When I first moved to Los Angeles, finding friends in the acting community who are loyal are far, few and in-between. Luckily, I found a tribe of women who were secure, shared advice and laughed each time we saw each other. We would joke how one of us in the crew was bound to walk away with the gig – which was the case more often than not, commiserate and share victories over meals prepared at each other’s homes over cocktails and uproariously laughter. The older you get, the more valuable those relationships and friendships become in an industry that is cutthroat.
Revered as Britain’s finest in the theatre and the silver screen, Dench, Smith, Plowright and Atkins, in true theatre fashion, meet once a year for a dish session over tea and I got to be a fly on the wall thanks to the new documentary produced by Sundance Selects and directed by multi award-winning Roger Michell.
Tea With Dames, who consists of, Eileen Atkins, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright and Maggie Smith chat about their lives, their experience in theatre, TV, film and the memories from when they were ingenues to their present golden years. Being someone from the American theatre, it was enlightening to know that regardless of age and race, the plight of being an actress in a male dominated field is universal.
Dame Judi Dench speaks quite comically about taking on the role of Cleopatra (calling her herself a “menopausal dwarf”) and being quite intimidated of Plowright’s husband – Sir Lawrence Olivier. Smith shares Dench’s sentiment regarding the respected award-winning actor, as well as, his wife of decades – Joan Plowright. Each touch upon how condescending people can be towards older actresses and how disheartening it is to experience such age discrimination and disrespect. They all joke about how their agents say they might be considered for a certain role if it hasn’t been offered to Judi Dench first and become quite serious discussing their marriages, loss of loved ones, children and career opps that would have possibly changed the trajectory of their lives.
These women were gorgeous in their youth and are stunning now. Each with a light that shines brighter than any footlight on a stage or star in the sky. It’s a master class in how to maintain grace and dignity in a business that often times leaves one drained and used by the masses.
Tea With Dames screened during the 2018 Los Angeles Film Festival and will can be seen in theaters NOW. Check you local listings for an art house theatre near you. You won’t regret it and it is an absolute must see for any actor of any age.