For a city seemingly obsessed with coffee, sometimes a cuppa can be a refreshing change, but even with some moments of real comedy brilliance, James & Jamesy in High Tea takes its bloody long time to fully steep.
In their latest adventure, Aaron Malkin and Alastair Knowles step outside the Fringe circuit to present High Tea. Like many of the duos previous works, it begins with James (Malkin) paying a visit to the home of Jamesy (Knowles) for their weekly tea party. When the teapot won’t stop pouring, a deluge is unleashed that cracks the invisible fourth wall between actors and audience, and the resulting flood becomes fodder for riffs on Jaws, Titanic, and Noah’s Ark.
Audience participation is key here as Malkin and Knowles step beyond that fourth wall on numerous occasions, eliciting the help of both individual audience members and the larger group. On opening night there were no lack of willing participants (you’ve been warned), but one wonders just how successful the show might be if an audience was not quite onboard with being part of the show. Outside the Fringe circuit and a sympathetic opening night crowd of friends, family and fans, this may be a tougher sell.
During the post-show announcements (something Fringe audiences will be familiar with), Malkin made much of the show’s family-friendly content. It remains to be seen if High Tea, like a really good animated film, can work successfully on both levels, as trying to straddle the line between sophisticated and juvenile can be very complex. While Malkin and Knowles prove they can do both separately, there were a number of times on opening night where the evening dragged as the two attempted to find the right balance.
But when they are on-point Malkin and Knowles can be breathtaking to watch, especially in the physical comedy department; watching the duo floating on the sea of tea is a delight. There are some genuine surprises to be had as well, but the show at times belies its advertised 60 minute run-time.
James & Jamesy in High Tea plays the Jericho Arts Centre (1675 Discovery St, Vancouver) until May 24. Tickets are available online at Brown Paper Tickets. Visit http://jamesandjamesy.com for more information.