There are some viewers who might dismiss Tea With The Dames as “Anecdotage by those in their dotage.” But they’d be wrong. This documentary starring four great dames of the British stage and screen is a fascinating look at some brilliant careers and a revealing look into their respective personalities. There’s also lots of gossip and anecdotage but it’s the most intriguing and colourful variety.
The story goes that the actresses: Dame Maggie Smith, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Eileen Atkins and Dame Joan Plowright are all good friends and have been so for several decades. This awesome foursome regularly meet-up with one another for a bit of tea and sympathy (ok not sympathy per se, but certainly a jolly good catch-up). During a recent instalment, they allowed some cameras in to film the revelry and the result is a film from Notting Hill director, Roger Michell.
The cameras rolled and the conversations were rollicking and all-encompassing. The resulting documentary utilises great archive footage and photography to set the scene and remind us about the amazing parts these women have played (the four discuss the daunting prospect of playing Cleopatra even though Smith and Dench were the only two to actually proceed with this challenging role.) These women also reveal some intimate details from their private lives- like Plowright who was married to Sir Laurence Olivier from 1961 to 1989 who remembers the late thespian as both “nightmare” and a “pleasure.” Smith also remembers “Larry” because she played Desdemona opposite his black-faced Othello in the sixties. During the run Olivier actually hit Smith during one of the more emotional scenes and this leads Smith to quip, “It was the only time I saw stars at the National Theatre!”
These women are all very funny. Smith is a hoot with her caustic one-liners. Dench on the other hand isn’t afraid to use salty language (it doesn’t matter in her mind that she’s a dame) to call out ageism when she sees it. A recent incident with a condescending paramedic left her quite ropable to say the least. These actresses are all incredibly strong and inspirational women. One thing that is refreshing though is that they are honest – sometimes brutally so – with one another. There is no pandering or unnecessary platitudes. In fact, in one scene Smith ribs Dench for stealing all of the film parts these days!
If you ever found yourself wondering what it was like to be a fly-on-the-wall amongst true celebrity and experience some behind-the-scenes gold and pearls of wisdom from some talented British actresses, then this is the film for you. It covers the full spectrum of emotions and isn’t afraid to dig deep into life’s ups and downs. Tea With The Dames is ultimately a delightful romp down memory lane and one that is so intriguing and takes in so much- that you won’t want to finish your tea.
Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Tea With The Dames opens in cinemas nationally on 7 June, 2018.