Tasting Notes, 2 Stars

Tasting Notes
27th July – 27th Aug 2022
Southwark Playhouse Little

“During a seemingly normal 24 hours, ‘Tasting Notes’ dips into the life of a wine bar; the people who serve, the people who drink and the people we meet on our way to wherever we’re going…”

Review by Richard Lambert, 2 Stars

A new British musical. Yeah! Of course we want to support!

The concept is brilliant! An event (no spoilers) affects the lives of 6 people who’s commonality is they work in a wine bar “LJs”. What enfolds is the same story 6 times from each cast member’s perspective. Playing ‘spot the difference’ was fun, initially, but then became a game played 6 times. In one there is a single ice cube added to a red wine, in another there are 2……however, come the interval, having watched 3 versions, I really wasn’t excited realising there were 3 more perspectives of the same story to watch in the 2nd half.

It’s a long show. Starting at 8.00pm and finishing at 10.30pm.
A very long show for 1 fairly simple, although dramatic, story to be repeated 6 times.
Thankfully there are some brilliantly comedic moments which lift the proceedings.
The comedy is exquisite! Brilliantly timed and performed and lifts the production.

However, with a really experienced Creative team it was surprising that the Set was so obtrusive blocking all action taking place behind the bar if you’re sat at the sides of this thrust venue. The lighting took you from morning to dusk to moonlight to sinister and back to morning coffee all within a verse and chorus of a song. 3 wine bar tables blocked the performance space causing the actors to slide around this obstacle course blocking any sort of dynamic choreography.

It was sometimes hard to hear the lyrics and I felt as though a dep was in for one of the band members cos there was a lot of unintentional cacophany.. Looking through the programme on the way home confirmed that the band was indeed comprised of a dep – always problematic. I’ve never understood why musicians think it’s ok to “wing it” when they’re so integral to a performance.

It’s always difficult with a new play or musical – Creatives need the license to “fix” any over-indulgent desires of a writer. And it would be impossible if the writer is actually also one of the performers – as is the case here – you’d never be able to take a script and mould it. I did leave wondering if this had been the case and that was why this was still a 2.5 hour production.

The programme lists an intimacy co-ordinator when I didn’t see any scenes that required one, but it doesn’t list any Sound Design. This might go some way to explaining why there’s a 3 piece band, no mics for the cast, and over-loud mobile phone sound effects.

All in all, TASTING NOTES is a great concept, very very funny, but needs a lot of pruning. Trim down to 70 mins and it would be fantastic!

Photo Credit: Chris Marchant