On Thursday I went to see White Tea, a fantastic and very intimate show at the Tron Theatre. Reviews for this production had included the advice that members of the audience could sit on the stage, wear paper kimonos and drink white tea. On its own this sounded extremely cool to me and I tried to see it at the Edinburgh Fringe. Obviously, due to the small audience numbers needed, it was always sold out. My heart leapt when I found out it was coming to Glasgow. Tickets were booked and I fully expected my cup of white tea.
I had a vague understanding of the plot. Something about grief, loss, mother-daughter relationships and general human emotional pain. My cup of tea, if you don't mind the pun. I certainly got my physical cup of tea when I arrived at the theatre space. We sat on hard benches (which did become uncomfortable after a while) and the hostesses passed out pristine china cups of white tea to us. Both were dressed in kimonos made of thick white paper. The audience had their own kimonos to wear with a small tag asking us to kindly re-fold them after the performance. Bizarrely it made me think of the showers at Auschwitz - "Remember your peg number."
As I looked around the set, it appeared it be almost entirely constructed out of paper. The walls acted as a projection screen, with news screen footage of the nuclear bombings in Japan in 1945. My eyebrow was slightly raised at this. However it all made sense later. And it probably added to my thoughts of concentration camps.
I really want to avoid too much time on the plot for fear of ruining it for other audiences. Naomi is living in Paris, almost the other side of the world from her mother and is happy with that situation. Until she receives a phone call saying her mother has suffered a stroke. As Naomi debates whether or not to go, Tomoto, her mother's nurse, arrives on her doorstep and brings her to Kyoto via a plane and Tokyo. On the way, secrets coming out, the usual occurrence when a family member is on their deathbed.
Parts of the performance were inter cut with sound bites with a Japanese woman, later to be revealed to be Yoko Ono. Again all dealing with concepts of grief, her mother having an accident in Japan and Yoko being in America, too far away to help. What her and John were talking about before he was shot outside their apartment building.
Grief, unfortunately, has been a large part of my life for the past year. I found some comfort in the Japanese representation of this emotion. I wasn't entirely sure if it was Shinto or Buddhist philosophy they were presenting to us, the audience. One attraction I do have towards Shinto is the idea of honouring ancestors, an important reflection of Japanese culture. Honour and ritual, from burying the dead to the act of making and drinking tea.
I will go to Kyoto one day and there I think I will feel at home.