Curtain up; onstage, a clean, well-lit kitchen, the only movement a silent curl of steam from a tea pot in an upstage nook. Behind it, a window view of lawn edging into trees, wet, cold and green. Sink deeper into your seat, it’s leather creaks. Wait for an actor or an offstage murmur but why can’t you take your eyes off that green-blue-steel view of ‘outside’? The cold colors pierce the cheery kitchen, a harbinger of things to come. Music starts off-stage, a violin-in-practice. The tea’s smell…something green/red/purple, picked by an unseen inhabitant, a homemade hot potpourri and, Oh! The violinist’s arrived, a grubby-beautiful child-adult but…how was it you smelt the tea from row O?
You didn’t. The atmosphere had you from go. The second that you saw this empty domicile, foreboding fills you. Senses are hijacked, dreams of scent build the foundation for the world unfolding. What you see will be terrific. This play will swallow you whole, eat you up and spit you out, a different person post-catharsis. You’ll wander back onto city streets in a state of deliverance. You’ve lived another life and yours is changed forever.
It’s apt that the team behind Masque Milano chose Russian Tea as a scene in Act 1 of their perfume opera–and although they’ve deemed it Scene III, the sense of drama, change and intensity it heralds feels like the beginning of a great unfolding–think the insidious excitement of Harold Pinter. Mint, black pepper and raspberry jostle at the top, bloodthirsty foot soldiers eager and afraid of the bugle call. At the heart, magnolia beds splinter of black tea, a tawdry affair that’s totally addictive; their powder-waif of a love child, everlasting flower, flits and flicks about the corners of their love-chamber like a dying firefly. The leather, incense, cistus-labdanum and birchwood that constitute the base of Russian Tea are pure comfort, yet vividly alive, a beautiful resting place for a riveting journey.