“Curiosi-tea has 204 pages with 58 cartoon-like illustrations, 4 maps, a bibliography, index and glossary”, reads the sales pitch on camelliacha.com. This is not your ordinary book of tea but an extraordinary perspective of life through the prism of tea and its super cultural capacity to invigorate, unite, calm, excite and spiritualise humanity.
Afternoon absurdiTea with Camellia Cha is inspired by and based on this startling book, and allows the alter ego of Anne Norman and herself in person to shine on stage in full brilliance. Performer extraordinaire Anne Norman has the ability to capture the dry humour of her book on stage using her tea poetry in conjunction with beautiful ethnic melodies from the countries which marked tea’s early history along the Silk Road of Asia.
This is not an amateur attempt of coupling world music with poetry; for Anne Norman is an experienced musician who knows when humorous imagination invades into kitsch to prevent it. Instead, we have exquisite melodrama passages made up of world music accompaniments set to strict poetic rhythms, musical interludes of profound meaning and alluring combined stage presence of narrator, musicians and a media screen, displaying images from the book and historical photographs. All of this is structured in 20 contrasting movements and unified by a narrative underpinned by tea: tea myths and calamities, tea ceremonies and zen practices, tea absurdities and reasonings. This is a new world music genre in the spirit of the best European stage melodramas, which were either emotive tragedies or hilarious parodies.
Guest musicians from the Australian Chinese Music Ensemble, Wang Zheng-Ting (sheng), Dong Quimin (dizi), Jiang Jiamin (erhu) and Jeremy Witkowski (ruan), Tibetan singer Tenzin Choegyal, Josh Bennett (sitar, didgeridoo), Jay Fabgar (tabla), monks Jamyang Sherab and Karma Gyasey, together with Anne Norman’s soulful shakuhachi created an ancient and, at the same time, contemporary tea soundscape.
Filled to the brim, the Space Theatre echoed with laughter, ebullient melodies and reflective stillness. Musical collaboration enriched the fast Chinese pieces, Tenzin’s nostalgic calls to the Himalayas, and delightful Indian ragas and talas. Unexpectedly, Australian tea history was revealed towards the end of the show with an amusing oriental ‘Waltzing Matilda’ played on sitar and tabla. Good Australian humour always includes self-mocking. “May tea always be with you”, parted Anne with the audience because “Tea gives time for MEE”. This show needs to be experienced to be believed!
Adelaide Festival Centre’s OzAsia Festival presents
AFTERNOON absurdiTEA with Camellia Cha
Venue: Space Theatre
Date: 26 Sep
Duration: 1 Hour 30 Minutes
Price: Adult $30, Conc $25, Student $15
Bookings: BASS 131 246 www.bass.net.au