Tea With The Dames Reviewed by Clayton Barnett

The Premise
Dames Eileen Atkins, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright and Maggie Smith have let the cameras in on a friendship that goes back more than half a century. The four acting greats discuss their careers and reminisce about their humble beginnings in the theatre.

The Review
I actually went along to this thinking I’ll just sit back and let my mum enjoy this, little did I know I’d be cracking up along with her in this infectious chat between four iconic actresses.

The Dames may have some memory fails but they certainly haven’t lost their wit. All in their eighties, Dame Maggie Smith is as sharp as a tack with some hilariously withering comments. Dench gets plenty from the others for snapping up all the good over-80 roles too.

They’re legends of stage and screen and the archival footage from their long careers is astonishing. Particularly vibrant clips from older televised Shakespeare productions, where the actresses are filled with the vigour of fire and youth in a male-dominated world.

When an assistant brings up some rare 16mm film of Dench in a play as a teenager - not seen by the Dames until that moment – the audience gasped right along with them.

Full credit to Notting Hill director Roger Michell - who gets plenty of playful grief - he makes this chat around a table absolutely sing. He smartly incorporates the actual filming to keep the energy flowing and moves the conversation around the house breaking up them up into pairs to snatch different moments.  

A chat between Dench and Smith on a side couch is hilarious as Smith reveals she hasn’t even watched an episode of Downton Abbey even though they sent her a box set!

But it's not just funny Tea With the Dames is moving, philosophical and topical too.
These four were trailblazers 60 years before the current #metoo climate, in the day and age when men ruled the theatre – comments on their lack of natural beauty only spurred these trailblazers on.

Plowright – who had given up acting due to blindness – is just beautiful as she reminisces on departed husband Laurence Olivier and offers wise words on love and life. Poignant stuff.

The Verdict
For what is essentially four old birds nattering away for ninety minutes, the Dame’s are damn entertaining.

The Trailer

The Info
Releases: 7th June 2018
Rating: M – Contains Offensive language & sexual references
Duration: 83 minutes 
Genre:  Documentary
Starring: Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Eileen Atkins and Joan Plowright
Director: Roger Michell