In the early part of the process of putting together the performance of my music theatre piece –King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba at the Dhow Countries Music Academy in Zanzibar, I had to work for long stretches, meeting soloists, ensemble singers and then instrumentalists in separate sessions. They were all very friendly people, keen to learn and interested in this art form, which isn’t part of the curriculum taught in the institution. I had a limited time frame to organise the presentation in, so I worked with the groups without taking a lunch break, sometimes for up to seven consecutive hours in a day.
One thing I wouldn’t miss out on during those marathon encounters was a cup of tea in between each session. I don’t think the actual cup of tea made much of a difference. Basically it served as a placebo, providing time to give my brain and lungs a rest. Some would say that tea drinking is a curious habit to maintain when working in a hot and humid climate, such as Stone Town, Zanzibar, but it did the trick for me.
Mercifully, the tea that was available was drinkable, unlike the strange concoctions I encountered whilst working on a theatre production in New York, over a decade ago. It doesn’t seem to be part of US culture to drink tea. High quality coffee was provided, but this felt too strong for my tastes. How did I manage under those circumstances?
The props mistress of the production was English and she understood my predicament. After observing me struggling during the breaks for several days, she kindly brought in a box of PG Tips, which made all the difference.
It didn’t take long for the American actors to join in on the act. The PG Tips were finished before any other box of tea or coffee that was made available for the company. Maybe the tea does have some impact on the quality of a break, after all.