Tag Archives: Grant Anderson



Soho Theatre

DON’T. MAKE. TEA. at the Soho Theatre


“a bold, razor-sharp comedy about what it really means to test someone”

Don’t. Make. Tea. is a dystopian satirical comedy set in 2037 directed by Robert Softley Gale and written by Rob Drummond. We meet Christine Dunlop (Gillian Dean) an ex-copper with OPMD who is losing her eyesight and mobility. As per the policy of “Accessible Britain”, she is being assessed on her disability benefits. Chris now finds herself the subject of interrogation in a Kafkaesque appointment with the sweet but sickly assessor Ralph (Neil John Gibson). The first part of the play focuses on establishing the premise of the assessment and takes it time exploring Chris’ life and her situation. Humour is squeezed out of the interview as she tries to navigate the questionnaire and lie detector with the sad realities of the present dominating the conversation. She is forced to perform the most horrible use of ‘heads, shoulders, knees and toes’ to date before a hugely climactic twist closes the first act.

The show makes an impressive use of tech and accessibility devices. It is audio-described by Able (Richard Conlon), a cross between ‘Siri’ and ‘Hal 9000’ who aids Chris but also spies on her. He delivers diegetic commentary throughout with wit and charm “Ralph looks like he’s had a hard life”. On the screen (provided by Chris’ accessibility benefits) is a sign language interpreter who translates the characters’ speech. The second act sees Chris experience hallucinations. Able, now embodied as her doting neighbour, and the BSL interpreter resembling Chris’ mother Francis (Emery Hunter), assist Chris in her predicament. We later meet Ralph’s supervisor and spouse, Jude (Nicola Chegwin), an oppositional and flawed woman who uses a wheelchair and is the creator of the ‘Work Pays’ system.

The set (Kenneth MacLeod) depicts a “tidy but tasteless” flat, as described by Able. Light blue details subtly depict the reach of “Accessible Britain”; the large screen, ‘Able’ speaker, the electrical outlets and even the front door button- which could all be taken away as a result of the assessment. Ralph’s assessment tools also painted the same clinical ‘NHS’ blue. The set is not all that it seems, with some fun surprises included. Lighting serves to accentuate the emotional state of Chris with vibrant colours (Grant Anderson) and spotlights. The screens sell the futuristic setting and add high quality effects (Jamie MacDonald).

Drummond uses a theoretically perfect future to highlight the problems of today whilst utilising accessibility features in an original and comical execution to a riveting premise. The characters are all as flawed as the systems they support and fight – with exception to Able and Francis, who make a great double act. Laughs originate from pithy observations and well-crafted gags equally. The midway turn in tone elevates the piece from satirical drama into absurd unpredictable thriller. By the end, the audience is left with the sobering note of the lengths Chris is forced to go. Don’t. Make. Tea is a bold, razor-sharp comedy about what it really means to test someone.

DON’T. MAKE. TEA. at the Soho Theatre

Reviewed on 27th March 2024

by Jessica Potts

Photography by Andy Catlin





Previously reviewed at this venue:

PUDDLES PITY PARTY | ★★ | March 2024
LUCY AND FRIENDS | ★★★★★ | February 2024
AMUSEMENTS | ★★★★ | February 2024
WISH YOU WEREN’T HERE | ★★★ | February 2024
REPARATIONS | ★★★ | February 2024
SELF-RAISING | ★★★★★ | February 2024
FLIP! | ★★★★ | November 2023
BOY PARTS | ★★★★ | October 2023
BROWN BOYS SWIM | ★★★½ | October 2023
STRATEGIC LOVE PLAY | ★★★★★ | September 2023
KATE | ★★★★★ | September 2023
EVE: ALL ABOUT HER | ★★★★★ | August 2023



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Edinburgh Festival Fringe

NIGHTLANDS at Edinburgh Festival Fringe




“Nightlands is the kind of play you root for, even when it doesn’t quite succeed”


Jack MacGregor’s play Nightlands is an ambitious drama set in 1999, in Svalbard, the land of polar bears—and very few humans. Nightlands switches from the personal to the political and back again in ways that you don’t anticipate. It’s also performed by just two actors, the very talented veteran Matthew Zajac, and an equally talented newcomer, Rebecca Wilkie. But in sixty minutes, there just isn’t enough time to explore all the subjects MacGregor puts on stage for his characters to tackle. Especially when these characters — a tough, no-nonsense young woman named Slava and the morose, antisocial, much older Sasha — have brought more than enough of their own baggage up to the Arctic Circle. But Nightlands is proof enough that the Scottish Highlands company Dogstar, based in the Inverness area, doesn’t shy away from plays that deal with difficult material. MacGregor does provide a programme note about themes in this play. It’s helpful, however, if audiences have some knowledge of where the world has been drifting since 1999, when Vladimir Putin came to power in the former Soviet Union. There are scattered references here and there in Nightlands, but they are not really sufficient to get a firm footing on this complex subject matter.

Nightlands opens with two performers telling a story. They constantly interrupt each other, as they set the scene, and fill in the details. She is playing the character of Slava from Chelubinsk. Slava has been assigned to work, alone, in one of the most remote spots in the world. To ensure that Svalbard remains part of a demilitarized zone. The performer who plays Sasha, a character who speaks five languages, is writing a memoir, and is from somewhere south of Moscow — shouldn’t even be there. Yet somehow, he is. This switching back and forth is playwright MacGregor’s way of showing how we rely on memory to establish character and place. And Slava and Sasha also dance around the subject of memory—sometimes literally—as they try to establish physical territory in their isolated location. Both have reasons for wanting to live alone. Both are running from past lives in the former Soviet Union. Neither wants the other to be there, but outside is only the Arctic wasteland, populated by polar bears. The drama is slow moving, and the facts that emerge are ambiguous. It takes a while to see where Nightlands might be going. Other than the bears, the threat to the characters is underplayed, for all the remoteness of their situation.

Nevertheless, MacGregor has created something rather unusual. In Nightlands, he avoids the usual pitfalls of “relationship” dramas by establishing that Slava and Sasha are not going to be romantically involved. At least one character is an unreliable narrator, and there are hints that unreliable memories are at play here as well. Intriguing stuff. But ultimately, it doesn’t add up to a fully satisfying evening, despite the performance skills of Wilkie and Sajac. It may be that sixty minutes is simply not enough time to get to grips with the story. Or that two characters trapped in a room together, can only conjure a limited picture of a decaying Communist state, and the dangerous politics developing thousands of miles away. It’s a brave attempt by MacGregor to write a “big” play (he directs as well), but Nightlands is a bit short of resources. Rather like its two characters in Svalbard.

Nightlands is the kind of play you root for, even when it doesn’t quite succeed. And it’s good to see a theatre company like Dogstar, encouraging playwrights to take a chance on telling a different kind of story for the stage.


Reviewed 6th August 2022

by Dominica Plummer


Photography by Paul Campbell


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