Tasting Notes at Southwark Playhouse
Tasting Notes is an all-encompassing title that’s perfectly fitting for a play that treads 24 hours of more or less the same events through the eyes of six different people. Each has a unique experience that shapes the way they view certain things, and every little detail they add to the bigger picture produces a different flavour. Structured in Rashomon style, with a tone and concept similar to Katriona Chapman’s Breakwater (fun, heavy-hearted and wonderful, finding happiness in the everyday struggles of life), Tasting Notes is a little bit of everything.
Subtlety drives the script. LJ, during her solo piece, goes to the right corner table of the wine bar where Joe – one of her regulars – usually dutifully sits every night. From there, she sings of people with baggage, hinting at his personal demons and alerting the audience, which sets the foundation for Joe’s later actions. Furthermore, George – an employee at the wine bar – not showing up for his shift, and LJ thinking something terrible has happened to him, adds another layer of warning about an upcoming tragedy. Silence accompanies subtlety, allowing awkward conversations to linger and elicit giggles from the audience. This same silence is then used in uncomfortable conversations of a more sombre nature, guiding emotional beats and allowing for the reality of the tragedy to sink in.
While there’s so much to love about Tasting Notes, there are also aspects that weaken the wonderful production. There’s no mic support, so the instrumentals are overwhelming and it’s hard to hear the lyrics in some of the musical numbers. This isn’t so much a problem for the upbeat songs, but for the ones that anchor characters’ emotions it is detrimental to the play’s storytelling efforts. While some of the characters are vibrant and extremely likeable, others aren’t as appealing. Maggie and Oliver’s romance is an engaging tandem narrative and a treasure trove of comedy, but their interactions don’t go beyond that and their chemistry is just okay. Perhaps this is another reflection of the title – of differing tasting notes, some more palatable than others.
Photo: Chris Marchant
Tasting Notes is at Southwark Playhouse from 27th July until 27th August 2022. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.