It’s tea time at the Toronto Fringe Festival and James and Jamesy are serving up a delight! High Tea, playing at the Randolph Theatre, features the Vancouver-based clown duo in a zany, imaginative, and fun-filled adventure quite unlike any other tea party.

An unlikely pair, the even-keeled and quiet James (Aaron Malkin) and the eccentric and excitable Jamesy (Alastair Knowles) meet for their weekly tea party at Jamesy’s home. What begins as a practiced display of over-the-top etiquette, made impressive by hilariously extreme muscular isolation by Knowles, is soon unraveled when the couple breaks through the fourth wall. From this point forward, anyone is fair game and no one is safe from the fantastical world James and Jamesy include us in.

Hinted at from the preliminary cup of tea all those in attendance are invited to partake in, audience participation is key to the success of this performance. Aided by Director and ‘Ringmaster’ David MacMurray Smith, Malkin and Knowles are masters in making the audience part of their performance, and more importantly their tea party. By creating a team-like atmosphere through widespread inclusion, and making their world tangible through the use of sound effects, props, and costumes, the chance to assist the loveable pair appears impossible to refuse. The performers are so skilled that they are capable of elevating even the most reluctant participants to first-class comedians, if only for the hour.

The resulting performance is an uproariously funny combination of technically impressive physical work and improvised hilarity, held together with classic clown and straight-man gimmicks. What makes the comedy possible is the underlying tender relationship between James and Jamesy. Even in the midst of total absurdity, the pair maintain a honest connection that anchors viewers to their performance, even amidst the fanciful ocean of tea they are trying to escape.

Two of this year’s Toronto Fringe treasures, James and Jamesy are hosting a tea party you won’t want to miss. After all, at what other high tea service could you race a shark, hug a stranger, crown a queen, and still make it home in time for dinner?

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