In the family-friendly timeslot of 2pm, Afternoon absurdiTEA provides an education in the long and sordid history of the humble tea leaf.  Based on exerts from key artist Anne Norman’s book Curiosi-tea, the performance mixed readings and poetry with a soundtrack of traditional Chinese, Tibetan, Indian and Japanese music, representing the cultural origins of this enduring beverage.

The one-off OzAsia Festival piece sees Norman, musician/poet/author and self-professed tea enthusiast, take on the persona of Camilla Cha with hit and miss results.  Firmly hitting the mark however were her supporting musicians in Tenzin Choegyal (voice and Tibetan instruments), Wang Zheng Ting & the Australian Chinese Ensemble, and Jay Dabgar (Tabla) & Josh Bennett (sitar, didgeridoo and guitar).  This stellar musical cast provided beautiful individual and ensemble performances in between Norman’s narratives.

While conceptually promising, Norman failed in her execution and it was painfully clear that she is weak point in the show.  Though providing a wealth of interesting information on the topic, her delivery was dry and amateurish.  The musical interludes proved to be the saving grace of the production and were almost reason enough to sit through the rest.

In particular, Choegyal’s haunting vocals and the entertaining duo of Bennet and Dabgar stole the show.  Norman’s own performances on shakuhachi (Japanese flute) were commendable and this, along with the quality of her supporting guests, gave some credibility to what otherwise seemed to be an elaborate plug for her debut literary work.

Nicole Russo

28 Sept 2010